Thursday, November 23, 2017
Education

Hernando school official to pursue legal options after she said she was wrongfully let go

RECOMMENDED READING


BROOKSVILLE — A former employee said she is pursuing legal options after the Hernando County School Board on Tuesday night approved the superintendent's recommendation to appoint another person as director of student services.

Mary-Grace Surrena, who had been with the district for more than 23 years, held that position for eight months before superintendent Bryan Blavatt decided not to reappoint her in May.

Blavatt said he offered Surrena a position as a school psychologist, a job she held in the past, but that she did not like the terms of the appointment.

Surrena had been groomed for years to take over the director position from Jim Knight, who retired last year.

On Tuesday, Knight spoke out against Surrena's being passed over in favor of Felita Lott, whom he said doesn't meet the job requirements.

Knight, a 21-year veteran of the job, said Surrena had received nothing but excellent or outstanding evaluations on the job.

"I have never known of one administrator in this district that was demoted in less than one year," he said. "Prior to tonight, all were given a year to improve or placed in a different school or in a similar position."

He called on the board to request an investigation. He also asked the School Board not to approve Lott's appointment, saying she does not have a required certification for the job.

"I'm asking you tonight to do what is right and what is fair for an employee who has given so much to Hernando County schools," he said.

The board voted 3-2 to approve the superintendent's recommendations for appointments.

Board members James Yant and Dianne Bonnfield voted against the recommendations. Bonnfield's vote against the recommendations was due to an unrelated issue involving a school principal who she said didn't follow district policy.

In a letter to the School Board and Blavatt, a lawyer for Surrena claims that her client was wrongfully not reappointed and was discriminated against because of her gender.

The letter states that Blavatt said Surrena was "too nice" for the position and that "there was a perception out there that she was too soft," according to the letter from attorney Karen Gaffney.

A similar letter from Gaffney was sent on behalf of Fox Chapel Middle School principal Barbara Kidder.

Kidder says she suffered from a number of instances of gender discrimination and a hostile work environment because of Blavatt. The letter claims Blavatt told numerous people he wanted a "male presence" at Fox Chapel Middle School.

Blavatt has denied he discriminated, noting that the person taking Surrena's job is a woman.

At the end of Tuesday's meeting, he indirectly addressed the issue.

"You have to make hard decisions and decisions that are not going to be popular and viewed in different ways," he said. "Let me say to you that it is the most difficult part of my job to make decisions I know will impact individuals. But I will not stray from the mission."

Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432.

Comments
Pasco students score big at Junior Thespian Festival

Pasco students score big at Junior Thespian Festival

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco schools brought home 20 top honors from the District 11 Junior Thespian Festival, which included 22 schools from Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Manatee counties and took place at the new River Ridge FAME Academy on Nov. 17 and ...
Published: 11/22/17
A year after impasse, Pasco school contract talks run more smoothly

A year after impasse, Pasco school contract talks run more smoothly

LAND O’LAKES — Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco sat together several times in the weeks leading to Thanksgiving break, trading contract proposals amid (mostly) amicable conversation.They c...
Published: 11/22/17
Epilogue: Music professor Rita Osborn insisted that her students experience the arts live

Epilogue: Music professor Rita Osborn insisted that her students experience the arts live

The thousands of students who signed up for Rita Osborn’s music and humanities classes at St. Petersburg Junior College knew what they had to do to pass.They could study and memorize material for tests, but they wouldn’t earn more than a C if they di...
Published: 11/21/17
Updated: 11/22/17
USF professors honored as AAAS Fellows

USF professors honored as AAAS Fellows

Six University of South Florida professors whose research efforts span biology, engineering, chemistry and business have been selected as Fellows to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the organization announced Nov. 20.Election ...
Published: 11/21/17
Updated: 11/22/17
When school is out, a Pinellas camp for autistic kids offers a much-needed service

When school is out, a Pinellas camp for autistic kids offers a much-needed service

ST. PETERSBURG — Matt Wiseman’s cell phone rings at least once a week, usually after 9 p.m., with a call from a desperate parent. The voice on the line is tired, defeated. Once again, their child was excluded from an after-school program or summer ca...
Published: 11/21/17
Updated: 11/22/17

University of Central Florida suspends sorority for hazing

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A University of Central Florida sorority has been suspended after its members were accused of hazing, underage drinking and providing false information to law enforcement.The university placed Alpha Xi Delta on an interim suspens...
Published: 11/21/17
10 African-Americans named Rhodes scholars, most ever

10 African-Americans named Rhodes scholars, most ever

Associated PressThe latest group of U.S. Rhodes scholars includes 10 African-Americans — the most ever in a single Rhodes class — as well as a transgender man and four students from colleges that had never had received the honor before. The Rhodes Tr...
Published: 11/19/17

Class notes

School Calendar• Nov. 27: School resumes after Thanksgiving break• Dec. 22: End of second grading quarter.• Dec. 23-Jan. 7: Winter Break.• Jan. 8: Teacher planning day. No school for students.Arts/Music/TheaterCenter for the Arts at River Ridge Middl...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/22/17
Pasco’s 2018 Outstanding Senior hails from River Ridge High

Pasco’s 2018 Outstanding Senior hails from River Ridge High

River Ridge High School senior Connor Beckman has been named Pasco County’s 2018 Outstanding Senior.Commander of the school’s Air Force JROTC program, Beckman is also an Eagle Scout mentor, National Honor Society president and swim team captain.Beckm...
Published: 11/22/17
Pinellas education news: District honors support employees, Discovery Nights resume, and more

Pinellas education news: District honors support employees, Discovery Nights resume, and more

Pinellas names top support employeesFive finalists have emerged from 120 nominees to be the 2017-18 Support Employee of the Year in the Pinellas County school system. The finalists were chosen in five categories. Debra Canning, 21st Century iClass Li...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/22/17