Sunday, December 17, 2017
Education

Two high school math teachers face firing in Hillsborough

TAMPA — Two high school math teachers could lose their jobs with the Hillsborough County school district, one for giving a summer make-up exam to his niece and the other over undisclosed issues in her last job.

Enid Hutchinson, 44, of Hillsborough High, is accused of failing to disclose that she quit her job as a teacher in Seminole County in 2008 to avoid being fired.

The Hillsborough district hired her in 2010.

Records from Seminole County show Hutchinson was counseled and reprimanded repeatedly dating back to 2004. She was accused of having loud and inappropriate phone conversations within earshot of students, leaving students unsupervised, engaging in uncivil behavior with co-workers, failing to report immediately that a student saw someone outside with a gun and, more recently, interacting with students in ways the district considered overly friendly.

Reached by phone Thursday, Hutchinson referred a reporter to her attorney, Tom Johnson of Brandon. He could not be reached for comment.

School district spokesman Stephen Hegarty acknowledged the vetting process for Hutchinson was not sufficient and said it has been improved since then.

The district verified that her state teaching certificate was in order and checked the references Hutchinson provided.

"That is not enough," Hegarty said. "When we learned there could be a problem, we contacted Seminole County."

Nowadays the district also consults with the last principal who employed the teacher, he said.

Martin Harvey, 26, of Brandon High School, is accused of letting his niece take an end-of-course algebra exam in a remediation course he taught at Mann Middle School.

The summer courses and tests are offered to students who did not pass during the school year to help them avoid repeating grades.

Harvey's niece was not in his class, according to a letter from the district's professional standards office. The letter says she was scheduled to take the exam the following day with another teacher, a point Harvey disputes.

Testing protocol forbids teachers from giving end-of-course exams to family members. Harvey said Thursday he was not aware of the rule and will fight the district's efforts to fire him.

"I did not do anything morally wrong in the classroom," said Harvey, who has worked for the district since 2009.

The School Board will vote Tuesday on whether to suspend both teachers without pay.

They have a right to request termination hearings that can either be open to the public or closed.

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

Fired teacher sues

Special-education teacher Ingrid Peavy, who was fired recently for not reporting a child was missing from her class at Pierce Middle School, sued the school district Monday in Hillsborough Circuit Court.

The child walked to his home, six miles away, on Oct. 29, 2012, a week after another special-needs child left Rodgers Middle School and drowned in a pond. The Pierce student was unharmed. Peavy alleges the district did not meet its burden of proving she acted incompetently, or that she willfully or persistently violated district rules.

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