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Connerton Elementary principal faces firing over climate survey snooping

Connerton principal Anna Falcone has been accused of using bullying tactics.

Connerton principal Anna Falcone has been accused of using bullying tactics.

LAND O'LAKES — Embattled Connerton Elementary School principal Anna Falcone was removed from her post Friday pending a recommendation that the School Board fire her for insubordination.

Superintendent Kurt Browning placed Falcone on administrative leave after learning of her repeated efforts to get information about the confidential responses to a recent climate survey.

The survey did not paint a flattering picture of Connerton, where some staff and community members have spent the better part of a year accusing Falcone of bullying leadership tactics. Just one-third of the staff responding to the survey agreed that Connerton has a positive atmosphere that helps students learn.

Browning said that Falcone questioned the results and attempted to gain access to the responses to prove that the survey had been compromised. She asked several administrators in different departments for the data, Browning said, being refused at each step.

Unsuccessful, Falcone then pursuaded a staffer at her school to seek out the information. That person was able to obtain the names of each respondent, but not individual responses.

Browning said Falcone's actions undermine his efforts to build trust and integrity within the district.

"We cannot have that, when we have folks who are insubordinate," he said. "It is incredibly troubling to me, right when we're building that trust and this happens."

Falcone could not be reached Friday afternoon for comment. Human resources supervisor Aimee Boltze will serve as interim principal when classes resume after spring break.

Falcone's leadership already had been under scrutiny by Browning's administration. Like superintendent Heather Fiorentino before him, Browning had received repeated complaints about Falcone as principal.

Just during March, he received two lengthy emails from employees detailing her negative treatment of them. One said she could not remain at Connerton under Falcone because of all the stress at the school.

Fiorentino declined to remove Falcone, citing the school's academic strength. The school has received an A grade from the state in two of the past three years.

Instead, Fiorentino gave the school a new assistant principal and allowed any teachers who wished to leave the ability to do so.

The grumbling did not cease, though.

Being new to the district, Browning decided to give Falcone a chance to prove herself. He assigned her a mentor in retired administrator Renee Sedlack, and said she was getting intensive leadership training.

After the climate survey results came out, Browning had planned to take an even closer look at Connerton. But he said Falcone's efforts to undermine the process forced his hand.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at jsolochek@tampabay.com, (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek.

Connerton Elementary principal faces firing over climate survey snooping 03/22/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 22, 2013 8:38pm]

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