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Hernando teachers cancel no-confidence vote on Westside principal

BROOKSVILLE — The Westside Elementary teachers unhappy with their leader will ride out the rest of the year.

With the end of the school year eight weeks away and a new superintendent in place who is already taking action, the union has backed off threats of a no-confidence vote in principal Dominick Ferello, the leader of the local teachers union said Tuesday.

"The message (from teachers) was sent very loudly and clearly, and we're pleased with the direction the district is taking," said Joe Vitalo, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association. "We are confident the appropriate measures will be taken by the end of the year."

Vitalo and superintendent Bryan Blavatt declined to elaborate on those measures. But Blavatt, who arrived on the job April 1 to find a stack of letters from teachers complaining about Ferello, said he met with all parties over spring break and has a solution.

"My sense is this will be a resolution that is satisfactory to everyone," Blavatt said. "I'm looking to do what's best for the kids."

Blavatt visited Westside for a meeting with faculty Tuesday morning and used the opportunity to deliver the message in person.

Ferello did not return a message Tuesday seeking comment.

In letters from teachers sent to interim superintendent Sonya Jackson in recent weeks, teachers describe Ferello as a surly, heavy-handed leader who is often late to school and uses intimidation to manage the staff when he is on the job.

Ferello's leadership is undermining the A school's high-performing status, teachers wrote. The 55-year-old, who is in his first year at the school of about 800 students and nearly 70 instructional staffers, tries to pit teachers against one another and sometimes yells at them in front of other people, according to the letters. At least one teacher called him a bully.

Ferello, in a written response to Jackson last month, said he was surprised by the letters and did not know concerns existed. He said he "occasionally" shows up to school 30 to 40 minutes after the start time because of morning breathing treatments for asthma.

Blavatt will decide next month on principal appointments for next year. If he decides to reassign Ferello, it would be his third post in as many years.

Ferello came to Hernando in February 2008, tapped by then-superintendent Wayne Alexander to lead the newly opened Explorer K-8 School in Spring Hill. He had nearly a decade of experience as a school administrator in South Florida.

Explorer had a rocky first year when more students than expected showed up and pushed enrollment to nearly 2,000. Ferello was the only experienced administrator and none of his leadership team had ever run a school of that size and capacity.

Alexander moved Ferello after one year and was vague when asked why he made the decision. Alexander's evaluation of Ferello's first year is not yet public record. Explorer teachers had complained, though, about Ferello's management style.

Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

Hernando teachers cancel no-confidence vote on Westside principal 04/13/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 13, 2010 7:54pm]
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