Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Parent complaints about school principal bring action by superintendent.

Ellyn Smith,  principal of Alafia Elementary.

Ellyn Smith, principal of Alafia Elementary.

VALRICO — Parents at Alafia Elementary were looking for action when they recently took their gripes about the principal of the A-rated school to the School Board.

They complained about teacher turnover and morale and student safety on campus and said they were dismayed by the results of a survey of the school climate.

On Tuesday, they got action. Superintendent MaryEllen Elia is dispatching a team this week to assess the school and help to diagnose its problems. The committee is conducting interviews and spending three days at the school beginning this week.

"No names, people can say what they like," Elia said Tuesday while updating the School Board on the Alafia situation.

She said the assessment group will report to district administrators, the principal, school employees and parents.

"When we have issues that come up, we have to listen. We have to work through those issues," Elia said. "And we have to use a fair process to look at what's happening at a school and then come up with a plan."

Amy Dreyer, who has two children at Alafia, said she's cautiously optimistic about the School Board's actions. She has said that principal Ellyn Smith has not responded to her complaints about a disruptive child in her son's kindergarten class, and she said parents aren't notified of school meetings.

"There's still a lot of skepticism," she said Wednesday from the school, where she was meeting with the committee. "Even the teachers are skeptical because of all the history, but they are hopeful."

District officials have stepped up their involvement at Alafia after a dozen parents showed up at a School Board meeting two weeks ago to complain about principal Smith, Elia said.

Elia said school officials have held six meetings regarding the Alafia situation since June. Elia also met directly with the principal.

The district already had plans to conduct one-on-one interviews with teachers in mid October in an effort to create a plan for Alafia, long considered one of the best schools in the county.

"I want to make it clear that this is something that we have been working on," Elia said.

Alafia is one of the few schools to have earned straight A's since the state began grading schools. But parents say its storied reputation is endangered by tensions on the campus.

School Board members rarely hear parents complain about principals during their public meetings. Chairwoman Jennifer Faliero, who represents east Hillsborough, said she had never seen so many parents turn out at once.

She was pleased to see Elia getting more involved.

"When a school is polarized, it's not a healthy environment for students or staff to be part of, and it filters out into the community as well," Faliero said.

Times Staff Writer Jessica Vander Velde contributed to this report. Letitia Stein can be reached at or (813) 226-3400.

Parent complaints about school principal bring action by superintendent. 10/23/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 29, 2008 10:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays make Hechavarria trade official


    Here is the release from the team ...


  2. Jones: Will Tampa Bay hit a Hall of Fame dry spell now?

    Lightning Strikes

    Marty St. Louis may lack the Hall of Fame stats, but two scoring titles, an MVP award and clutch goals should count for a lot. (Dirk Shadd, Times)
  3. SeaWorld shares drop Monday to 2017 low after disclosure of federal subpoena


    The Orlando parent company of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks saw its stock drop 3.5 percent Monday to $15.10, its lowest price of this year.

    Killer whales perform at Shamu Stadium at SeaWorld in Orlando in 2011, before public pressure was placed on the theme park company to curtail its orca shows.SeaWorld has since announced an end to the traditional killer whale entertainment  at its theme parks. [AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack]
  4. Update: Scientology cancels planned mock FBI raid on downtown building

    Special Topics

    CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology planned to film a mock FBI raid on a downtown building Monday afternoon, but the actors and cameras never showed up to the location disclosed to the city.

    According to Clearwater Police, the Church of Scientology plans to hold a mock FBI raid at 3 p.m. Monday at this vacant building at 305 N Fort Harrison Ave. Police announced the raid in advance to alert the public. They said they did not know the reason for the event. [Google Earch image]
  5. Support for gay marriage surges, even among groups once wary

    Human Interest

    NEW YORK — In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey.

    People gather in Washington's Lafayette Park to see the White House lit up in rainbow colors on June 26, 2015, the day the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage legal. In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey released on Monday, June 26, 2017. [Associated Press]