Leon Superintendent Claims No New Money or Positions in Shake Up

By: Eyewitness News; Lanetra Bennett Email
By: Eyewitness News; Lanetra Bennett Email

UPDATED 8.24.2012 by Julie Montanaro

The first week of school in Leon County is now in the books. Many schools have new principals at the helm this year. It was part of an administrative shake up. The superintendent claims it didn't cost taxpayers a thing. Others aren't so sure.

The announcement in June that some of the most popular principals in Leon County were headed to administrative offices surprised a lot of people and even prompted a protest outside Leon High School.

It's simmered since then, but many parents still wonder how the district can afford it.

"First and foremost my concern was, where's the money coming from? We're in a recession and I'm hearing that it's like close to half a million dollars in raises here and teachers don't have any increases. Clerical workers have had no increases in several years. So it's shock and concern," parent Michelle Eubanks said.

Yet superintendent Jackie Pons says there were no new positions created. He says the cost to taxpayers for any raises was offset by retirements of highly paid veterans.

"They were all revenue neutral when we looked at what the cost of the total plan was because there were positions that were open positions," Pons said. "Now if were to create new positions we would have added money, but we felt like these were critical positions."

A budget impact statement released by the school system shows the moves actually resulted in a $95,000 boost in the general fund.

However, an assistant superintendent confirms at least two of the division director jobs had been vacant for a year. They are now filled at $109,000 and $105,000 dollars a piece. A third vacant director's position - though the vacancy didn't span a year - was renamed and is now filled at $99,000.

The superintendent says those positions were already budgeted and needed to be filled.

"One of the things that's helped us get through this 111-million dollars in budget cuts is having strong planning and these positions were critical. They were important. I feel like we brought a strong team out to the district," Pons said.

"Teachers have not had a pay raise in five years. That has been difficult, but in this district there also haven't been any layoffs," said Vicki Lightfoot, cheif negotiator for the Leon Classroom Teachers Association.

The teachers union negotiator says she thinks the promoted principals are up and coming leaders that will be good for the district and doesn't think their jobs came at the expense of teachers or classrooms.

"We're aware of everything that the district does. If we saw something that was amiss truly we'd be the first to cry foul," Lightfoot said.

All the spread sheets aren't enough to convince parents like Michelle Eubanks that the mix of promotions, appointments and pay raises couldn't be better spent in the classroom.

"I don't know the figures. I haven't seen them. I'm not one to dispute them, but I question them," Eubanks said.

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July 6, 2012 -

Former Leon High School Principal Rocky Hanna releases an open letter to the Leon High School family.

Dear Leon Family,

Words cannot express how moved and strengthened I have been by your overwhelming show of love and support. You have once again reminded me why I considered myself the luckiest man in the world to be principal of Leon High School.

Twenty three years ago, despite graduating with a degree in business, I quickly discovered that my true calling and passion in life was to teach, coach and lead kids to a better future. Day after day, year after year, my daily interaction with the kids was the force that drove me. You were the ones who made me strive to become a better educator and a better principal. Not having children of my own, you were my kids. I swelled with pride at your accomplishments like any father would.

The announcement that I would leave Leon and move to the district office caught me off guard because it was not something that I had actively been pursuing. However, please be assured that I will take on this new opportunity which has been offered to me by the superintendent with the same commitment that I had as your principal.

The stress and emotion of this week has taken its toll on all of us. It’s time to move forward. Billy Epting is a personal friend of mine and I have worked with him for much of my professional career. He has the personality and leadership skills to ensure that Leon continues to be an outstanding high school.

To the class of 2013, the commitment gowns that each of you signed as freshman, promising to graduate in four years, now will be turned over to Mr. Epting. Trust me on this, he will see you through. Just remember what I have told you time and time again: Stay true to yourself, and fight for what you believe in. With hard work, commitment and perseverance, dreams really can come true.

Leon High School has flourished for more than a century and will continue its long tradition of excellence. I have always believed that it is much bigger than any one person or any one position. Just remember, I will always be a Leon Lion just like you.

It has truly been an honor to serve as your principal.

We are…Leon

We are…Leon

We are…Leon

GO BIG RED!!

I love you,

Rocky

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July 4, 2012 -

The fight to keep a local principal in his job has hit the Internet. A petition to get Leon County Superintendent Jackie Pons to reinstate Rocky Hanna as principal at Leon High has been circulating online. Last week, Pons announced the reassignment of more than a dozen principals. Many, including Hanna, were promoted to positions at the district level. Some comments on the site describe the re-assignment of the long-time principal as a crime. But some students say they think he'll do well no matter where he ends up.

"Rocky is like a father to me, I love him. If he got called to do something, where they have a higher position for him just let him stay there. He's able to help more people out like he did at Leon High School," said Ethan Brown, a student at Leon High.

