Fired substitute teacher Jim Piculas has a new trick up his sleeve — he wants to make some of the public's money disappear. Piculas gained national attention last year after contending he was dismissed by the Pasco School District for wizardry. Specifically, Piculas alleged the firing was tied to his entertaining a Charles Rushe Middle School class with an illusion of a disappearing toothpick. The district denies his version of the termination.
Piculas has the right to petition the courts for redress and that is what he is attempting to do. He and his lawyer notified the district that Piculas is suing because public comments from his supervisors damaged his reputation and threw him into public scandal and disgrace.
Unfortunately for Piculas, but fortunately for the taxpayers who must foot the bill for any settlement, the story falls apart fairly quickly. His termination, according to public records, is attributed to his poor classroom management, failing to follow lesson plans, using vocabulary some would consider cussing, and one instance where he put a middle school student — known as a peer — in charge of the class. That child's parents complained to the school, saying their daughter was uncomfortable in the supervisory role.
Piculas, however, pitched the wizardry story to a television journalist and from there he gained worldwide notoriety via the Internet. National commentators lampooned the district officials and Comedy Central's Colbert Report spoofed the whole thing, including turning School Board member Kathryn Starkey into a frog.
The laughter subsided when Piculas filed a legal claim six months ago and a formal lawsuit this week seeking monetary award for what he contends is damage to his reputation by statements from his former bosses that he violated district policies.
It is a frivolous claim. If there is damage to Piculas' reputation it stems from his own work performance, documented records of which are available to any potential employer.
It is ridiculous to suggest the Pasco School District is responsible for his inability to find work during a recession in which some Pinellas County schools are closing and other districts are leaving teaching vacancies unfilled to combat shrinking state aid.
For a guy who said he aspires to become a teacher, Piculas sure is teaching children a poor lesson: blame others for your shortcomings.