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River Ridge principal cleared of affair allegation

River Ridge High School principal Maria Swanson has been cleared of an accusation that she had an improper relationship with a subordinate, authorities announced after a two-week investigation.

Multiple interviews turned up no evidence that Swanson carried on an affair with a teacher during school hours or on school property while she was an assistant principal at Wiregrass Ranch High School, district employee relations director Kevin Shibley said.

"We received no information other than that which (former assistant superintendent Jim) Davis handled already," Shibley said Wednesday.

He referred to Davis' informal verbal reprimand of Swanson in 2009 after she self-reported having an affair with a teacher she supervised.

Swanson did not respond to requests for comment.

Superintendent Heather Fiorentino called for the investigation last month after new allegations emerged amid the dismissal proceedings of Sunlake High teacher Maryann Verdi, who previously worked at River Ridge and counted Swanson as a friend.

Verdi argued nothing she did was worse than Swanson's actions and demanded to know why she faced firing while Swanson did not. The district received several complaints from Sunlake students and faculty alleging Verdi used profanity in class and smoked in school, among other things.

Verdi said she would fight her recommended termination. Early Monday, however, she submitted her resignation.

"The board accepted the resignation on Tuesday," Shibley said.

"She is no longer an employee of the district."

Verdi worked for the district for 15 years, inspired, she said, to teach after the faculty at Gulf High School got her on the right track as a student. She was that school's Turnaround Award winner in 1988.

Her troubles began last year, when she was placed on suspension after a domestic battery arrest.

She returned to teaching this fall after completing a pretrial intervention and was given a "last chance" warning by Shibley to behave appropriately. She was suspended before the end of planning week because of several concerns, including improper cell phone use during work hours.

After starting classes two weeks into the school year, Verdi lasted two days before the student complaints came and her termination was recommended.

River Ridge principal cleared of affair allegation 10/05/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 9:07pm]

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