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Longtime Pinellas administrator steps down amid controversy

ST. PETERSBURG — A 31-year employee of Pinellas County schools has stepped down following an investigation of her involvement with a company that makes teacher-management products.

Regional superintendent Carol Thomas was placed on administrative leave by schools chief Julie Janssen last month after School Board members raised questions about her work with Enhancing Teacher Instructional Practice, a computerized program designed to improve the teacher appraisal process.

A report from the district's Office of Professional Standards released Saturday said Thomas and another district administrator helped develop and market the product during regular business hours. Thomas had maintained her work with the program was done on her own time without using school resources.

The report said there was "substantial e-mail communication" about the project between the district employees and a company official. There also were at least two meetings about the product during the workday.

In addition, the report said that Thomas and the other administrator told district investigators that the purpose of the program was to benefit Pinellas exclusively, which contradicted their actions. Thomas initially asked the School Board to relinquish to her copyright and patent rights for the product but then gave them back.

In a rebuttal to the district, Thomas said she consistently communicated about the development of the product. She is not an officer in the company and did not market the product. Thomas requested to be reassigned but was denied, she said. In light of that, "I have elected to retire from my current position."

To read a copy of the district's report and Carol Thomas' rebuttal, go to tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Longtime Pinellas administrator steps down amid controversy 06/04/11 [Last modified: Saturday, June 4, 2011 10:46pm]
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