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Hernando superintendent recommends dismissal of Powell Middle School teacher

In July, teacher Jesse Mockler, 36, pleaded no contest to DUI and refusing to submit to a breath test. 

In July, teacher Jesse Mockler, 36, pleaded no contest to DUI and refusing to submit to a breath test. 

BROOKSVILLE — Embattled Powell Middle School teacher Jesse Mockler may have worked his last day with the Hernando County School District.

Superintendent Lori Romano has recommended that Mockler, 36, be fired after a district investigation found that he falsified a recent application to renew his teaching certificate and failed to promptly report a July conviction for driving under the influence, according to a letter dated Aug. 30.

The recommendation for termination will go before the School Board on Oct. 1. Until then, Mockler, a social studies teacher, has been suspended with pay. He was told to turn in all district property and ordered to stay off the Powell campus, according to the letter.

In July, Mockler pleaded no contest to DUI and refusing to submit to a breath test. A judge found him guilty and put him on probation for a year.

The district met with Mockler on Aug. 22, touching on a variety of issues.

Mockler's teaching certificate expired June 30 without his renewing it.

He gave a simple reason.

"One word. Money," he said, according to a written transcript of the meeting. "With the decision I've made, I've spent a lot of money."

On the renewal application, he wrote that he had never had a professional license or certificate suspended or denied.

That's not true.

The district's executive director of business services, Heather Martin, produced documents showing a certificate application denial and a suspension.

"So, with all that we've discussed, you agree that you falsified your application for renewal?" she asked.

"No, I don't admit to that. I made a mistake," Mockler said.

Martin also called into question other aspects of his application.

He eventually admitted that some of the answers on his renewal were wrong.

Mockler also didn't follow the district's policy and code of ethics requiring him to notify the district of a conviction of guilt within 48 hours.

Mockler was apologetic in the meeting. He acknowledged past mistakes and asked for another chance.

"I have a gift," he said. "I hurt myself, mostly. I spend way too much time doing stuff I shouldn't be. The alcohol and the habits I have. I'm never going to get into trouble again."

Mockler, who has eight years of teaching experience, has had previous run-ins with the law.

In 2007, he was charged with DUI, drug trafficking and possession of illegal drugs after a sheriff's deputy found 12 oxycodone pills in his pocket. School officials suspended him because of the felony drug charge, but Mockler returned to his job after accepting a plea deal that averted a felony conviction. He was also arrested in May 2012 on misdemeanor battery and criminal mischief charges that eventually were dropped.

Contact Danny Valentine at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

Hernando superintendent recommends dismissal of Powell Middle School teacher 09/23/13 [Last modified: Monday, September 23, 2013 7:25pm]

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