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  1. Education

Pasco principal, assistant swaps announced at some elementary schools

LAND O'LAKES — When Pasco County's principals and assistant principals got reappointed Tuesday evening, their school assignments were notably missing from the list.

District officials still were trying to determine if everyone was in the right place, superintendent Heather Fiorentino said.

On Thursday, the elementary school leaders got their placements. Most returned to the schools they led last year.

A handful got transferred, including moves at Marlowe, Chasco and Connerton elementary schools.

Perhaps most notably, Marlowe Elementary principal Terri Mutell and Chasco Elementary principal Hilda Martin will swap jobs.

Mutell had been Marlowe's only principal, opening the school in 1999. But Marlowe's academic performance has slid in recent years, with its school grade dropping from an A in 2008 to a D in 2011. Its student FCAT performance this spring continued to decline.

"The data at Marlowe, at least the FCAT data, is not what we had hoped for," assistant superintendent for elementary education David Scanga said. "I'd like to give Mrs. Martin a chance to work with that school."

Martin took over Chasco in the fall of 2010. Scanga said her strength is working with testing data to improve student performance and instruction. Chasco improved its state grade in 2011, from C to B. This year, it showed moderate growth in FCAT performance, when taking into account changes to the scoring system.

Scanga said he expected Mutell to help Chasco as well, as an "excellent collaborator" who knows how to help build upon school's existing strengths.

Mutell and Martin could not be reached for comment.

A new, but different, face for Connerton

Connerton Elementary, the subject of protests by some unhappy former employees and parents, also sees a change, although not the one that the protesters had hoped for.

Assistant principal Wendy Carswell will be transferred to Denham Oaks Elementary. She will take the place of Vaughnette Chandler, who was appointed to the principal's job at Double Branch Elementary.

Claudia Steinacker, previously assistant principal at Odessa Elementary, will move to Connerton. Anna Falcone will remain Connerton's principal.

"It was a response to just feeling like there are some concerns at that school and they need to strengthen the leadership at that school," district spokeswoman Summer Romagnoli said.

Scanga called Steinacker a "strong, compassionate leader with good experiences." He said he was confident that Steinacker, working with Falcone, will "address and work through the issues that are there." Carswell, he said, "brings good skills" to the job and "will work well at Denham Oaks."

Carswell referred calls seeking comment to Scanga's office.

School Board chairwoman Joanne Hurley said she was happy that a decision on Connerton finally had come, after months of discontent brewing in the community.

"I was quite convinced after our last board meeting that the controversy was going to continue to swirl," Hurley said. "I will try to help the community heal and come together."

That healing might not come easily, though.

Former Connerton Elementary nurse Cathy Brown, who called Carswell and Falcone "bullies" at Tuesday's board meeting, said she was pleased to see Carswell replaced by Steinacker.

"She is wonderful to work with. She is very popular at Odessa," Brown said of Steinacker.

Brown remained critical of Falcone, though, and said the group that is pushing for her removal won't give up.

School Board member Steve Luikart said he knew that some people would be upset with the Connerton decision, but noted that he had received emails from other people who are happy with the school.

"At least (Fiorentino) is attempting to make some changes over there," he said. "Hopefully that will help out."

Resignation catches some by surprisew

One expected transfer did not happen.

Amelia Van Name Larson, whose removal from a supervisor position overseeing Response to Intervention efforts drew some criticism, was not on the elementary school administrator list. Van Name Larson submitted her resignation letter early Thursday.

Luikart expressed dismay.

"Now we lose someone who has been making things work," he said. "I wasn't expecting that."

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

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