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Veteran educator objects to transfer

The aggressive leadership style of Powell Middle School's new principal has landed him in the middle of a grievance.

Cecelia Solomon, Powell's longtime media specialist, has filed a complaint against principal Michael Ransaw, alleging that he used his position arbitrarily to transfer her from the library to a sixth-grade social studies classroom.

Solomon is pursuing National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification as a media specialist, and the state has paid a hefty fee to have her application evaluated. If she gets the certificate and does not teach media for the year afterward, she might be on the hook for the fee and could lose a salary stipend that accompanies the recognition, said Missy Keller, Hernando Classroom Teachers Association president.

"It's just very poor administration, as far as we're concerned," Keller said.

Ransaw said he would not talk about the situation for now. Solomon said through union executive director Sandra Armstrong that she would not comment, either.

Keller acknowledged that a principal has the authority to transfer teachers to whatever positions they are qualified to instruct, and that Solomon has certification in social studies. However, she argued, Ransaw's decision to move Solomon was flawed.

She said the social studies job became vacant because a teacher took a planned maternity leave. Ransaw never advertised the position to see if he could fill it with a certified teacher, Keller said, and then he moved Solomon one week before the other teacher took leave.

"To wait until the week before the leave, I'm just dumbfounded," Keller said.

Armstrong said Ransaw has explained his decision as the best for Powell's students, because they would have a certified teacher rather than a substitute. But Solomon has not taught social studies for nearly 18 years, Armstrong said, whereas she has earned a master's degree as a media specialist and made the school library what it is today.

Keller added that Solomon has led several programs for the school and district from the media center, including the Sunshine State Young Readers Award Program and Reading Counts. Those programs could fall by the wayside because of Ransaw's action, she suggested.

"It's retaliation, I think, against her because he's written her up and considered her to be a threat in the past," Armstrong said.

She referred to two incidents in November when Solomon, a 23-year district employee, questioned Ransaw's directions in front of others.

Keller said she has heard other complaints, none which have risen to the level of a formal grievance, against Ransaw's "top-down" management style. One such complaint came from former Powell teacher Joe Gatti, whom Ransaw also unilaterally reassigned from the technology department to a classroom before the academic year began.

At the time, Gatti was planning to work at Powell and also manage his new charter school. Gatti contemplated fighting but quit to join the charter school full time.

He still says that Ransaw acted unfairly, without consideration to the school's past and the roles that people played there.

"He had no history of me or Mrs. Solomon. Mrs. Solomon brought that media center from nothing to what it is now," Gatti said. "Although legally a principal can move staff, ethically I think a principal should recognize a person that's been there a long time and take that into consideration."

School Board members said they knew about the grievance but would not speak about the specifics. Some said they had heard little negative about Ransaw previously.

"I've heard just the opposite," board member John Druzbick said. "I've heard teachers publicly in total support of Mr. Ransaw."

Board member Robert Wiggins, too, said he had heard "nothing but good things."

Still, the complaint raised some eyebrows.

"My own personal concern with this kind of issue is what this does to the morale of the staff, when a person is taken out of their field of expertise as is alleged to have happened," board member Gail David said. "I will be very interested as a board member to see the outcome of this grievance. I hope we're not looking at a precedent for additional grievances."

A hearing on Solomon's complaint is scheduled for Feb. 5.

_ Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at (352) 754-6115 or solocheksptimes.com.

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