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Court will review investigation report on award controversy at Mariners Elementary School

Court will review investigation report on award controversy at Mariners Elementary School
A judge ordered a court review of an investigation report of an award controversy involving former Mariners Elementary School principal Laura Canzone, pictured in 2015. (File Photo)

An Orange County Superior Court judge this week ordered a private court inspection of a report prepared by a firm that investigated an award controversy involving Mariners Elementary School in Newport Beach.

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District was required to submit the documents within five days of Monday's ruling so Judge Linda Marks can determine how much, if any, can be made public. The review will be conducted within 20 days of receiving the documents.

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Teachers alleged inaccuracies in a Gold Ribbon Award application that then-Principal Laura Canzone submitted to the California Department of Education in fall 2015, when she was known as Laura Sacks.

Canzone later requested new duties and was transferred to Costa Mesa Middle School as a principal on special assignment.

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Shortly after the district said an independent investigation into the matter had been completed, Canzone submitted a letter of resignation in March 2017 and was on paid administrative leave through June 30.

The district has said it would not publicly disclose the findings of the investigation or any actions resulting from it because of employee privacy rights.

But Marks wrote in her decision that "given the public nature of the allegations against Dr. Sacks, her privacy interest is minimal and does not outweigh the public's interest in understanding why Sacks was exonerated and how the district treated the accusations."

John Caldecott, the district's former director of human resources, petitioned last year for a court order, seeking the public release of documents related to the Mariners investigation.

The court denied that petition, but Caldecott's attorney, William Crosby, called the decision to review the documents a victory.

The court also ordered that the school district pay Caldecott's attorney fees.

The district said in a statement Thursday that it opposes "the disclosure of the report, to protect the confidentiality of all individuals who participated in this investigation, including employees, students and parents."

"This matter has not yet been fully resolved, and we have no further comment on this pending litigation," the statement said.

Twitter: @vegapriscella

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