The Tampa Bay Times requested an interview this week with Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins concerning reports of corruption and abuse at Spoto High School last year, which is own staff reported and ultimately investigated.
The superintendent declined the request, and issued this emailed statement:
This is an HR issue, so I am limited in what I can directly address.
The investigation report describes several situations when our school staff and leaders objected to overly aggressive steps. The fact that our staff pushed back repeatedly and spoke up — leading to this investigation — shows that our culture at Spoto and across our district is not one of “results at any cost.”
While we all work with an expectation of high performance, the leaders in our schools right now make smart decisions every day to do right by students and stay focused on what’s best for students as their priority.
Eakins did not answer several key questions that remain. Among them:
- Why did the district wait five weeks between Jan. 7, when seven allegations of serious wrongdoing arrived at the Office of Professional Standards, and Feb. 11, when the office was authorized to begin its investigation? The teachers union had detailed these concerns in writing even earlier — in December.
- Glennis Perez, the former Spoto High principal at the center of the allegations, resigned her position before the district could serve her with a letter that said her contract would not be renewed. Has her situation been formally reported to the Department of Education, which controls her professional credentials?
- Of broader significance, what is being done to find out if the abuses described in the report — discouraging students from attending school if it appears they will drag down the graduation rate, and falsifying withdrawal information to improve the graduation rate — are happening at other schools? Will there be any audit or inquiry?
The Times will keep asking.