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St. Petersburg’s education, youth liaison fired

Leah McRae was hired by former Mayor Rick Kriseman to support five failing local elementary schools.
 
St.Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch speaks during the 2023 Evening of Excellence event by the Pinellas Education Foundation at the Mahaffey Theater on Feb. 8, 2023, in St.Petersburg.
St.Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch speaks during the 2023 Evening of Excellence event by the Pinellas Education Foundation at the Mahaffey Theater on Feb. 8, 2023, in St.Petersburg. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]
Published March 10, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG — Another high-profile official who worked in former Mayor Rick Kriseman’s office has been terminated.

Leah McRae, whose tenure at City Hall began in October 2015, confirmed that she was let go March 2. Kriseman created the director of education and community engagement position and hired the former attorney after the Tampa Bay Times’ “Failure Factories” investigation that year. It highlighted five predominantly Black St. Petersburg elementary schools that had been underperforming due to years of neglect.

McRae previously worked as a court specialist for the Sixth Judicial District and as a volunteer attorney for the Guardian ad Litem program. Her great-uncle, Don McRae, was the city’s first Black city manager.

The week before she was fired, McRae attended a National League of Cities conference in Washington, D.C.

“I’m grateful for my time spent with St. Petersburg and its youth,” she said. “The connections I’ve made I’ll carry with me for a lifetime. I look forward to continuing the work.”

St. Petersburg's director of education, Leah McRae, was fired March 2. The week before, McRae attended a conference held by the National League of Cities in Washington, D.C.
St. Petersburg's director of education, Leah McRae, was fired March 2. The week before, McRae attended a conference held by the National League of Cities in Washington, D.C. [ Facebook ]

City spokesperson Erica Riggins said the city does not discuss personnel matters beyond what is publicly available through records’ requests. A review of McRae’s personnel file did not show any performance reviews. According to a severance summary, she was making a salary of $112,300 and will receive a payout of $49,240.

A request for any disciplinary records and communications relating to her termination, which was placed Thursday morning, has not been fulfilled.

Mayor Ken Welch has shrunk the size of his office since taking office and several officials were moved to other city departments. McRae’s education post was put under leisure services. The city’s former sustainability and resiliency officer, Sharon Wright, quit a few months after she was moved to the Public Works Department.

In December, Welch moved to fire the city’s marketing director of eight years, Nina Mahmoudi, who then resigned. Three others in real estate, pavement and traffic operations were terminated without public explanation from the city.