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Stabins returns to job as teacher

The former state legislator will work with students expected to miss substantial class time.

Jeff Stabins, who will teach homebound and hospitalized students in Hernando County this fall, has a reference no other new teacher can probably match:

State Sen. Daniel Webster of Winter Garden.

"It was an honor and a privilege to serve with Jeffrey Stabins during his six years in the Florida Legislature," Webster wrote in a letter of recommendation in Stabins' personnel file. Webster, the former speaker of the House, added that he appointed Stabins, the District 44 House representative from 1992 through 1998, as vice chairman of the House Education Committee.

"As a legislator, I helped mandate the higher standards," Stabins said. "Now as a teacher, I need to see if I can teach students to meet those standards."

Stabins, 39, admits that his career change has some unusual aspects. But it is also something he anticipated. Stabins, a former Hernando High history teacher, said last year that he planned to return to teaching after his legislative career ended.

That happened, at least temporarily, when he was defeated in the 1998 Republican primary by political newcomer David Russell Jr. Now that Russell has announced he is going to run for the District 10 Senate position Ginny Brown-Waite plans to vacate next year, Stabins might run for the District 44 seat in 2000.

But, for now, he's thinking more about his new job than returning to his old one.

"That's on the back burner right now," he said.

Stabins will receive $28,000 per year to teach students expected to miss at least three weeks because of illness or, in some cases, emotional problems. For the students who will be out a relatively short time, Stabins said, his job will be to relay assignments and lessons from the teacher.

"I'll be the conduit," he said.

For those missing all or most of a semester or a school year, he will serve as the primary teacher. Stabins said he did not ask for a job as a classroom instructor.

"This is what I applied for," he said.

That was not true when he filled a similar position before. He was a part-time homebound teacher during the 1991-92 school year, a demotion from his previous job at Hernando High, which he held from 1987 through 1990.

He had asked for a one-year leave of absence at the end of the 1989-90 school year.

"I plan to spend my time learning and growing professionally," he said in his request for the leave, which was written in the spring before he ran for School Board.

"It was a contentious campaign, as many of mine have been," Stabins said. "When the leave of absence was up, in the spring of '91, it was not honored . . . That was the era of Dan McIntyre."

McIntyre, now a superintendent of schools in Georgia, was on his way to Brooksville to visit his family Friday and unavailable for comment.

But his father, Dan McIntyre Sr., disputed Stabins' story.

"If (Stabins) had a legitimate leave of absence, Dan McIntyre would have honored it," he said.

Some of Stabins' supporters have said in the past that Hernando High principal Elaine Sullivan blocked his return.

Sullivan does not remember it quite that way, she said on Friday. Nor would she specifically say, as some opponents have suggested, that he was demoted because he was not a very good or diligent teacher.

"I remember we had some talks, as we have with all teachers, what we could do to improve performance," Sullivan said.

"I think, when Jeff took a leave, it was a good time for all of us."

At any rate, Stabins said he enjoyed teaching and looks forward to returning to the profession. "This is what I had done previously, and I'm really excited about doing it again."