Thursday, April 26, 2018
Education

State Rep. Mark Danish will take a break from teaching to run for re-election

TAMPA — Campaigning for office and teaching middle school science is just too much for one person, Mark Danish said.

So he is taking a leave of absence from his job at Benito Middle School.

"It was best for the kids and best for me," said Danish, a Democrat who represents northern Hillsborough's District 63 in the state House.

The Tampa Bay Times reported earlier this month that the Hillsborough County school district's professional standards office has an open investigation about Danish. Neither Danish nor the district could provide any information about the case, which is protected from public view as long as it is open.

Danish said he believed district officials kept a close watch on him during his 2012 campaign for office, but he never realized they had launched a formal investigation.

He said he was always careful not to violate a district policy that forbids school employees from engaging in political activities at the workplace.

The district is now defending itself in a lawsuit filed by George Olmo, a maintenance worker who was fired for allegedly violating that policy. In January 2012, Olmo give cafeteria workers petition forms in support of Susan Valdes, a School Board member who is often at odds with Superintendent MaryEllen Elia.

Danish said Friday that he has not had time to inquire about his case, but said, "I did nothing wrong."

He had intended to take the spring semester off so he could attend the legislative session and then focus on his 2014 campaign against Republican challenger Shawn Harrison, whom he narrowly defeated in 2012.

"I enjoyed being a highly effective teacher," said Danish, 59, adding that he was nearing retirement anyway. "But I realized I can't be that and be a very good state representative too."

He has not decided when he will return to the classroom.

Since Harrison filed to run in April, he has reported $17,545 in campaign contributions, slightly more than Danish's $16,550.

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected]

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