Friday, June 22, 2018
Education

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

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.

Comments
Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

BROOKSVILLE — With dust still settling from the Hernando County School Board’s close vote to fire Superintendent Lori Romano — and days before her time as head of the district runs out — school officials and community members seem to be already movin...
Published: 06/20/18
Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

BROOKSVILLE — As schools and districts across the state await their 2018 grades from the Florida Department of Education, the standardized test scores that factor into those ratings and were dropped last week show slight gains in Hernando County.The ...
Published: 06/20/18
Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

An early analysis of the Pasco County School District’s 2018-2019 budget projects a deficit of more than a million dollars, with more than half of that coming from a shortfall in funding new school safety requirements.Costs to hire and train 53 new s...
Published: 06/20/18
New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

ST. PETERSBURG — Originally pitched as a nine- or 10-story, 550-bed dorm for the overcrowded University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus, USF’s latest residence hall project will likely look much different by the time it’s done.For starters, it...
Published: 06/20/18
Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Am I missing something in the — pardon the expression — brouhaha over the renaming of the University of South Florida Sun Dome to the Yuengling Center? In trading a college arena’s longtime name for that of a big-name beer brewed ne...
Published: 06/20/18

Hillsborough school district will pursue two kinds of local taxes

TAMPA — Hillsborough County School District officials took an important step Tuesday toward asking the voters to pay higher taxes for schools that, they say, are not getting enough money from the state.The board voted 5-0 to submit a tax referendum r...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
STEM camp beats the summer doldrums for some Pasco students

STEM camp beats the summer doldrums for some Pasco students

DADE CITY —Just a few weeks into summer vacation, Pasco Middle School student Jade Neal, 14, was back at school, delving into a challenging STEM activity on force in motion, as the theme to Mission Impossible played in the background.The assignment? ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Editor’s note: Ethan Hooper wrote today’s column to give Ernest Hooper Father’s Day off.In May, I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in elementary education, and I recently secured a job as a first-grade teacher with Orang...
Published: 06/18/18
AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

Since 2002, the AP World History course has covered thousands of years of human activity around the planet, starting 10,000 years back. But now the College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, wants to cut out most of that history and st...
Published: 06/16/18
School board races attract new faces

School board races attract new faces

TAMPA — When long-time Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes resigned this month from the board to run for the State House of Representatives, the decision affected more than just her seat in west Hillsborough’s District 1.It also coul...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/17/18