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Amid investigation, band director resigns

The Hernando County Sheriff's Office is investigating a parent's complaint against the band director at Central High, who resigned his position last week shortly after being suspended with pay.

The nature of the complaint against Richard Averill was being withheld Monday by the Sheriff's Office, which said the matter was still under investigation. The school district also declined to elaborate.

"There was a situation that concerned us," said Edd Poore, the school district's director of human resources/staff development.

Averill, 45, could not be reached for comment.

But in his resignation letter, he said there recently had been several serious illnesses and a death in his family, distractions preventing him "from executing my duties to the best of my ability." He also noted the "demanding and stressful nature of this position."

Central High Principal Dennis McGeehan said a parent's complaint prompted him to recommend April 21 that Averill be suspended with pay. Later in the week, Averill submitted his resignation, effective May 4.

McGeehan said Monday that arrangements were being made for a substitute to take over duties with the band. A trip scheduled next month to the Panhandle has been canceled, McGeehan said.

Averill joined the faculty at Central High in August 1996 and is paid $34,097. Twenty years earlier, he earned a music education degree at the University of Florida.

Averill has held teaching jobs at five other school districts around Florida and Georgia. He has no criminal record.

On the application he filled out for the job at Central, Averill checked yes on a question that asked if he had ever been terminated, not reappointed or required to resign from a previous job.

His written comment noted a "significant disagreement with the principal" that ended with a departure on "unfriendly terms." A note in the margin said it occurred while he was at the Bradwell Institute in Hinesville, Ga., one of that state's oldest public high schools.

Bradwell's principal at the time, Gene Nisbet, said Averill was fired for insubordination in 1987, a situation in which Averill "more or less turned the kids against the school."

McGeehan, who hired Averill, said, "We checked his references." Averill's folder includes only notes from interviews at two other schools where administrators gave him high marks.

Some band students interviewed Monday said Averill's temper and his tendency to pick on students put him in disfavor with some, but not all of his pupils.

"I like him a lot, but he's got a little bit of a temper," said James Still, a senior. "He kind of cuts you down a little bit."

But Susan Schildbach, a teacher at Central whose son Steven is a band member, said her family has been quite happy with Averill and that she was surprised by his sudden departure. She, too, was unclear about the reasons behind it.

"Everything has been rumors, and nobody knows anything for sure," she said.