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Hernando County School Board should again offer STAR job to disgraced teacher

It's hard to tell who acted with more petulance — a suspended, marijuana-smoking teacher who didn't like his new assignment or the Hernando School Board majority who withdrew the job offer because they didn't appreciate his ungrateful attitude.

If you're looking for an adult role model in this episode, only newly elected board Chairman Pat Fagan acted in a mature manner, casting the lone vote to approve an agreement reinstating suspended teacher Michael Provost and transferring him to the district's alternative school for troubled students, STAR Education Center.

Provost initially balked at his reassignment to teach children with behavior issues, telling Times staff writer Tony Marrero he believed the district was attempting to force his resignation. The district said it was the only current vacancy.

Provost had been a health teacher at Powell Middle School until March when he admitted to recreational marijuana use off campus, volunteered for a drug test and entered an employee assistance program. Provost appealed to an administrative judge after the former superintendent recommended his firing and the nonbinding ruling sided with the teacher, saying the district lacked the legal authority to fire him because of protections in the state's drug-free workplace law.

In light of that decision, the board agreed in October to rehire Provost at another school and reinstate his wages retroactive to the start of the school year. The board majority, however, torpedoed the formal agreement five days ago after reading Provost's published comments.

Board members have a right to be annoyed with an ingrate, but their knee-jerk decision to rescind the agreement is wrong and invites further legal proceedings. It's an unnecessary public expense despite the sentiment from board member Dianne Bonfield, who suggested, "Sometimes you have to spend a little bit of money for principle.'' The posturing is contradictory considering Bonfield previously said her push to dismiss the former superintendent came in part from legal bills tied to attendance goofs at the district's magnet high school, Nature Coast Technical. Reopening a legal fight with Provost, who already has an administrative law judge's ruling on his side, is imprudent fiscally.

The board needs to reconsider its rash action. More importantly, Provost needs to reconsider his attitude toward the STAR Educational Center. We suggested previously he should share his drug-suspension story with students to illustrate the consequences of reckless personal choices.

Now he has something else to use as a teachable moment: STAR is providing a second chance for both him and his students. It shouldn't be wasted.

Hernando County School Board should again offer STAR job to disgraced teacher 11/21/09 [Last modified: Saturday, November 21, 2009 9:30am]
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