Thursday, September 20, 2018

Teacher resigns post, files to seek Pasco County School Board seat

A longtime Pasco County music teacher with a strong Dade City family history has resigned his job and submitted paperwork to run for School Board District 1.

Kenneth Mathis, who taught at Pasco Middle School until about three weeks ago, is the second challenger to seek the east-county seat currently held by three-term incumbent Allen Altman.

He said he left his job to "dedicate 100 percent of my time" to his campaign. His primary goals, Mathis said, would be to improve student discipline and teacher morale.

"I just want to push a positive culture in our schools, and to bring family back," he said.

He added that he would aim to reduce student testing.

District records indicate that Mathis resigned amid an employee relations investigation into his use of time while on the job. He already was on a "last chance" agreement with the district after having been reprimanded and suspended over past actions.

"A meeting was scheduled for me to go talk with him," employee relations director Kathy Scalise said. "He resigned."

She said the review involved Mathis saying he was leaving school to go to the nearby county fair grounds, but then being seen "somewhere else far from there."

He had done such things in the past, according to district files.

Letters in Mathis' district personnel file showed that he was suspended without pay in 2016 because he went to work out in a gym when he was supposed to be in school. He "repeatedly" left campus during work hours without following proper procedures, the letter stated.

He also was accused of not telling the truth about being warned over his departures.

Before that, Mathis had been reprimanded for interfering with an investigation into his interactions with a former student.

Mathis said he did not see eye-to-eye with the Pasco Middle administration on the way it deals with students sent to the office because of misbehavior.

He said he had a no-nonsense approach to disrespectful students, and would not tolerate their defiance of authority. Sometimes, he said, that got him crosswise with the office.

Mathis also took issue with the "gotcha" approach to teacher evaluations he said the staff had experienced.

He said his most recent evaluation, which is not yet public, was "highly effective," but that many experienced teachers were being rated poorly and were leaving the profession.

Mathis said he intends to run a positive campaign and not focus on the negative. He said he wanted to continue public service in his family tradition, following his father who was one of Dade City's longest serving police officers.

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