Date: June 8, 2011
by: The Observer Staff


+ McNeal article a smear campaign
Dear Editor:

I cannot even begin to explain how disappointed I am that our community paper, that I have always looked forward to reading, would place a smear article against a local principal. Never mind that the article in itself is unfounded and came from an “anonymous” source, the fact that you would choose to place this as a front-page article is disheartening.

I feel that you did not take the time to fully investigate this claim from the “concerned parent” or to speak with the other 650-plus parents who did not sign this petition. I do not understand how this can even be a story if the Manatee County School District supports Norma Scott and her actions. It really feels as if the East County Observer was trying to incite outrage by publishing this article.

If you wanted to bash local principals and how they are doing in their schools, why wasn’t Imagine School of Lakewood Ranch’s Principal Stephen Sajewski front-page news when he was arrested for DUI in March? Wouldn’t the fact that he was arrested and not reprimanded be a better front-page story if you are in the business of angering the community?

Scott has been a great asset to McNeal Elementary. Our school is a place where parents, younger siblings and extended family are welcomed to all events; this was not the case under the former principal, Ronna Moore. I have been at McNeal since it opened in 2003, and I have loved this school since the first day it opened. I have seen amazing improvements with Scott as principal. My children love to go to school, and none of us has ever felt that teachers or staff were “in fear” there.

I was surprised that you would list the 13 staff members and the reason for leaving McNeal. A few of those staff members left for personal reasons, one of them for medical concerns. Did it occur to you that they may not want their names and status published for all to see and question? What about the new schools that the teachers transferred to? Now these school’s parents may feel that their teacher was forced to be at that new school? What was the purpose of listing these people who left McNeal? I also have to wonder why the names of the 21 parents were not published alongside these 13 staff members, if you are going to call these staff members out into the open, wouldn’t you do the same for the people that signed the petition?

Our school enrollment has increased 25% in the last two years; kindergarten enrollment increased 54% since last year. What other school can say this? The word is out that McNeal is a great school, with amazing staff & teachers and we are led by a wonderful principal. Why would The Observer try to dampen this success with the anonymous letter signed by a mere 21 parents in a school of 700 students?
Melanie Conerly
Lakewood Ranch


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Currently 4 Responses

  • 1.
  • I really don't understand why someone would label this article a "smear campaign". I also don't understand why some are viewing the article as an attack on McNeal Elementary. Ms. Eubanks does neither. What she did was report the facts (letters were found in a park, one was sent to the observer, and a petition signed by 21 parents was sent to the superintendent expressing concerns about Mrs. Scott's management style). The article also provides quotes from those that support Norma Scott. The article does not bash Mrs. Scott or the school. It just reports events that have taken place and the reactions to those events.

    The events do raise two questions ; Are there concerns about Mrs. Scott's management style, and if so why is the county refusing to investigate these concerns?
    McNeal is a wonderful school and the teachers are some of the best in the county. Likewise, there have been some positive changes that are visible to parents (field trips, enrichment clubs, warm welcomes). However, this does not mean that there are not valid concerns taking place behind the scenes.
    Much has been made about the fact that many of those expressing concerns have done so anonymously. Staff and parents expressing praise for the principal can expect a pat on the back from her and the county. Staff, on the other hand, feel that they could be risking there jobs by using their names in this public forum. While they may not use there names in a newspaper, several staff and parents have told me that they have signed their names to letters to the county expressing concerns about Norma Scott's management style.
    Doesn't it raise a red flag that more of the staff aren't rushing to Mrs. Scott's defense? If the concerns raised by the letters are invalid you would think that the staff would be denying that there are concerns. Doing so, would please their principal and the county. So why haven't we heard from the majority of the teachers?
    Jerry C states that staff supporting Mrs. Scott may not come forward because they fear the reaction from the rest of the staff. Doesn't that imply that the majority of McNeal's staff are concerned about some of Mrs. Scott's actions? Which brings me back to the questions raised by this article. If there are concerns, why won't the county at least investigate and see if the concerns are valid?
    Field trips, clubs, and warm welcomes are great but FCAT scores have dropped in all areas under the current administration, and have even dropped further in most areas this year. There may be concerns behind the scenes that many parents are not aware of. Why would anyone be against the county looking into the concerns?
  • John Truth
    Sun 12th Jun 2011
    at 9:59am
  • 2.
  • Kudos to all the parents and teachers willing to stand behind their comments. It takes courage to speak publicly, regardless of your position.

    Also, an underlying theme in this debate has been that only those making negative comments about the administration are putting themselves at risk. Has anyone thought of those making positive comments and publicly supporting the administration? If the school is full of as many naysayers as some of you claim, consider the risks to those in support.

    Thanks to "Parent Teacher" for reminding us of the improprieties that occurred under the former administration. Looks like this school was in need of some changes.
  • Jerry C
    Thu 9th Jun 2011
    at 11:32pm
  • 3.
  • I hope the Observer did incite outrage with the article...outrage is exactly what is needed right now! It seems to me like you haven't checked your facts either. Trust me more and more people are questioning what is happening there, as a parent in the community I hear it on a daily basis. Do you really think that school board is going to publicly say that they made a mistake appointing her as principal? I guess you think that it's just fine for the teachers and staff to be treated like crap as long as the parents and students feel welcome.
  • Joe Q
    Thu 9th Jun 2011
    at 11:24am
  • 4.
  • If you read the article that the Observer wrote it told both sides without picking or judging sides. The petition was posted in a public park making it news. The East County Observer is just that - a NEWSpaper. They print news. Nowhere in the article did it bash the principal. Now, what Melanie did was bash a principal. So, lets talk about news. Lets talk about the teacher that was at McNeal a few years ago and slept with one of his students or the teacher at McNeal that molested a child. If you wish to bring up what every teacher or administrator has done in Manatee County, then you should write a book. What the Observer did was report a story. Are we really the type of society that because you live in Lakewood Ranch you are entitled to tell your newspaper what to write and how to say it. Let the news report the news. And you have to give them credit for printing your comments. But you must be okay with yourself being Judge to another principal and humiliating and embarrassing them. So I guess two wrongs - didn't make this right. I am sure you feel better now.
  • Parent Teacher
    Wed 8th Jun 2011
    at 10:49pm
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