Lauded middle school teacher charged with 4th DUI

His classroom record is one of high accolades. But his arrest record is one of some length.

Published November 17, 2007

BRANDON - His personnel file spells out his gifts as a middle school science instructor.

Roger K. Roberts, 44, is "outstanding," "a master teacher" and "highly effective," according to 20 years of evaluations.

At Tomlin Middle School in Brandon, where he has taught for 11 years, a district spokeswoman said he is a favorite with students and faculty members.

But Roberts' future in Hillsborough County schools became tenuous Friday at 1:30 a.m., when a sheriff's deputy found him passed out behind the wheel of a car at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Symmes Road.

Roberts' blood alcohol level, according to his arrest report, was measured at 0.190 and 0.181, more than double the level at which state law considers a person impaired.

Driving under the influence is not necessarily a firing offense for teachers, school spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said. But Roberts has been arrested three times before on DUI charges: in 1991, 1996 and 1997, according to a sheriff's spokeswoman.

The fourth DUI is considered a felony under state law.

Roberts, of 716 Oakgrove Drive in Brandon, could not be reached at his home Friday.

"I think he is a troubled man and a great teacher," Cobbe said. "I can't predict what's going to happen to his future in teaching."

Roberts was placed on paid leave pending administrative review of his case. Tomlin principal Beverly Carbaugh sent a letter home Friday alerting parents that Roberts would be absent from school for an unforeseen length of time.

"His record and teaching evaluations show that in the classroom, his performance has always been outstanding," Carbaugh said late Friday.

In the past, the school district has disciplined Roberts, who taught at Adams Middle from 1987 to 1996.

His teaching certificate was suspended in summer 2004, but reinstated before the beginning of the school year. That action stemmed from a 2002 arrest on an indecent exposure charge.

In that case, sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said, a bartender closing up called the sheriff's office to report an intoxicated man on the premises. When a deputy arrived, she said, Roberts was sitting in his car and exposed himself to the deputy and a female employee while he was talking with them.

Roberts' teaching certificate was suspended again between June and August 1999. That time, he agreed in a settlement to pay $1,000 and undergo treatment.

His personnel file notes letters of reprimand for other incidents as well: In 1996, he pleaded no contest to domestic battery against his wife; in 1996 and 1997, he was found guilty of driving with a suspended license; in 1993, he failed to fully acknowledge the length of his criminal record on his teaching certificate application.

"I caution you to conduct yourself in a more responsible manner," the head of professional standards for Hillsborough schools wrote in 1998.

School employee evaluations are rarely effusive.

But one evaluation from 1997 suggests something about why, even when Roberts was disciplined for past legal offenses, administrators may have found a way to keep him on staff.

"I have nothing but praise for this educator," the principal wrote. "He artfully mixes technology, content, excitement and discipline in exacting doses and does an outstanding job."

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at 813 226-3383 or rcatalanello@sptimes.com.