Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

School Board concerned over Hudson Middle complaints

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco School Board member Steve Luikart is frustrated. The complaints are mounting at Hudson Middle School, he said, and the administration isn't doing enough.

Luikart, whose district includes the school, pressed superintendent Heather Fiorentino and her top staff for answers about dozens of photos he and other board members received in the past week from people associated with the school. Those photos showed the school in disarray, with flaking paint and graffiti on walls, piles of desks outside the school and a stack of whiteboards that have sat outside for more than two years. A new mountain of mulch has replaced last year's heap, which sat there so long that plants began growing out of it.

One of the people sending the photos called the campus "Hudson Middle dump."

Fiorentino told Luikart that if he wanted staff to provide detailed answers to his questions, he should have alerted them to his concerns earlier.

"These are items that you need to be sending to staff as soon as possible," she told him at the School Board meeting Tuesday evening. "I could have had answers for you tonight."

She added that she had been working with the United School Employees of Pasco and staff on "other issues" at the school.

Luikart remained dissatisfied, saying that the administration has known for months about troubles at the school — including many complaints about principal Terry Holback's leadership style — yet has done little to repair them. Meanwhile, he said Wednesday, he has been getting calls from school employees saying they are so stressed out that they are seeking medical help.

"I just don't think the lady needs to be there," he said, referring to Holback. "I'm still going to try to intervene on that one."

Not everyone feels that way.

Lydia Kruk, the school's social worker, called the Times to praise Holback and suggest that the teachers simply don't want to be pressed to do the hard work that state and federal mandates require of every school.

"She has been one of the best principals I have worked for," Kruk said.

She lauded Holback for her fairness, her willingness to listen and her respectfulness to others as professionals.

"I have seen staff undermine her," Kruk said. "All she wants to do is make this a good school, and the teachers don't want to work that hard."

So far, Fiorentino has stood by Holback, assigning her a mentor to improve her skills. In an anonymous climate survey conducted by USEP in May, a vast majority of the school faculty stated that Holback had smashed employee morale and treated teachers unprofessionally since taking the reins of the school in mid 2010.

"I am afraid I will be called in to the office to answer for a problem I have no idea exists," one teacher wrote. "I am afraid of making a mistake that will cost me my job because I didn't 'do it right' even though I don't know what I did wrong. ... Every day I consider where to move so I can get a new teaching position, but then I am afraid to try for fear of what would be said about me by the principal. It seems like she just can't stand us."

Holback, in her first job as principal, took the survey to heart. She told the Times in July that, "Clearly I am coming up short. I recognize that and will work harder and do more because that's what I need to do."

Fiorentino visited the school recently to hear more about what's happening there. She arrived after work hours, though, so few teachers were present.

Kurt Browning, who defeated Fiorentino in the August primary election, said he was concerned that the situation has been allowed to fester for too long.

As a result, what might have been resolved internally with quick action blew up into something that the entire community knows about, he said. Now if leaders decide the best move might be to relocate Holback to another school to give her a fresh start, he said, people at those schools might be more resistant to accepting her knowing the full extent of the complaints at Hudson.

Such problems must be dealt with quickly to avoid tainting employees, schools and the system, he said. They need not to distract from the main objective of having everyone focus on improving teaching and learning for students, Browning said.

He also stressed that if he determined that Holback, or any other employee, was not performing well, he would support second chances but not transfer them simply to get them out of harm's way.

"The history has been if you can't cut it at a school, you get sent to the district office. That's not going to happen," he said. "If we've got a nonperformer, then we've got to hire someone to perform. I am not going to necessarily tolerate nonperformers on the school district payroll."

Other School Board members also have been keeping tabs on the Hudson Middle situation. Chairwoman Joanne Hurley also asked questions Tuesday about the photos they received. But for the most part they've let Luikart do the agitating, declining to comment on the specifics and waiting to see what Fiorentino, or Browning, decides to do.

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

Desks seen as sign of disarray

The photos of Hudson Middle School sent to School Board members included numerous pictures showing hundreds of unused desks in a fenced area behind the school. Officials said the desks, which had been sitting in the elements for four to six weeks, were no longer needed and would be disposed of as part of a consent agenda item presented to board members on Tuesday evening.

School Board concerned over Hudson Middle complaints 09/19/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 9:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. USF eliminated by UCF in AAC baseball; Florida, FSU, Miami win


    CLEARWATER — Roughly 16 hours after a ninth-inning collapse against East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference's double-elimination baseball tournament, USF returned to Spectrum Field presumably set for a reboot.

    It simply got booted instead.

    ’NOLES win: Tyler Holton gets a hug from Drew Carlton after his strong eight innings help Florida State beat Louisville.
  2. Pinellas licensing board executive director settled hundreds of cases without getting his board's approval

    Local Government

    By Mark Puente

    Times Staff Writer

    Eleanor Morrison complained to the Pinellas licensing board in 2015 that her contractor installed crooked walls and windows and poured too much concrete for her carport.

    Eleanor Morrison poses at her home in Treasure Island, 5/26/17. Morrison filed a complaint with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and later learned that its former Executive Director, Rodney Fischer, dismissed the case in a private meeting with the contractor.
  3. Report: Kusher wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin


    Jared Kushner and Russia's ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Donald Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, U.S. …

    The name of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's White House senior adviser, has come up as part of the Russia investigation. [Associated Press]
  4. Rays pitchers rave about Twins pitching coach, ex-mentor Neil Allen

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — There have been a lot of coaches who have had a hand in helping Chris Archer get to the big leagues and to the front of the Rays rotation, and as he took the mound Friday night at Target Field, he had reason to nod appreciatively toward the home dugout.

    In their third year with pitching coach Neil Allen, the Twins have been one of the surprises of the American League.
  5. Swan sculpture deputies say was stolen by naked man found near Lakeland pond


    A $25,000 swan sculpture that Polk County sheriff's deputies say was stolen by a naked man last weekend was found near a pond in Lakeland on Thursday.

    A swan sculpture that was stolen in Lakeland on May 19 was recovered by the Polk Sheriff’s Office on Friday.