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Pasco board approves River Ridge principal's move to Mitchell High

LAND O'LAKES — Jim Michaels has won approval to become Mitchell High's new principal.

But not without complaints from several teachers, parents and students.

Pasco School Board members on Tuesday noted the dozens of e-mails, calls and letters they received from people at River Ridge High who did not want to see Michaels plucked from his post there. Michaels did not apply for the Mitchell job.

"The decision to move Mr. Michaels to Mitchell High School is unsettling, disconcerting, distressing — for all faculty, staff and students at RRHS," a group calling itself the "River Ridge Family" said in a letter to the board. "We as a school are standing up and imploring you to allow Mr. Michaels to remain as our leader and to look elsewhere for a leader for Mitchell High School."

Board member Kathryn Starkey echoed the concern that the district's shifting of high school principals might be disruptive. Michaels is headed to Mitchell to replace Ric Mellin, who was transferred to Land O'Lakes High to replace Monica Ilse, who was appointed to open Anclote High.

Superintendent Heather Fiorentino reminded the board that some movement is to be expected as the district opens new high schools. She noted that the county's elementary and middle schools have seen principal changes for the past five years as the district has built new campuses.

Even if the board wanted to halt the transfers, it really has no jurisdiction to do so, board attorney Dennis Alfonso said.

"It's the superintendent's obligation and power to make the recommendation and the board has to sustain or reject that," Alfonso said. "Short of some really compelling purpose, the board ought not intercede in that."

Board member Joanne Hurley took the communication against Michaels' move as a positive sign.

"It's nice to see our staff is so well thought of," she said.

The advertisement for a River Ridge High principal was posted Wednesday. The pay range is $75,017-$114,143. Assistant superintendent for high schools Jim Davis said no one has been selected in advance for the job.

The board also upheld Fiorentino's recommendation to fire teacher Susan Gozo, who had missed as many as 84 days of teaching in a recent 180-day school year. Members agreed with Fiorentino's position that a teacher can't teach if not in the classroom.

"Whether voluntary or involuntary or special circumstances created this issue … attendance is the most basic and minimum requirement," Hurley said.

Added chairman Frank Parker: "I think we bent over backwards in an attempt to try to maintain her employment. But we moved and she didn't. In her probationary period, her continued absences added to it and confirmed the finding we (have made)."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614.

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Pasco board approves River Ridge principal's move to Mitchell High 03/04/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 4, 2009 9:06pm]

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