Hanna has not commented on how he feels about his new job as divisional director. A district spokesperson did tell us that Hanna and Superintendent Pons met last night, but he did not say where, for how long, and did not specify what exactly was discussed.

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UPDATE: July 3, 2012 - 2:00pm

There is an online petition to get former Leon High School principal Rocky Hanna reinstated:

http://www.change.org/petitions/superintendent-jackie-pons-stop-the-reassignment-of-principal-rocky-hanna-to-the-district-office

"Mr. Rocky Hanna has affected so many students and gone above and beyond as Leon High School's principal. Now it is our turn to show Mr. Hanna our support and protest Jackie Pons decision to take him away from Leon High School and move him to the district office." - Statement on Change.org

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UPDATE: July 2, 2012- 6:26pm

The shake-up among positions in Leon County Schools has shaken up a lot of students and parents at Leon High School.

A group of about 100 supporters protested the removal of former principal Rocky Hanna.

Leon Lions are really roaring now. Their principal has been taken away, and they're not happy about it.

"We love -- Rocky! We want -- Rocky!"

That's what a group of people were chanting for Rocky Hanna, the former principal of Leon High School in Tallahassee.

Both current and former students, parents and teachers rallied on the front steps of the school Monday in protest of Superintendent Jackie Pons' decision to remove Hanna from the school.

Upcoming Leon High Student Body President Pepper Deker says, "Mr. Hanna is just the greatest principal I know around. He gets all of us involved in every thing. You don't find principals to do that to kids."

Hanna is one of 14 principals to be reassigned. There were nearly 20 administrators and staff in all.

After 21 years in the schools, Hanna began his new job as an administrator on the district level Monday.

Michelle Ubben has had two children graduate from Leon, and has a third that's about to start at the high school.

Ubben says, "He's not suited for a desk job in the district. His gift is walking these halls, influencing these students. He has made Leon a place where every child can succeed."

The Leon County Schools spokesperson says moving to the district office is a promotion and a pay raise.

One man at the protest says, "He deserves a promotion and he deserves a raise. But, if he wants to be at Leon, we need to further his career right here and let him do it here."

"I don't think Leon would ever be the same without him." Says, Deker.

Hanna's father spoke to the crowd of supporters. He says, "For Jackie Pons to just put that aside and move this arbitrarily is beyond me. Something that needs to be redone. If he wants a solution, I've got one. He can call me."

Supporters say no matter what happens, Hanna will always be a lion.

Superintendent Jackie Pons released this statement:

The Leon community has great feelings for their former principal, Mr. Hanna.

His energy and talent will now be a part of one of the strongest leadership teams in the state.

Although change is often difficult, I am confident Billy Epting’s return to Leon High will continue in the great tradition of strong leadership at this historic school.

______________________________

[UPDATE] Tallahassee, FL - July 2, 2012 - 3:05pm

STATEMENT FROM LEON COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT JACKIE PONS

The Leon community has great feelings for their former principal, Mr. Hanna.

His energy and talent will now be a part of one of the strongest leadership teams in the state.

Although change is often difficult, I am confident Billy Epting’s return to Leon High will continue in the great tradition of strong leadership at this historic school.

__________________________________

Updated by Lanetra Bennett - July 2, 2012-

Some parents of high school students say their children's principal is being taken away; and they're not happy about it.

The group is protesting Rocky Hanna's re-assignment from Leon High.

As we told you last week, Leon County Schools did a major over-haul among administrators and staff.

A group of parents and supporters, however, are not happy about the longtime principal here at Leon High School being re-assigned.

Hanna has been moved to an administrative position at the district level. Protesters are gathering right now in front of the steps of the school to show they're against the move.

Hanna was one of 14 school principals moved around; nearly 20 administrators and staff total were re-assigned .

The changes took effect Monday morning. Check back for updates.

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Tallahassee, FL -July 1, 2012-

Students and parents at Leon High School are protesting the move of their beloved principal.

The school board moved long-time principal Rocky Hanna along with several others last week to fill spots at the district level. Hanna has been an educator for 21 years.

"Everybody as a place to succeed at Leon. It could be a national model for what a high school could be. And there's no benefit to the county to take this leader out of Leon High School and put him at a desk job. It's misplacement of talent," says parent of Leon High School student, Michelle Ubben.

Ubben says she's planned a rally at Leon High School Monday 7-2-12 at noon. The school board says the move is a promotion. And most of those moved are getting pay-raises. Hanna declined to comment.
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Tallahassee, FL -June 30, 2012-

WCTV reached out to Leon High School principal Rocky Hanna for comment on the move. But Hanna has declined to comment at this time.

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Nearly 20 administrators and staff in Leon county schools will have new jobs come July first.

