Former Manatee High leaders put student safety first

August 18, 2013 

Presumed innocent. Those are words to keep in mind when reading about the charges against Bob Gagnon and his former assistant principals at Manatee High, Greg Faller and Matt Kane.

I was the School Advisory Council chairperson at Manatee during Gagnon's first two years as principal. My duties involved several visits a week to the school and regular contact with Gagnon, Kane, and Faller. My overwhelming impression is that the safety and security of the students was their top priority.

In fact, Gagnon was hired after receiving overwhelming support at a community forum where he announced that the safety and security of the students would be his top priority. His correctly stated that students will learn best when they feel safe and comfortable at school. He was right.

In his first year, by involving faculty, students, parents and the community, he took Manatee from a C school to an A school.

While restoring pride to Manatee, Gagnon and his team increased safety by moving problem students to other more appropriate settings, closed multiple entrances that previously affected campus security, and encouraged the reporting of inappropriate conduct.

One of the most impressive aspects of Gagnon's tenure at Manatee was his thorough knowledge of the academic performance of his students, particularly those who were struggling. He maintained multiple charts showing how the students in the bottom 25 percent were doing and instituted many programs to help them improve.

While even exceptional people such as Gagnon, Kane and Faller can make mistakes, the charges against them are entirely out of character and should be viewed with skepticism. All students should feel safe and secure and school. That was the priority at Manatee under Gagnon.

Before judging them, we should keep in mind their exemplary history at Manatee and recognize that they are presumed innocent.

Scott Bassett


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