Peggy D'Alessandro 0

Consider Reinstating PLACE Director, Melanie Donahue

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On Wednesday, April 27th, parents of PLACE students received a letter stating that Melanie Donahue resigned her position as Director of the Place before and after care program at Sand Pine Elementary, due to personal reasons.  While it is true that Melanie did sign her resignation, it was a decision made under extreme duress and one that she very much regrets.  This petition is to ask Pasco County Schools to consider reinstating her, at her request.
As we understand it, on the morning of April 27th, her supervisor and a member of employee relations came to her office.  During this meeting she was accused of breaking county policy because she had not been consistently collecting all applicable late fees, which in turn cost the PLACE program money.
This referred to two applicable late fees:
Weekly payments not made by Tuesday evening are subject to a $10 per child late fee.
Parents arriving after 6:00 pm are subject to a $15 late fee per child.
Melanie did not deny the allegations.  For example, she admitted that on occasion she had situations where a parent would come in expressing regret that they'd forgotten their check on a Tuesday afternoon, specifically asking for some leniency, and in those cases she told them that as long as they could get the check to her before 7-8 am on Wednesday morning that she could avoid charging them a late fee.  Knowing that her deposit was not going to be made until 9:30 am on Wednesday morning, Melanie thought that this would not do anyone any harm.  She explained that she was simply trying to help the parents by being as accommodating as possible.  She did not personally benefit from this.  She was just trying to help people.  She was not thinking of the financial implications to the program, but rather the quality of the program and customer service to the parents. 
During that meeting she was given an ultimatum to resign or be terminated.  She was advised that if she resigned she would remain eligible to work for the county again but if she did not resign they would move to terminate her, in which case she would never be able to work for the county again.  Melanie was in complete shock.  How could this be happening?  In six years, she'd never received a written or verbal reprimand regarding this or any other matter.  And just four days prior to this she had her review and was given a stellar review.  Surely of the 40 PLACE programs in Pasco County, there were other managers who waived fees on occasion.  Were they all going to be terminated?  Feeling that she was essentially left no choice, and under extreme duress, she signed her resignation. She was told by the employee relations specialist to indicate that it was for personal reasons and so she did.
This is a decision she regrets.  She admits she made a mistake and is very remorseful.  She desperately wants a second chance.  She would give anything to have her job back.
We, the parents of Sand Pine students, ask the County to please take into consideration that Melanie Donahue is an important part of the Sand Pine school community. To know Melanie, is to know that the children and the PLACE program mean everything to her. She is frequently described as someone who always goes above and beyond - not just to provide childcare but to meet the social, emotional and intellectual needs of the students.  She is supportive of school events and runs a fantastic enriching program.  She knows our children, and the members of our families on a first name basis.  This before and after care program is of utmost importance to the families of over 200 students at our school.  It means a tremendous amount to these parents to have someone they know and trust running this program.  We ask that you please consider the impact that losing her will have to the students and families of your program.

While it is completely understandable that breaking any county policy would be grounds for disciplinary action, up to and including termination, we ask that you please consider giving her a second chance.  She is not a malicious or sneaky person.  She made a mistake.  And how egregious was it really?  To put this in perspective, she never stole or embezzled any money from the county and she never put a child in harm's way.  She was only trying to help people by being lenient on some late fees.  
Since this occurred, several parents have stated that they themselves have gone into her office and asked if there was any way she could make an exception for them.  Those parents have said that she was always candid in telling them the official policy and made them aware of the late fees etc … and would then inform them of the absolute drop-dead time they could get the payment into her before charging them. As working parents, many of us are often rushing just to get there to pick our children up on time and have so many things going on in our lives.  Many can identify with the sinking feeling one gets when they arrive and realize "Oh no! I forgot to bring my check!"  Many of us would agree that when someone shows a little bit of understanding and kindness it goes a long way, especially during these difficult economic times.  Certainly we would have ever asked for a concession had we ever known that it would result in Melanie losing her job and in us losing her as the director over a program that we hold in such high regard. 
As parents we all try to teach our children to be people of integrity and not to break the rules.  However, we also try to teach our children to be kind and forgiving.  While we understand you are trying to run a business, and the importance of people being held accountable for breaking a policies, we ask that you weigh, at least equally, that there is a personal dynamic here that is important as well. Melanie is warm, kind, friendly, and excellent at her job.  You'd be hard pressed to find a person who is more in tune with the kids she manages daily, their families and her staff.  This woman tackles it all with grace and efficiency. 
Melanie put her heart and soul into the PLACE program and while she clearly made a mistake, we feel that giving her an ultimatum to resign or be terminated is not a proactive approach towards managing people.  Please do not let this fantastic worker slip through your fingers for breaking one policy.  We ask that you please review the situation and consider giving her a second chance. 


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