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Teacher Recounts Political Coercion, Hostile Work Environment

Buffy Simon of Land O' Lakes is the first district employee to publicly claim she was pressured to support the superintendent's re-election bid.

A Land O' Lakes woman and former Hudson Middle School assistant principal broke down in tears at Tuesday's school board meeting as she recounted what she called a "hostile work environment" and political coercion as an administrator at the school.

Buffy Simon said after being "abruptly removed" from her position at Hudson and demoted to a teaching position at the school, she was told she is not eligible to apply for other available AP jobs in the district, though she holds a master's degree in educational leadership. 

Her demotion came after reporting a hostile work environment, she said.

At the time she was told to support the principal, Simon said. She also recounted a text message received during school hours that asked her to attend a fundraiser for Superintendent Heather Fiorentino.

Simon said she felt pressured to attend that event by her principal, Terry Holback, who implied that it was in her best interest to do so.

Barbara Munz, a retired educator who spent 33 years in Pasco County, , telling the board she'd been contacted by several current employees who feel intimidated and threatened due to political coercion by the superintendent's staff.  Munz's statement opened the door to an initial investigation, which has since been turned over

Simon is the first current district employee to address the board during a public meeting.

Simon told the board she was never contacted by Fiorentino directly. She did not name the sender of the text message during her comments Tuesday.

Simon told The Tampa Tribune on Wednesday that a Google search showed the number was that of district spokeswoman Summer Romagnoli.

Romagnoli told the Tribune that she did send the text, but was on leave from work the day she sent it.

The message was sent to everyone who'd been invited in order to clarify the date and location, because some people were given incorrect information, Romagnoli told the Tribune.

Holback told the Tribune that she never spoke to Simon about the fundraiser, calling the allegation "completely and totally untrue."

Simon filed an EEOC complaint against the school district in May, claiming sex discrimination, the Tribune reported.  In the complaint, she claimed she was harassed and told that her performance was unsatisfactory after she let it be known she was thinking of having a second child, according to the Tribune.

Rene Van Hout August 03, 2012 at 02:32 PM
I have heard of Heather Fiorentino's 'hostile environment' toward the teachers for years. I wish it would have come out sooner :o( Thank GOD Kurt Browning is running to get her away from our underappreciated teachers.

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