Mills: Not aware of anyone else who might be charged in Frazier case

eearl@bradenton.comAugust 17, 2013 

MANATEE -- The Manatee County School district notified state education officials on Friday that four district administrators have been charged with felonies for failure to report suspected child abuse or giving false information to law enforcement in relation to an investigation into a district employee.

A former assistant school superintendent and three assistant principals are on paid administrative leave, just as students are set to return to school on Monday.

Rick Mills, superintendent of schools for Manatee County said Friday the employees will be able to cope with the first day of school.

Mills said the district still does not have a clear plan to replace the three assistant principals charged in the case -- Matthew Kane of Southeast High, Greg Faller of Palmetto High and Debra Horne of Prine Ele

mentary -- before the start of the school year Monday. Bob Gagnon, a former assistant superintendent, was also charged and is on paid administrative leave.

Scott Martin, the school board attorney was not charged in the case, but has been put on paid leave

"We will obviously have to make adjustments to personnel," Mills said Friday.

At least six staff members at Manatee High including a parent liaison, school resources officers, and two school secretaries were removed from the school at the end of the work day on Friday.

Mills said the moves at the end of Friday had nothing to do with the criminal charges filed or the investigation, although the wives of the two assistant principals who were charged were moved out of Manatee High School. While staff members said the resource officers were taken out of Manatee High School, Mills said he did not fire or remove the resource officers who work for the Bradenton Police Department.

Susan Faller and Jessica Kane were both asked to leave Manatee Friday afternoon in what one staff member described as "bloody Friday."

Mills said that he decided to move them because he figured they wouldn't want to be at that school any more.

The moves are a result of the Rod Frazier case. Rod Frazier, a former Manatee High School assistant football coach and parent liaison at the school, has been charged with 10 misdemeanor accounts of battery against students and staff at Manatee High School. While Frazier is charged with misdemeanor battery charges, a search of his computer uncovered nude photos of former Manatee High School students.

School board chair woman Karen Carpenter said Mills makes all personnel decisions and board had not been told anything by the superintendent except when the district employees were put on leave.

Carpenter said that she also does not know the plan for starting off the school year while three assistant principals are out and facing felony charges.

Calls to Jim Pauley, principal of Southeast High School, and Willie Clark, principal of Palmetto High School, were not returned.

"It is management's responsibility to deal with employees," Carpenter said. "I think Mills' statement was clear. We have great principal's and great staff; they will figure out."

Carpenter said that all district employees have had training in the new law for reporting suspected abuse, which went into effect October 2012 after the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

"We have a heightened sense of awareness around child safety," Carpenter said. "Safety is everybody's responsibility, and I have confidence in Mr. Mills and his staff."

Steve Gulash, an assistant coach who shared an office with Frazier at Manatee High so far will remain at the high school. Gulash said during the investigation that he urged staff members at Manatee to report their suspicions about Frazier.

He said Friday he is pleased with how the district has handled the case so far.

"If this is proof of the future of our school district, then we have very bright future with the administration downtown," Gulash said. "Professional, thorough and they have my fullest respect...from the assistant superintendent all the way to the top, it's a very professional organization."

School board member Bob Gause said that he is focused on making sure students have a great school year.

"I realize parents are concerned," said school board member Bob Gause. "We are working hard to make sure this is a great school year. That's our goal."

The district's own investigation is continuing under Troy Pumphrey, the investigator in the school district's office of professional standards.

Mills said he does not expect anyone else to be placed on paid leave.

Mills said Gagnon, who was the principal at Manatee High until two years ago, Faller, Kane and Horne will remain on paid leave.

"I will make an appropriate recommendation to the School Board of Manatee County, and if warranted, the employee or employees will be suspended without pay pending a hearing, if one is requested," Mills said in his statement.

Gause said he has always had a "great relationship" with Gagnon, but would not comment on the felony charges.

"It would not appropriate for me to comment on that," Gause said. "At this point, this is in the superintendent's hands, and as a board member I need to refrain from comment."

Gause said all investigations are handled through the superintendent's office without board input.

"The superintendents do not talk about what they are doing in an investigation, that taints board members," Gause said. "We only know when someone is or is not placed on leave."

"The superintendent makes a decision," Gause said.

Gause said if Mills recommends discipline, the board can request a hearing. Gause said recommendations are brought back to the school board for final action.

"We expect to be frank and candid," Mills said.

Mills would not comment on whether there are any current lawsuits, nor would he make additional comments on the charges against the administrators.

"We will be doing a thorough review of our policies and procedures," Mills said.

Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Staff writer John Lembo contributed to this report.

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