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    School Board okays change of principals

    It transfers the Seminole High principal on the superintendent's recommendation.

    By KELLY RYAN

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 18, 2001


    LARGO -- The Pinellas County School Board on Tuesday approved a series of administrative changes for next year, including transferring the principal of Seminole High School.

    Three teachers from Seminole High, who said they represent more of their colleagues, told the board that they don't want Richard Duncan, the principal since 1992-93, to leave. Area Superintendent Cathy Athanson recommended that Duncan leave at the end of this school year, saying that some of his problem-solving and decisionmaking skills were not effective.

    Superintendent Howard Hinesley would not go into details about why Duncan is being moved, but he said Duncan has made good contributions to Seminole High and "is a nice person." But he concurs with Athanson's recommendation that Duncan be assigned elsewhere.

    Duncan's most recent public evaluation rated him as effective or highly effective in every category. Another evaluation of Duncan's performance has been completed since then, but it has not been made public.

    The teachers who spoke said the decision is unfair and praised Duncan's leadership, support and innovation. They said they were blindsided by the decision to remove him and said that if Duncan were ineffective, he should have been notified of his deficiencies and given time to improve.

    Hinesley said Duncan was made aware of concerns about his leadership, but he said it was not appropriate to describe those conversations.

    School Board member Linda Lerner said the community should have been given more information about why the decision was made. But she voted for the transfer with the rest of the board because the power to assign administrative employees rests mostly with the superintendent; board members are limited to only a few situations when they can ignore the superintendent's recommendation.

    "I think the system of evaluating principals has broken down," she said.

    District administrators are not sure exactly what Duncan will do next year, though they have suggested assigning him to a school for disruptive students. His salary will decrease, a fact that Duncan has known since March 2 when he was notified that he would not return to Seminole next year, Hinesley said.

    Richard Misenti, the principal of East Lake High, will move to Seminole High beginning in the fall. Several board members said the Seminole High staff should have had the chance to give input on who Duncan's successor would be.

    Also Tuesday, the School Board decided that students in fundamental elementary schools will be allowed to start wearing shorts for the 2001-02 school year. The vote was 5-2 in favor, with Lerner and Tom Todd voting against the measure.

    Hinesley recommended last month that, based on parent surveys, fundamental middle school students also be allowed to wear shorts. But School Board members killed that proposal, agreeing with some school administrators that shorts could be disruptive and distracting to middle school students.

    Parents of fundamental elementary students, however, overwhelmingly supported shorts. Those students will be allowed to wear standard uniform shorts that are approved by the school and are provided by an approved vendor.

    Also Tuesday, the School Board got its first look at a new policy that will regulate how non-school events can be advertised on school campuses.

    The proposed policy would limit fliers to describing the activity and listing the date, time and place. All fliers would have to include this phrase: "The school is neither endorsing nor sponsoring this event nor approving or endorsing the views of the organization sponsoring the activity."

    School Board attorney John Bowen said commercial activities will not be able to advertise on campus, adding that the new policy will prevent religious proselytizing.

    The School Board is scheduled to vote on the new policy later this spring.

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