Monday, November 20, 2017
Education

Newsome High math teacher faces 20 child porn charges

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BRANDON — A Newsome High School math teacher was arrested Thursday on charges that he had child pornography on his home computers.

Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies arrived at the Brandon home of David Valesano Jr., 50, early in the morning with a search warrant, the agency said. After seizing four computers and several digital media items, they say they discovered photographs downloaded from the Internet of children, approximately 8 to 13 years old, engaged in sex acts.

Valesano was booked in jail on $150,000 bail and faces 20 counts of possession of child pornography, all felonies.

He will be suspended with pay with a recommendation that the Hillsborough County School Board suspend him without pay, the district said.

"We have no reason to believe this has anything to do with school or a student," said district spokesman Stephen Hegarty. "But it's a serious crime and that's how we're going to handle it."

Detectives from the sheriff's Internet Predator Unit came across Valesano during routine checks, said sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter. While the department does not give details about the investigations, Carter said detectives saw that Valesano was downloading child porn from "known areas on the Web."

The agency performs these computer forensics and collaborates with the National Center for Exploited Children, she said.

Valesano and his wife, Mary, who teaches elementary school, moved to Brandon in 2003 from California.

Both were hired by the Hillsborough district.

Personnel records show Valesano was a versatile teacher, comfortable with both math and the social sciences, with an interest in international relations and classroom experience in Korea and Oman.

A graduate of Sonoma State University, he taught in California public and private schools after his overseas stints. He was laid off in 2003 from Santa Rosa Middle School due to budget cuts.

Applying online to Hillsborough, Valesano wrote, "I have found that students learn best when they sense you care about them. I try to convey that to the students at all times."

He was one of the first teachers at Newsome, an "A" school that serves the FishHawk Ranch community and has one of the highest graduation rates in the district.

While his recent performance reviews were not available on Thursday, those through 2010 show mostly satisfactory ratings.

In 2008, he took issue with the assessment when he narrowly missed the higher rating of outstanding.

"I am an outstanding teacher, and would check outstanding in virtually every relevant category, except for the nonsensical requirement to document one's own 'outstandingness,' " he wrote.

"The district's insistence on this requirement is laughable. It is on the one hand not possible in many instances, case in point, (to) 'enhance a student's self-esteem.' On the other hand wide open to manipulation by those with a will to do so."

On Thursday, at the family's home in Brandon, a car was in the driveway but no one answered the door.

A sheet of paper was taped prominently to the window. It said: "Love lives here. Love is patient, love is kind … it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs."

Neighbor Kathryn Kelly described the family as very religious, hosting church groups that filled the corner with cars.

"I can't even begin to imagine how that family is dealing with this," Kelly said. "This just absolutely does not seem right."

Times news researcher John Martin and staff writers Charles Scudder and Jessica Vander Velde contributed to this report. Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or sokol@tampabay.com.

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