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District reinstates Southeast principal

MANATEE — Mike Horne, principal of Southeast High, got his job back.

Manatee County schools Superintendent Tim McGonegal decided to reinstate Horne, roughly two weeks after he announced he will not be renewing Horne’s contract for next school year.

McGonegal informed Horne of his decision Wednesday, and Horne sent an automated phone message of the news to Southeast High staff and parents at 6 p.m.

“I listened to a lot of people, and I talked to a lot of people inside and outside system,” McGonegal said. “When I talked to the teachers, I see what a good job he’s doing as an instructional leader.”

Initially, McGonegal based his decision to not renew Horne’s contract for next school year based on numbers and grades, such as the school’s grades and student achievement, among other issues, he said.

Early this month, McGonegal also decided to let Debbie Valcarcel, principal of Palmetto High, and Scott Cooper, principal of Buffalo Creek Middle, go because they weren’t meeting expectations.

But McGonegal said he laid out four expectations for Horne, such as spending more time in classrooms.

“He agreed on those four expectations and he will be back as principal,” McGonegal said.

In the past few years, Southeast High has struggled with declining student enrollment and a diverse and low income student population. The school’s Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test grade slid from a C to a D last year.

Many of the school’s teachers and parents went to bat for Horne.

“He fights for Southeast,” said Lee Ann Hoffman, a longtime Southeast teacher. “When you fight for something you tend to step on toes. I imagine he has stepped on some.”

Hoffman was among a large group of teachers and parents who appealed to McGonegal to reconsider his decision at a school board meeting April 13. Earlier that day, McGonegal met with about 20 teachers at the school to discuss the matter.

“I am very pleased that Tim came and listened to what we have to say, and considered what we have to say and allowed Mike to stay with us,” she said. “He has a vision for Southeast and I like to see him continue the focus on that.”

McGonegal said he is happy about his decision.

“It’s a difficult decision,” he said. “It reminds me how difficult a principal’s job is.”

The Herald could not reach Horne for comment Wednesday.

Plans to replace the two principals at Palmetto High and Buffalo Creek Middle are under way.