LAND O'LAKES — Superintendent Heather Fiorentino's removal of Gulf High principal Tom Imerson from his post created more questions than answers in the two weeks since the School Board approved the move.
Lacking an official explanation for Imerson's transfer to an unspecified district-level job, many people in the community have speculated that three Gulf High teachers' grievances against Imerson held the key. Fiorentino has rejected such commentary as idle chitchat, saying there's nothing she can do about rumors and that every principal has grievances against him or her.
The public soon will get to hear for itself whether there's any truth to the rumors.
School Board attorney Dennis Alfonso said Monday that he will ask the board today to set a date to hear the complaints of one Gulf High teacher, Vicky Mudry, who filed three grievances against Imerson in February. In them, Mudry alleges:
• Imerson interrupted her class to have her immediately attend a disciplinary meeting, at which she was subjected to "abusive behavior" without the opportunity to have union representation.
• After the initial disciplinary meeting, Imerson and his administration subjected Mudry to "increased, unfair, inequitable and inappropriate scrutiny" that she considered retaliatory.
• District administration failed to properly investigate Mudry's initial abuse complaint against Imerson.
Fiorentino has heard the cases, and United School Employees of Pasco president Lynne Webb said the union is asking for appeal dates "to preserve our time lines and deadlines. That doesn't mean that within the time in between we can't find a solution."
In her grievance, Mudry asked for Imerson's suspension. Webb said she did not know whether those complaints led to his removal, or whether his departure — effective June 9 — will make a difference in the case.
That said, she added, the union might continue to press for change at Gulf High even if the grievances don't go forward. Teacher representatives already have been in touch with incoming principal Steve Knobl to discuss problems with the working environment, and the USEP is compiling responses to its climate survey there.
"I believe there were problems at that school based upon information I have been provided from a large number of staff, and not just from the information from the grievance," Webb said.
School Board chairwoman Kathryn Starkey said she was not aware of the details in the grievance, and that she did not know why Fiorentino replaced Imerson or what he will be doing at the district office. She reiterated her hope that the end result will be better academic performance at Gulf High, one of the district's two D-rated high schools.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.