Charter school administrator accused of child abuse

The Athenian Academy official used a belt to beat a 16-year-old relative, investigators say.

Published May 4, 2007

An administrator at Athenian Academy's campuses in New Port Richey and Dunedin was arrested at his Wesley Chapel home this week on a child abuse charge.

Manuel Goncalves, 41, is accused of striking a 16-year-old girl with a leather belt, leaving welts and bruises on her thighs, knees and back, says an affidavit from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

Goncalves is the top administrator at Athenian Academy's New Port Richey campus, and he has run the Dunedin campus while the school searches for a permanent leader.

Goncalves told a deputy after the Tuesday incident, "I was angry and beat her four or five times with a belt, " according to the affidavit.

A school official said the victim was a family member, and the incident had nothing to do with students at the Greek-language charter school.

"This is a domestic family situation, " said Alicia Rodriguez-Bower, vice president of Leona Group, the management company that runs Athenian Academy.

Goncalves has been placed on administrative leave from his position as "school leader" pending resolution of his case, Rodriguez-Bower said. She would not say whether it was paid or unpaid leave.

Goncalves has been temporarily serving as top administrator at sister school Athenian Academy Pinellas in Dunedin while a search for a permanent administrator is under way, Rodriguez-Bower said. He is on administrative leave from those duties as well, she said.

Goncalves was booked Tuesday on a charge of aggravated child abuse without bodily harm. He was released on $5, 000 bail after his arrest and did not return a telephone message seeking comment Thursday evening.

Goncalves began as a fifth-grade teacher and was promoted to school leader after the former administrator left with health problems, Rodriguez-Bower said.

Officials were said to be "extremely pleased" with him and reported no problems.

According to a biography on the school's Web site, Goncalves holds a master's degree in education from Harvard and is a former social studies teacher and loan officer in Massachusetts.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or 727 869-6247