Yesterday was news director Holly Gauntt's last day at Fox 29, a station spokeswoman confirmed last night, declining to discuss specifics.

General manager Robert Sim-

one announced at a 6 p.m. staff meeting yesterday that the station and Gauntt, who started working there in August 2004, had mutually decided to part ways.

Many staffers were surprised by Simone's announcement. Sources say Fox 29 and Fox Television management had been upset by the station's ratings, particularly its morning news and "Good Day Philadelphia," which has seen recent lineup shifts.

The morning ratings have recently improved, and Gauntt had been working on launching the station's 5 p.m. newscast, anchored by Kerri-Lee Halkett, which debuted Monday.

"There is an incredibly talented group of people in that newsroom and I wish them all the best," Gauntt said last night. "I have no ill will toward the company and have chosen to go in a different direction." Gauntt, 44, said she has plans for what she'll do next, but declined to elaborate on them. *

Dan Gross