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Pasco school officials review 'concerns' at Lacoochee Elementary

LACOOCHEE — Key Pasco County school district officials have spent the week at Lacoochee Elementary School trying to get to the bottom of "concerns" aired by "a variety of people" about the way principal Karen Marler runs the school.

They are expected to continue the review next week, while Marler remains on assignment to the district office. Centennial Elementary principal Cindy Harper has been placed temporarily in charge at Lacoochee.

"We are in the midst of our assessing the school climate," assistant superintendent David Scanga said. "The district is in the process of a review to determine what the concerns are, if the concerns are valid and what the next steps might be."

He would not offer any examples of the types of issues that have been raised.

"We received information that suggested there were concerns among the staff at Lacoochee with regard to the school climate," Scanga said, noting that the issues were raised by "a variety of people."

Superintendent Heather Fiorentino removed Marler, a respected community leader known for creating family-oriented projects such as Parent University, from the school on Monday after the complaints arose. She sent home a letter to all parents stating that Marler would be gone "for a short period of time."

District officials said at that point that Marler had been asked to help work out some class-size compliance issues. They offered no further explanation.

Shortly afterward, Fiorentino dispatched the directors of human resources, employee relations and leadership development to Lacoochee. Their role, Scanga said, was to listen to any employees who wanted to talk about the school operations.

"You tell us what works at this school, what doesn't work at this school and make suggestions for what might need to be improved," Scanga said.

Marler, 59, has been principal at Lacoochee, which serves one of the county's poorest communities, since late 2004. Under her leadership, the school has earned mostly A's and B's in the state grading system, although this past year it got a C grade. She has worked for the district since 1985.

Marler has not been available for comment.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at

Pasco school officials review 'concerns' at Lacoochee Elementary 09/24/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 24, 2010 8:33pm]
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