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District investigation clears teacher running for school board

TAMPA — A Freedom High School math teacher who is a candidate for the Hillsborough County School Board has been cleared by district investigators looking into an anonymous allegation that he made disparaging remarks to female co-workers.

But the investigators indicated that some students find the teacher, Michael Weston, rude and sarcastic. And some counselors, they said, have reported that an unusually high number of Weston's students asked to be reassigned to other teachers.

Weston, a candidate in the south Tampa district represented by School Board member Candy Olson, will not be disciplined. Unrelated to the investigation, he awaits a hearing to determine whether he will be "renominated" or hired for another year.

A nontenured teacher who frequently speaks at School Board meetings, Weston said, "I try to teach math and responsibility." He said when he criticizes a student, he does so away from the class.

Responding to an allegation that he tells struggling students, "I'll see you next year," he said: "I tell them, 'I do not want to see you next year, even though it will be easier because I'll know your names.' "

The investigation was prompted by an anonymous letter to the district in February, which Weston shared with the Tampa Bay Times.

He and Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, executive director of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, said they do not know how the district chose the students who were interviewed.

Both said a far greater issue is the fact that Olson read the letter out loud at Tuesday's board meeting. She did so shortly after she and other board members discussed their desire to protect employees' privacy by changing how public information about discipline cases is released.

"In my opinion she crossed an ethical line and she acted in a hypocritical fashion. That to me is unconscionable," Baxter-Jenkins said.

Olson said she has not decided if she will seek re-election.

"I respect Stephanie, and she has to represent her teachers," Olson said. "I also think people need to know about the people who stand up and say things at every board meeting."

Baxter-Jenkins, an attorney, said she will represent Weston in his renomination case.

Reach Marlene Sokol at sokol@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3356.

District investigation clears teacher running for school board 04/04/13 [Last modified: Thursday, April 4, 2013 11:42pm]
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