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Two Pasco teachers may be fired over outburst, FCAT cheating accusations

LAND O'LAKES — Two Pasco County schoolteachers who were suspended without pay two weeks ago now face dismissal for their actions.

Superintendent Heather Fiorentino has recommended firing Pasco High School language arts teacher Gregory Popovich for a violent classroom outburst that led to a student being injured with shards of broken glass. She also has proposed termination of Anclote Elementary teacher Cynthia Moyers over allegations that she helped her fourth-grade students on the FCAT.

Both teachers have appealed to the School Board to keep their jobs.

The district released details of each case on Wednesday.

According to those documents, Popovich became so upset with his students on April 7 that he slammed a textbook onto an overhead projector, shattering the glass top. The glass shards flew into the classroom, striking at least one student.

"The administration learned about this incident only after a student in your class reported to the clinic because of injuries," Fiorentino wrote in her letter to Popovich. "Administration later learned that the student had to be taken to the emergency room later due to increasing pain and that the emergency room removed several pieces of glass from the student's body, including glass in her eye."

Compounding the situation, Popovich gave inconsistent accounts of what happened in the classroom after being confronted by principal Pat Reedy and his staff, the documents state.

Popovich already had been warned to control himself in class, after a previous incident in which he swore in front of students after becoming upset with students' poor behavior, Fiorentino wrote.

She recommended firing him for failing to protect the safety of students, as required by Florida law, and also for violating the district policy on student supervision and welfare.

In Moyers' case, Fiorentino wrote that she was asking to fire the teacher for FCAT violations.

Specifically, Fiorentino stated, Moyers told students before the spring 2011 exam took place that she would tap on their desk or test booklet to let them know they had to recheck their work. This was the "same plan of communicating with your students" as reported last year, Fiorentino wrote.

"I also learned that you wrote on a student's test booklet to assist him with a particular problem, that you assisted a student with measuring on a problem, that you verbally spoke with students during the administration of the math portion of the FCAT, and that you commented in front of your class that a particular student received the most taps," Fiorentino wrote.

Moyers denied the accusations to her principal, assistant principal and an employee relations supervisor. She stated that she tapped on students' desks to remind them to keep their eyes on their own tests.

She said she did nothing improper in administering the test.

In a written statement, Moyers did say she witnessed students reading books during the math portion of the test, and students attempting to work on the wrong section of the test. Yet she did not report these problems to her school's testing administrator, Fiorentino wrote, only mentioning them when confronted about the allegations against her.

Fiorentino wrote to Moyers that she was recommending her firing for violating state testing laws as well as the state's professional code of ethics for teachers.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

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In other business

The Pasco School Board took the following action at its meeting Tuesday night:

• Unanimously approved 2010-11 contracts for teachers and school-related personnel. The sides had gone to impasse in the fall over disagreements regarding salary and benefits, but reached an accord before going to a special master. The deal includes a third year without raises. The United School Employees of Pasco ratified the contracts late last week.

• Adopted a mediated settlement allowing the Imagine School at Land O'Lakes, a charter school, to expand its enrollment to 584 students if it meets several caveats relating to finances.

• Suspended without pay Sunlake High School teacher Gail Fearn for an altercation with student, Wesley Chapel Elementary custodian Stephanie Powers for unsatisfactory performance, and bus driver Delores Conley for text-messaging while driving.

Two Pasco teachers may be fired over outburst, FCAT cheating accusations 05/18/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 18, 2011 8:43pm]
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