This shake-up includes long-time Leon High School principal Rocky Hanna and Chiles High School principal Alan Cox. They've been moved to administrative positions at the district level. The news comes as a shock one parent who say it upset her daughter.

"She was devastated this morning. She said Rocky is what makes Leon what it is. And she said she was planning to graduate under him and she was very disappointed and upset today," Lynn Mendoza, a parent of a Leon High School student.

The school board says the moves come as it tries to fill positions vacated by retirements. Most of those moved will get a pay-raise. The changes take effect July 1.

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Tallahassee, FL -June 28, 2012-

The start of the new school year in Leon County is months away. But when students head back to the classroom this August, some familiar faces won't be there to greet them.

"We've been cut over a hundred million dollars and we just didn't fill positions. Now that problem with the retirements has mushroomed into a much greater problem now where we need people to fill those positions," says Dr. Marvin Henderson of the Leon County School District.

Each year, the school board moves employees around to fill vacant spots. This year, it decided to move long-time Leon County High School principal Rocky Hanna, Chiles High School principal Alan Cox and Godby High School principal Gillian Gregory into some of those vacant spots up at the district level.

"There's all just very very necessary positions and we need to have those positions occupied so they can provided the resources and services to the schools," says Henderson.

The three former principals have more than 40 years of experience between them. It's experience the school board is counting on to make it a smooth transition as Gregory becomes the new director of testing and evaluation while Hanna and Cox takeover as divisional directors.

"We're looking for people who have the expertise. People who are qualified to lead district departments and they've been around long enough to understand how it works, " says Henderson.

Hanna, Cox and Gregory are joining 16 others who are on the move. Their replacements have already been named. Most of the positions will receive a pay raise. The exact figures on how much they'll make are not available at this time. The changes take effect July 1.

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Tallahassee, Florida -June 28, 2012-

Superintendent Pons has announced that the following individuals have been appointed to top leadership positions for the Leon County School Board. “This will be one of the strongest leadership teams in the state of Florida,” said Superintendent Pons.

Scotty Crowe is the new Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning. Mr. Crowe has been with Leon County Schools for 20 years and is formerly the Divisional Director of School Improvement. Mr. Crowe was also a principal at Montford Middle School and at Gilchrist Elementary School. As Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, Mr. Crowe will oversee school improvement, testing and evaluation, curriculum, professional development, Title I, and district media.

Stuart Greenberg is the new Director of School Improvement. Mr. Greenberg is joining the district from the Florida Department of Education where he served as the executive director of Just Read Florida and the Office of Early Learning. Mr. Greenberg has 30 years of experience as a teacher and administrator in districts throughout Florida. Mr. Greenberg’s expertise is working directly with schools to improve student learning.

Kay Collins is the new Coordinator of the School Improvement program. Ms. Collins is formerly the principal of Nims Middle School and has been with Leon County Schools for 4 years and an educator and administrator in the state of Florida for over 20 years.

Alan Cox is a new Divisional Director. Dr. Cox has been the principal of Chiles High School for 9 years and has been with the district for 24 years.
Michelle Gayle is returning to the district office as a Divisional Director. Dr. Gayle has been with Leon County Schools for 22 years and is formerly the principal of Rickards High School and Griffin Middle School.

Rocky Hanna is a new Divisional Director. Mr. Hanna is formerly the principal of Leon High School and has been an educator for 21 years.

Gillian Gregory is the new Director of Testing and Evaluation. Gillian is formerly the principal of Godby High School and Leon County Virtual School.

“I am confident that these leaders will continue our tradition of academic excellence,” said Superintendent Pons.

Joe Burgess, Chiles High School, formerly principal of Swift Creek Middle School and a former Chiles High School assistant principal
Shelly Bell, Godby High School, formerly principal of Cobb Middle School.

Billy Epting, Leon High School, formerly principal of Canopy Oaks Elementary School and a former Leon High School assistant principal
Doug Cook, Rickards High School, formerly principal of Montford Middle School.

Tiffany Thomas, SAIL High School, formerly an assistant principal at SAIL High School.

Tonja Fitzgerald, Cobb Middle School, formerly an assistant principal at Chiles High School.

Lewis Blessing, Montford Middle School, formerly an assistant principal at Deerlake Middle School.

Desmond Cole, Nims Middle School, formerly principal of Astoria Park Elementary School and a former Nims Middle School assistant principal.

Sue Rishell, Swift Creek Middle School, formerly assistant principal at Ghazvini Learning Center.

Marsha Glover-Sanders, Astoria Park Elementary School, formerly assistant principal at Astoria Park.

Brooke Brunner, Canopy Oaks Elementary School, formerly assistant principal at Ft. Braden School.

Christopher Small, Springwood Elementary School, formerly assistant principal at Nims Middle School.

Jessica Lowe, Leon County Virtual School, formerly assistant principal at Leon County Virtual School.


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