Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Longtime Hernando school volunteer pleads case over ouster for old felony conviction

Clarence Clark, 45, says he has logged more than 10,000 volunteer hours with the district.

Clarence Clark, 45, says he has logged more than 10,000 volunteer hours with the district.

BROOKSVILLE — Pastor Clarence Clark stood before the Hernando County School Board on Tuesday night and lamented the fact that he was meeting new superintendent Lori Romano under such circumstances.

But he felt it was his only option.

After years as a volunteer and coach in the district, serving as a mentor and helping struggling students turn around their grades, Clark, 45, was informed in late May that he would no longer be allowed to volunteer in the district.

The reason: He failed a background check due to a felony conviction from more than a decade ago.

"I do think that it would be highway robbery to me and the children of the community (if) we do not hold a workshop to discuss this matter," he told board members.

The board agreed to schedule the workshop to review district policy concerning background checks for volunteers.

"It is our policy and it is our law, but that is not to say that it can't be looked at and changed," said board member Dianne Bonfield.

The denial of access came as a serious blow to Clark, president and CEO of Shiloh Problem Solvers, who says he has always been open about his past troubles.

"I've never asked the school district for one penny," he said. "I've logged over 10,000 volunteer hours."

In November 1996, Clark pleaded guilty to grand theft and uttering a forged instrument after he admitted to stealing three checks from his employer at the time, court records show. He cashed one for $450 and tried but failed to cash another. A judge withheld adjudication and sentenced him to three years of probation.

Nine months later, Clark was adjudicated guilty on the felony charges after violating four conditions of his probation. Court documents show he neglected to report to his probation officer, failed to pay fines and court costs, and did not report for court-ordered drug treatment. At the time, Clark was "by his own admission a drug addict," records state.

Under School Board policy, volunteers with student contact are required to have a Level III security badge. Those badges may be revoked due to a felony conviction.

In a July 29 letter to Clark, board attorney Dennis Alfonso wrote that the 1996 incident was sufficient to deny him his badge for the 2013-14 school year, disqualifying him from serving as a volunteer. The background check also will prevent him from continuing to work with the YMCA, Clark said.

On Wednesday, it was unclear why the issue of Clark's criminal record had not been raised previously.

Without naming Clark, Barry Crowley, the district's manager of safety and security, said he learned recently of a mistakenly issued badge after someone called him, concerned about the person's background.

Clark has volunteered in numerous district schools since 2000. Most recently, he served as Parrott Middle School's football coach and led the school's in-school suspension program.

Family members and former students came to Tuesday's board meeting to show their support for Clark.

Demarco Hudson had a simple message: Clark is a guy you can trust.

"I could call him if I needed anything," the teen told board members. "He's just that guy."

Times staff writer Tony Marrero contributed to this report. Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

Longtime Hernando school volunteer pleads case over ouster for old felony conviction 07/31/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 10:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Editorial: The unknown price tags in the mayor's race


    St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has been busy promoting all sorts initiatives in the months leading up to the Nov. 7 election, doubling down on his progressive agenda without spending much money or generating much controversy. But make no mistake, the cost will come due after the election. Without a change in …

    The mayor is determined to get artist Janet Echelman to create a sculpture for the new Pier. But the cost would be much higher than what is allocated. Above is Echelman’s As If It Were Already Here in Boston.
  2. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  3. Judge won't cut prison term of man who pleads obesity


    TAMPA — A claim of obesity won't shave time off a Tampa man's prison sentence.

    Duane Crithfield and Stephen Donaldson Sr. were sentenced to prison after marketing a fraudulent offshore tax strategy known as a "Business Protection Plan" to medical practices, offering doctors and others coverage against unlikely events such as a kidnapping.
  4. Advocates for charter, public schools argue their cases at education forum


    TAMPA — Advocates of charter schools argued for diversity in education while supporters of traditional public schools charged that state funding is stacked against them during a forum Friday titled "Choices in Education."

    Schools such as Winthrop Charter School deserve greater public support, their operators say, because they offer a choice in education that is popular among parents. Public school advocates say charter and voucher schools represent a double standard in accountability and enrollment. [WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Times]
  5. Editorial: UF shows how to preserve free speech


    The University of Florida was forced to navigate a treacherous terrain of constitutional concerns and public safety this week, all in a glaring public spotlight. In the end, Thursday's appearance by Richard Spencer was a success — as much as an unwelcome visit from a notorious white nationalist can be. The …