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Pasco Tribune

Deal reportedly near in Connerton principal case


Published:   |   Updated: June 5, 2013 at 10:52 PM

LAND O' LAKES - A suspended principal's appeal hearing before the Pasco County School Board, which had been scheduled for Thursday, was cancelled because she and the school district were on the verge of reaching a settlement in the case.

Details of the deal with Anna Falcone, who was principal of Connerton Elementary, were still being hashed out by attorneys Wednesday afternoon and could be finalized Thursday or Friday, school district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said.

The board voted in April to suspend Falcone without pay after Superintendent Kurt Browning said she obtained confidential information about a survey designed to gauge what parents, students and staff members think about how schools are run.

Browning said Falcone wanted to learn which of her staff members responded to the survey, but was denied the information repeatedly by her superiors because respondents had been guaranteed confidentiality. Browning said he viewed her efforts to acquire the names as insubordination and he planned to recommend she be fired.

Falcone, for her part, denied any wrongdoing and asked for the hearing to make her case directly to the school board.

In the interim, Browning and the school board already named Aimee Boltze, previously a staff development supervisor, as Falcone's replacement at Connerton.

At the April school board meeting, several people - both pro and anti-Falcone - addressed the board, including Falcone herself, who thanked those "courageous enough to come up here and speak on my behalf."

"Many people are afraid and fear they will be retaliated against if they speak the truth," Falcone said at the time.

Supporters described Falcone as a dedicated professional who was the victim of a vendetta by disgruntled former employees and parents.

Her detractors painted her as a principal who ignored problems and led through intimidation.

Trouble between Falcone and her critics had been brewing for more than a year.

In May 2012, some former school employees, parents and students staged a demonstration near the school to protest Falcone's actions.

They maintained the principal didn't listen to employees or parents, leading to low staff morale and a lack of community support. They said the final straw was when Falcone gave two popular teachers new assignments at different grade levels.

Some members of the group also circulated a petition that they presented to the school board, calling for the ouster of Falcone and the then assistant principal.

The district made some changes at that time, including bringing in a new assistant principal, but Falcone remained on the job until just before this year's spring break when the allegations about the survey surfaced.

rblair@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1853

Twitter: @RBlairTBO

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