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Smith, who sent four of her children through Apollo before Joseph and Sugar, says that this is the first time she's had a problem with the school. "When my other kids went there, I was very happy with the school," she says.
When contacted for this story, Zekofsky told New Timesthat her preparations for the FCAT would keep her too busy to be interviewed. New Timessubsequently faxed Zekofsky a list of specific questions about the mass teacher exodus, the allegations coming from teachers and parents, cleanliness and air-quality issues, the pornography investigation, and the Parnham/Sosa situation.
Zekofsky faxed back a brief written statement explaining her desire to "avoid a "he said, she said' situation" when it came to specific personnel matters. Zekofsky did address questions about her ability to lead Apollo. "[A]n overwhelming majority of my staff, including instructional personnel, have been supportive and enthusiastic and have embraced my leadership and share my dedication to helping all of our students succeed," she wrote. She also stated that she follows all school board policies and procedures, "especially those that pertain to the hiring and disciplining of any staff member."
In response to questions about employees leaving Apollo, she implied the school has not experienced anything out of the ordinary: "In any school, whether it's due to a spouse relocating, a promotion or simply moving to another city in Broward County, the administration will experience teachers leaving and new teachers arriving.... I have worked with any staff member who felt a transfer would benefit their career and I will continue to help any of my staff take steps to better their careers."
Because Zekofsky is an interim principal (teachers joke that the system gives principals three years to hang themselves), the nine teachers interviewed for this story speculate that this might be her last year at Apollo. Many of them believe that the old guard would return if Zekofsky left; others declare they would consider the South Area Office inexcusably negligent if Apollo continues to decline.
But even if the district ousts Zekofsky, the school's recovery won't be easy. Facing the morass of hurt feelings, shattered pride, ruined reputations, and squabbling factions that has become Apollo Middle School, any new leader will face a daunting task. One former Apollo teacher sighs, "It's going to take a veteran principal to reconstruct that school."