Hillsborough School Board candidate loses job at Freedom High

Published June 6, 2013

TAMPA — Michael Weston, the outspoken math teacher and Hillsborough County School Board candidate, has lost his job.

The district upheld the Freedom High School principal's decision not to keep Weston on the faculty in a process known as "renomination."

Weston, who joined the district in 2009, is now in his second campaign for a School Board seat. This year he was the subject of a district investigation stemming from an anonymous letter that accused him of being rude to students and offensive to co-workers.

The district's Office of Professional Standards did not discipline him after that investigation, in which some students said Weston belittled and insulted them.

Weston lodged a grievance, which is pending, alleging contract violations in the way the investigation was handled.

Well before the investigation, Weston, 57, had established a reputation as a critic of the administration and board member Candy Olson, who represents the South Tampa district where Weston is running. Olson, in turn, read the anonymous letter about Weston out loud during a televised board meeting. She is not seeking another term.

"Running for the board is definitely hazardous to district employees. Remember Captain Carl," Weston said.

In 2012, "Captain" Carl Kosierowski, also a board candidate, was fired from his job as a school bus driver for violating a district policy by handing out campaign bookmarks on the job.

"What is the biggest logistical problem that the district has now? Bus drivers," Weston said. "What kind of teachers do they want more than anything now? STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). And they got rid of me."

District spokesman Stephen Hegarty, referring to the investigation, said, "I'm surprised that you're quoting Weston and you're not quoting from the report where students are talking about Mr. Weston's behavior."

In the past year, Weston has spoken out about the district's Gates Foundation-funded teacher evaluation program, problems in exceptional student education and what he sees as a lack of opportunities for students who are not college bound.

Given the high profile of Weston's case, Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, a lawyer and executive director of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, took the unusual step of representing him.

"I certainly think we made a good case on Michael's behalf, and I disagree with the outcome," Baxter-Jenkins said.

Weston is one of three candidates running in District 2, along with Stacy Hahn and former candidate Sally Harris.

In 2012, when he ran at-large against longtime incumbent Carol Kurdell, he picked up 17 percent of the vote in a six-way race.