JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Holiday Hill Elementary School Principal Denise Ahearn faces a 30-day suspension without pay. Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti made the recommendation on Monday. She's accused of inappropriate sexual conduct in front of students. On Tuesday night, the school board approved Ahearn's suspension, demotion and salary reduction.
The investigation alleges she sexually harassed a male co-worker, among other inappropriate actions. Workers reported the principal, who has worked with the district since 1980, behaved in an "erratic and bizarre manner." Ahearn was the principal at Holiday Hill for one year. She's been a principal at the district since 2005.
"In her defense, she says a lot of the accusations may have been exaggerated a bit. They came to our attention in about September and the principal took leave and was removed from the school site as we were conducting our investigation," Vitti said.
District investigators reported interviewing 11 people in this case. They also looked at emails between Principal Ahearn and her staff. There are reports of her "dirty dancing" in front of students.
"I believe kids may have been in the vicinity. It wasn't necessarily directed at students, but instead a staff member that was at the school," Vitti explained.
A co-worker also reported the elementary school principal was carrying the book, "50 Shades of Gray" and stated, "When I get finished reading this book, I'm going to pin one of you against this wall."
"There were other behaviors not linked to the book that were certainly inappropriate," Vitti said.
Now, Vitti is recommending that the principal, who made around $86,000 per year, take a pay cut of around $15,000 per year and be transferred to a new job in the district as supervisor of supplemental educational services. He is also recommending a 30-day suspension.
"I do believe we are clearly sending a message that this administration, my administration, will be much more stringent involving disciplinary action and we do have to send a message that the expectation level is higher for our school based administrations, our teachers, because you're dealing with students on a day to day basis. No history, this was the first set of allegations and she's had no type of disciplinary action taken previously," Vitti said.
First Coast News contacted Ahearn for comment. She has not returned the call.
First Coast News