Assistant principal fights to get job back - FOX 13 News

Assistant principal fights to get job back

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Shawn Livingston has spent eight years with Hillsborough County Schools. He says he was Teacher of the Year in 2007 and He was Educator of the Year in 2008.

But now he is fighting to clear his name, and keep his job.

Since August he has been an Assistant Principal at Rodgers Middle School. He was there the day that 11-year-old Jenny Caballero went missing and drowned.

He hired an attorney to help him get reinstated with the district. His attorney believes the district is trying to restore confidence with the public, but says they're doing it the wrong way.

"I understand steps must be taken to try and ensure a tragedy like this doesn't happen again. What I don't agree with is the assignment of blame or responsibility where it clearly doesn't belong," said Robert McKee.

Shawn Livingston said from the time he got to Rodgers Middle School, he's been working to make sure he can help fix what's not working. But he says at no time was he ever made aware that there was a problem with the aides and their supervision of the special needs students.

In the district's investigation, Coach Garry Gawrych told them he verbally spoke to Shawn Livingston about the aides.

He was asked, "Approximately how many times did you tell assistant principal Shawn Livingston about your concern with the aides?"

Coach Gawrych replied: "Including the email, I know of at least 3 or 4 times."

Gawrych was referring to an email dated October 16th, where Gawrych wrote, "I am writing this email to remind you to speak to the aides."

But Livingston says he asked Gawrych to write that email after Livingston himself witnessed the aides in the bleachers and not engaged with the students.

Livingston says he was only brought to the gym because of another email, dated October 16th. It was from a custodian who was complaining about drink and food containers left in the gym by students. He asked Livingston to come check it out and remind the students not to leave their trash behind.

"Never at any point in time did Coach Gawrych discuss any issues with the aides and never asked me for help. I repeat, he never discussed any concerns about the aides with me in regard to safety, supervision or inattentiveness," Livingston said.

Livingston went on to say, "Coach Gawrych has since retired and may or may not have been reprimanded. The injustice here is that those who are directly responsible for what happened that day were allowed to retire with no reprimand."

His attorney says they're not trying to blame anyone, but feel Shawn Livingston definitely shouldn't take the fall for this.

"It's not our purpose to assign blame to Coach Gawrych or anyone else. We're sure he did his blame. But we do take issue with his recollection of his purpose of the email," McKee said.

Mary Ellen Elia told Fox13 yesterday that Livingston was removed from his administrative duties. He was demoted, and can return to be a classroom teacher.

"Mr Livingston is a promising educator, could have a bright future in education. I don't' hold him directly responsible for the incident that resulted in the death of the student. However, he made a mistake and these are the consequences," Elia said.

Elia said she used some of Coach Gawrych's statements in determining Livingston's discipline. But Shawn Livingston says he did nothing wrong.

"I have not made a mistake. I have done everything I can in my job as AP at Rodgers Middle School," he said.

And he plans to fight to get his assistant principal job back. His attorney Robert McKee is asking for a hearing, to contest the dismissal.

"The school board is going to see this is patently unfair to him. they are going to allow Mr Livingston to return to his career and to have this black mark erased from his record. that's all he's asking for."

Shawn Livingston said he was stunned when the superintendent told him he was being disciplined.

"I felt the investigation was to find out what can be done, but to my surprise, the investigation was to find me at fault for something I wasn't at fault for," he said.

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