Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Education

Hillsborough's Pierce Middle School will change principals again

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TAMPA — Anna Voida became principal of Pierce Middle School during a turbulent time for the school's special education department.

Less than eight months later she has retired, once again leaving the school in need of a principal.

Voida, 54, of Riverview, did not return a phone call on Wednesday.

She was named principal of Pierce on Nov. 14 when the district transferred principal Henry Lefler to Memorial Middle School. No reason was given for the change, but it occurred after a Pierce sixth-grader with learning disabilities left the campus unnoticed and walked 6 miles to his home on Oct. 29. Pierce's assistant principal later was transferred as well.

A school district employee since 1980, Voida joined Pierce after spending eight years at Shields Middle School in Ruskin, first as assistant principal and then principal.

She worked in exceptional education before that. She was teacher of the year at Roosevelt Elementary School in 1999.

After the student runaway in October, the district suspended exceptional education teacher Ingrid Peavy, saying she failed to follow a plan to keep the student from leaving campus. That prompted criticism from coworkers who said an effective plan for the child was not put in place until after the incident.

The investigation was handled by Child Protective Investigations, a unit of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office staffed by civilians who are supervised by law enforcement.

The district later launched its own investigation at the request of School Board member Cindy Stuart. That investigation is still under way, district spokesman Steve Hegarty said.

Social studies teacher Aron Zions, one of Peavy's supporters, said it was hard to judge Voida's effectiveness after such a short time on the job.

"I think she did a nice job, having to walk in behind all that was going on," Zions said. "Pierce is a tough school to work. It is very demanding of the faculty."

More than 90 percent of the students enrolled in the Town 'N Country school come from low-income families, with 31.2 percent learning English as a second language.

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or sokol@tampabay.com.

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