Hernando principal disciplined over handling of harassment complaints at former school

BROOKSVILLE — A former Eastside Elementary School principal who failed to properly report three cases of teacher-on-teacher harassment last year has been disciplined for a lack of "follow through," according to a Hernando County School District investigation.

Principal Tim Urban, who now is principal of the district's alternative school, received a letter of discipline from superintendent Lori Romano, who wrote that Urban's "lack of thoroughness does not reflect positively on your position."

"As principal, it is your responsibility to conduct the investigation, make a determination, and communicate the findings as outlined in School Board policy," Romano wrote in a letter dated Jan. 22. "While it may be necessary to seek assistance during the process, this does not negate your responsibility of following the policy."

In April, three teachers went to Urban, claiming they were bullied and harassed by another teacher. They filed three separate complaints seeking action. One worried about the teacher's lack of boundaries, even around students. Another said she felt intimidated and emotionally and physically depleted by the end of the day. A third told of how an interaction had left her on the verge of tears, feeling threatened and scared.

While Urban investigated the complaints and determined them to be founded, the investigation was filed into storage without district officials receiving the file, a move that prevented a fuller investigation.

The report resurfaced when a new principal took over in the summer, but it was subsequently closed without any further action being taken.

Once he finished his investigation, Urban says he was told to contact the general counsel's office and speak with attorney Dennis Alfonso. Urban says he spoke with him for about 30 minutes and was told that Alfonso would review the information, a conversation for which the district says there is no evidence. A review of records over that time period turned up no calls from Urban to Alfonso, according to the investigation.

Urban said Alfonso told him he would review the information and for Urban to wait to hear back, according to a summary of meeting notes.

Urban said he was waiting for direction from Alfonso or Bryan Blavatt, the district's superintendent at the time, before taking further action. He believed the attorney was reviewing the information.

Heather Martin, the district's executive director of business services, said Urban never contacted the attorney for a follow-up and also never directly sent the attorney any information to review. Urban said the investigation was sent to the district's human resources department, but Martin said that the information was never received.

"The documentation in the file is not consistent with protocol and does not support the explanation provided by Urban," Martin wrote.

Regarding Urban's investigation, Martin said the documentation was so poor that it is "difficult to support the determination of a founded complaint."

Contacted Monday, Urban declined to comment on the investigation.

Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

Hernando principal disciplined over handling of harassment complaints at former school 02/03/14 [Last modified: Monday, February 3, 2014 10:58pm]

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