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Ex-St. Petersburg principal Thornton faces suspension, ouster

The Pinellas schools chief is recommending a 45-day suspension without pay for Maureen Thornton, the former John Hopkins Middle School principal who was removed from her job in December.

Additionally, Thornton's annual contract will not be renewed for next year based on her most recent evaluation, completed Monday, said superintendent Julie Janssen.

A school district investigation concluded that Thornton, 51, demonstrated a lack of professional judgment and a "wanton disregard" for district policies during her 3 1/2-year tenure as principal.

According to the findings, Thornton used her position for personal gain; had inappropriate interactions with colleagues, including but not limited to physical or verbal altercation; and engaged in unauthorized use of school property.

The 45-day suspension will mean $13,549.05 in lost wages for the former administrator, who was reassigned to the Walter Pownall Service Center in March. She could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Once Thornton has satisfied the suspension, she will return to the district until her current contract expires on June 30, Janssen said.

The district began investigating Thornton in November after receiving a packet of complaints from school staffers and parents. Among the allegations the district verified was that she failed to properly document funds raised by allowing people to park at the school during World Series games at nearby Tropicana Field and that she sponsored a church event at the school in which an employee was paid to operate a day care for infants and teens on school grounds without proper insurance or authorization.

Thornton has until 5 p.m. Monday to request an administrative hearing to contest her suspension. Otherwise, the School Board will vote on Janssen's recommendation at its meeting the next day.

Ex-St. Petersburg principal Thornton faces suspension, ouster 04/14/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 11:51pm]
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