Mariners Elementary ex-principal involved in award controversy resigns from school district

Laura Canzone, then known as Laura Sacks, greets students as principal of Mariners Elementary School in Newport Beach in September 2015.
(File photo | Daily Pilot)

Former Mariners Elementary School Principal Laura Canzone, who transferred to Costa Mesa Middle School amid complaints about her leadership and the accuracy of an application she filed for a school award at Mariners, has resigned from the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

Canzone submitted her letter of resignation March 7, documents show. She will be on paid administrative leave through June 30, according to documents.

District spokeswoman Annette Franco said Tuesday that she could not comment because it is a personnel issue.

Attempts to reach Canzone were unsuccessful.

Canzone’s transfer to Costa Mesa Middle School as a principal on special assignment came after she requested new duties last year following allegations from teachers about inaccuracies in the Gold Ribbon Award application she submitted to the California Department of Education in fall 2015, when she was known as Laura Sacks.

As part of the application process, a site validation team from the Orange County Department of Education visited Mariners on April 1, 2016, to confirm the application’s information. The team wrote in its report that the information was consistent with its findings at the Newport Beach school.

Mariners won the Gold Ribbon designation and continues to hold it.

But the application was dogged by the allegations and by criticism from teachers and parents about Canzone’s leadership.

A formal complaint the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers filed with the school district in March last year stated that some programs the application said were being “piloted” at Mariners Elementary, such as reading and technology programs, had not been fully implemented.

The complaint also contended the application included goals and practices that teachers said they had not been made aware of, such as staff collaborations with businesses such as Google and SpaceX.

“The application was filled with programs that did not exist, ideas that were not implemented and goals that were never discussed,” Mariners teacher Tamara Fairbanks said at a May 24 school board meeting. “The staff at Mariners was instantly placed in a quandary of standing up for what they actually do in the classroom vs. putting on a show for the Gold Ribbon committee.”

Asked for comment about Canzone’s resignation, Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers President Britt Dowdy said the matter is between Canzone and the district.

In June, the district retained private investigations firm Nicole Miller and Associates to look into the allegations.

Earlier this year, the district said the investigation was complete but that it would not publicly disclose the findings or any actions resulting from them. The district said the administration and the complainants had been notified.