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New Southeast High principal named

BRADENTON — The Manatee County school board Monday night hired Catherine D. Smith as Southeast High School’s new principal.

Smith, of Port St. Lucie, has been an educator since 1983 and was most recently the assistant principal of facilities, transportation and activities and the athletic director at South Fork High School in Martin County. In 1996, she was inducted into the “Who’s Who among American Teachers”.

The school board made its decision during its regular meeting. Smith did not attend the meeting.

She’ll start this upcoming school year at the International Baccalaureate school on 37th Avenue East in Bradenton.

Southeast lost its long-time principal Mike Horne when he retired in April after 34 years with the district.

In other business Monday, the school board postponed deciding whether to fire or suspend without pay and grant an administrative hearing to Katherine Harris, a Prine Elementary teacher accused of fudging report cards and helping students cheat on the Stanford Achievement Test.

Harris was set to appear before the school board Monday, but school officials had pushed the meeting to next month because Harris’ attorney could not attend, school board attorney John Bowen said Monday.

Her attorney, Kendra Presswood, has said her client disputes allegations she positioned students to sit side-by-side with their desks touching and placed high-functioning students next to low-functioning students as they took the test in April. Harris also reportedly told some students to re-do portions of the test if their answers were wrong and told students where they could find the answers to the problems they were working on.

Her actions were reported to school officials by two teacher’s aides who proctored for Harris during the test given April 12-14, according to an administrative complaint. One aide proctored April 12-13, then asked to be removed as Harris’ proctor for undisclosed reasons, the complaint states. Another aide then proctored April 14.

The complaint says Harris also fudged some of her students’ report cards, giving them higher grades than they deserved. When confronted by school officials, she reportedly admitted the students should have received lower grades.

Also on Monday night the board:

n Hired Williams Elementary Principal Nancy Beal as the district’s new special education director. She replaces Ron Russell, who retired this year.

n Approved a new policy that creates more peanut-free schools in the district. Under the new policy one school in every geographic cluster will be peanut-free because of allergies. Parents and guardians would not be permitted to pack any peanut-type product in lunches.

n Recognized Braden River High School, Buffalo Creek Middle School, Gullett Elementary School and Tillman Elementary with awards for demonstrating “optimum compliance” to state for safety and sanitation requirements.

Natalie Alund, Herald staff writer, can be reached at 745-7095.