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Superintendent gets an earful from Alafia Elementary parents

VALRICO — Furious Alafia Elementary parents pointed fingers and yelled at superintendent MaryEllen Elia as they accused administrators of doing too little too late at the school.

For more than two hours, Elia fielded rapid-fire complaints at the school cafeteria during the Thursday night session. About 150 parents attended a meeting intended to be an orderly discussion about what the superintendent and her staff are doing to address gripes focused on principal Ellyn Smith.

Frustrated parents have criticized Smith for months, citing high teacher turnover, low morale and concerns about student safety and behavior, among other problems. Two weeks ago, a school assessment cited a "very stressful work environment."

Parents have bombarded Elia with e-mails, phone calls and even started a blog. More than 270 residents have signed a petition calling for Smith's removal.

But it wasn't enough for them to hear Elia say that Smith would be mentored by former Alafia principal Grace Ippilito. Nor was it enough to know that Alafia, an A-rated school, would become a focus school, a spot reserved for those needing extra help.

"You're going to give her a life coach? In the real world, we don't get a life coach. We get fired," said Marcos Santiago, father of a kindergartner.

Moms, dads and even a few grandparents demanded a time line, dates and accountability.

Elia promised a meeting on Dec. 20, for an update, and said she would post the full assessment report on the school Web site, along with an investigation of some children's behavior.

Smith attended the meeting but didn't address parents.

After the meeting she said, "I'm excited to move forward with the resources the district is providing to our school to deal with any and all concerns."

Superintendent gets an earful from Alafia Elementary parents 11/21/08 [Last modified: Sunday, November 23, 2008 7:38am]
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