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Hernando County School Board right to again reinstate Provost

The Hernando School Board moved in the right direction by again reversing its position on the employability of a former middle school teacher who admitted marijuana use off campus.

Earlier this week, on a 4-1 vote, the board reinstated former Parrott Middle School health and physical education teacher Michael Provost and transferred him to the STAR Education Center, the alternative school for students with behavior problems.

It was the right thing to do and marked an appropriate about-face from a November meeting in which board members, by the same margin, withdrew a negotiated settlement to reinstate Provost. The impetus then was his published comments to Times staff writer Tony Marrero in which Provost objected to moving to the STAR Center and suggested the district was trying to force his resignation.

The board wasn't the only one to reverse direction. Five days ago, Provost made an impassioned plea for reinstatement, admitting his own actions had left him humiliated and nearly broke. He said he welcomed a chance to make amends to those who took umbrage with his unflattering comments about the STAR Center.

The contrition and a stated pledge to accept responsibility for his own actions helped sway a board majority. Only board member Dianne Bonfield refused to approve the employment agreement, suggesting Provost's recantation was merely an acting job. Her inflexibility is disconcerting, particularly since the district had little legal reason to dismiss Provost.

Provost had taught at Parrott Middle School until March, when, after being confronted by the principal, he admitted recreational marijuana use off campus, volunteered for a drug test and entered an employee assistance program. The former superintendent recommended firing Provost as did the interim leader, Sonya Jackson.

In between those recommendations, Provost appealed to an administrative law judge. A nonbinding ruling sided with the teacher, saying the district didn't have the legal authority to terminate him because of protections accorded to public employees in the state's drug-free workplace law. After the ruling, the board agreed in October to rehire Provost at another school and reinstate his wages retroactive to the start of the school year. In a huff, however, a board majority rejected the agreement after Provost's published comments.

This week a board majority acted more humanely, and board members Pat Fagan, John Sweeney, James Yant and Sandra Nicholson should be commended for doing so. We trust Provost will take advantage of his new opportunity and become a positive role model and mentor for the troubled youths at STAR. He has multiple real-life lessons worth sharing about reckless behavior and its consequences.

He wasn't the only one to gain a little knowledge. This week's vote indicates both he and the board majority learned rash actions aren't necessarily the best.

Hernando County School Board right to again reinstate Provost 12/12/09 [Last modified: Saturday, December 12, 2009 11:48am]
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