Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Westside Elementary teachers complain principal Dominick Ferello is a bully

SPRING HILL — The letters portray a school on the verge of mutiny, or at least an exodus.

Staffers at Westside Elementary School in Spring Hill describe their principal, Dominick Ferello, as a surly, heavy-handed leader who is often late to school and uses intimidation to manage the staff when he is on the job.

Ferello's leadership is undermining the A school's high-performing status, teachers say in the dozen and a half letters delivered to the interim superintendent's office in recent weeks and released by the district Monday after a public records request by the St. Petersburg Times.

"Mr. Ferello is a bully," one faculty member wrote. " 'You better do this' and 'You know I know what's going on' and 'Don't forget I'm watching' are things I am tired of hearing."

The teachers union is poised to put the issue of Ferello's leadership to a confidence vote by Westside's staff in the coming weeks, said Joe Vitalo, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association. The results of that vote will be submitted to new superintendent Bryan Blavatt, who starts Thursday.

"We would not do it if we didn't think there was a need to," Vitalo said.

Ferello, 55, who is in his first year at the school of about 800 students and nearly 70 instructional staffers, tries to pit teachers against one another and sometimes yells at them in front of other people, according to the letters.

Teachers complain that Ferello is more concerned about the school's cosmetic appearance than the quality of the education. They say he often comes in late but stays late to work on his doctorate. They say he requires them to have the same lesson plans regardless of grade level and threatens to move teachers who fall behind to a different position.

"I feel like the creativity has been completely removed from my teaching," wrote Amy Roberts, a kindergarten teacher and longtime Westside staffer.

"I feel insulted and feel like I may be punished based on my students' test scores," wrote Jennifer Bradley, a teacher in her fifth year at the school.

Julie Dibble, a Title I teacher who also has a daughter in kindergarten at the school, said she witnesses the effects as a parent and teacher. Of her daughter's teacher, Dibble wrote: "I see the stress she is put under every day. I worry that this stress will reflect onto my daughter's happiness. I worry that will happen to all the students here."

Ferello, in a written response to interim superintendent Sonya Jackson, said he was taken by surprise by the letters. "I didn't have any indication that concerns existed," he wrote.

He acknowledged that he "occasionally" shows up to school 30 to 40 minutes after the start time. The reason: severe asthma, he said, that requires a breathing treatment before he leaves home for work. He included a letter from his doctor describing the condition.

He noted that many faculty members have never worked under a principal other than Charles Johnson, who retired after more than two decades at the school.

"Change is always difficult. This is a hard situation for anyone to follow and be accepted," he wrote. Neither Ferello nor Jackson returned calls seeking comment Monday.

Heather Martin, executive director for business services, said the letters will be waiting for Blavatt, who will make a decision on Ferello's reappointment and the rest of the district's administrators by the end of May.

Ferello came to Hernando in February 2008, tapped by then-superintendent Wayne Alexander to lead the newly opened Explorer K-8 School in Spring Hill. He had nearly a decade of experience as a school administrator in South Florida.

Explorer had a rocky first year when more students than expected showed up and pushed enrollment to nearly 2,000. Ferello was the only experienced administrator and none of them had ever run a school with that size and capacity. He was out for several weeks that fall due to illness.

Alexander moved Ferello after one year and was vague about why he made the decision. Alexander's evaluation of Ferello's first year is not yet public record. Explorer teachers had complained, though, about Ferello's brusque management style.

"The issues and concerns have not changed, only the location," Vitalo said.

Tony Marrero can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1431.

Westside Elementary teachers complain principal Dominick Ferello is a bully 03/29/10 [Last modified: Monday, March 29, 2010 9:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Study: Florida has fourth-most competitive tax code


    Florida's tax code is the fourth most competitive in the country, according to a study released Tuesday by nonprofit group Tax Foundation.

    Florida has the fourth-most competitive tax code, a study by the Tax Foundation said. Pictured is  Riley Holmes, III, H&R Block tax specialist, helping a client with their tax return in April. | [SCOTT KEELER, Times]
  2. A punter is the state's only first-team, midseason All-American


    Here's another indictment of how mediocre the state's college football season has become.

  3. Fred Ridley on the Road to Augusta


    Last week, I sat down with Fred Ridley, the new chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters. Ridley, a lawyer who has resided in Tampa since 1981, was the 1975 U.S. Amateur champion and is the only Chairman to have played in the Masters. I wrote a long story on Ridley, but here are some of the other …

    Fred Ridley, looks on during the Green Jacket Ceremony during the final round of the 2017 Masters Tournament in April at Augusta National Golf Club.
  4. Tampa police link two shootings, tell Seminole Heights residents to avoid walking alone


    TAMPA — One was a 22-year-old African American man. The other was a 32-year-old white woman.

    A small memorial sits in the grassy lot on East Orleans Avenue in Seminole Heights where 32-year-old Monica Hoffa's body was found Friday. Hoffa had been shot to death, and Tampa police say they believe her killing is related to the shooting death of Benjamin Edward Mitchell, 22, at a bus stop near N 15th Street and E Frierson Avenue on Oct. 9. There are no clear motives, however, and police have asked to residents to be on the lookout for anything suspicious and avoid traveling alone at night. JONATHAN CAPRIEL/Times staff
  5. Pinellas Sheriff deputies T. Festa, left, and J. Short, righ,t arrest suspect Christopher Parsells, Pinellas Park, early Tuesday as part of a joint roundup of unlicensed contractors. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]