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Board backs firing teacher in drug case

By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK
Published June 19, 2003

BROOKSVILLE - Clyde Daughtry stood before the School Board, head bowed, seeking a second chance.

The 22-year veteran special education teacher admitted his transgressions - an arrest on misdemeanor marijuana possession, a positive test for being under the influence at school. He explained that he made bad choices during a time of "uncertainty and frailty."

He vowed never to give in to temptation again.

If only he could keep his job.

"Teaching has sustained my life, given me purpose and meaning," Daughtry, 56, told the board Tuesday, reading from a two-page prepared statement. "I ask the board and the community at large to forgive me as I humble myself once again and ask for the opportunity to continue to serve as a teacher. . . ."

Board members were not moved, however.

Not by Daughtry's apologies. Not by his forthrightness. Not by his explanation that in March he had endured heart surgery, one of many in the past seven years, that left him mentally and physically infirm.

"I was weak. I was hurting. My cardiologist had doubled all of my medications, and I was having reactions to some of those medications," Daughtry said. "Given the backdrop of these circumstances, I saw the opportunity in a poor choice that was based on a faulty perception that culminated in my arrest on May 9."

Sincere as he might have been, board Chairman John Druzbick said later, Daughtry did not convince the board to overrule superintendent Wendy Tellone's decision to fire him.

"This does not qualify as just cause, does it?" board member Jim Malcolm observed after listening to Daughtry. "This is pleading."

And the board showed no inclination to let this teacher slide after violating its drug-free workplace rules. Especially after the administration eased Dot Dodge out of the Springstead High School principal job a month earlier for essentially the same thing.

Making it even tougher, board member Gail David said, was the district's zero-tolerance policy for students who have or use drugs on campus.

"There is no precedent to return an employee who tested positive on the job," David said.

Karen Gaffney, the board's lawyer, said the district's personnel rules do not contain the same mandatory zero tolerance as the student code of conduct. However, she added, the practical application of the personnel rules has the same effect.

Gaffney suggested that the board should uphold the superintendent's recommendation to dismiss Daughtry. He can appeal that decision through an administrative hearing, if he chooses, she added.

The board, which traditionally has kept its distance from employment issues, took that advice.

"I don't know the whole story," Druzbick said Wednesday, "and neither do you."

Daughtry, who had no other reprimands in his personnel file, did not indicate Tuesday whether he would challenge his dismissal. He has completed 24 hours of community service, court records show, and his case remains open.

Daughtry could not be reached by telephone Wednesday for additional comment.

- Jeffrey S. Solochek covers education and politics in Hernando County. He can be reached at 352 754-6115 or solochek@sptimes.com

[Last modified June 19, 2003, 02:07:56]


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