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    Tampa Bay briefs

    By Times staff writers

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 3, 2001


    Crist wants to compel reports on bad teachers

    Education Commissioner Charlie Crist is proposing legislation to get tough on school districts that fail to report improper teacher behavior to the state.

    Crist's actions Friday were prompted by a disturbing case out of South Florida this week, where a teacher in Broward County was arrested for offering money to a student for sex. The teacher had been accused of improper conduct with a Miami-Dade County student a decade earlier. Evidently, Miami-Dade officials failed to report the teacher's alleged misconduct in 1991 after criminal charges were dropped.

    "Whenever faced with a situation where the safety of our children is at stake, not to take action is irresponsible," Crist said.

    School districts are required to report teacher misconduct to the Florida Department of Education within 30 days, but there are no penalties for not doing so. The department routinely investigates such matters. When a case fails in court, the department still might take action against a teaching certificate, prohibiting a teacher from being around students or banning him from teaching in Florida.

    Crist on Friday proposed that when a district fails to report teacher misconduct, the Education Department could withhold some school funding, impose a fine, and temporarily suspend a teacher suspected of improper conduct.

    Crist said he plans to discuss the proposed legislation with legislators next week.

    Chain offers $100,000 to halt golf store heists

    PALM HARBOR -- Tired of being hit by smash-and-grab burglars who come in with a plan and a shopping list, the Edwin Watts Golf store chain is offering a $100,000 reward for help catching the thieves.

    The latest in a series of similar robberies took place about 6 a.m. Jan. 25 at the Edwin Watts Golf store at 32257 U.S. 19 N.

    Someone used a car, perhaps rigged with a makeshift battering ram, to bash a 2-foot-wide hole in the rear door of the building.

    The thieves then slipped in and stole 67 top-of-the-line Callaway Hawkeye VFT woods that sell for $400 each. They also took 11 complete sets of Callaway irons valued at $900 to $1,200 a set. The total value of the haul was about $40,000, store manager Dave Martin said Friday.

    The forced entry immediately set off an alarm, and the alarm company called the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. But it was too late.

    "I think they got in and out in under three minutes," Martin said.

    Now, as a result of that heist and others like it around the country, the Edwin Watts Golf chain has offered a $100,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the thieves.

    Corporate executives in Fort Walton Beach said the chain has been hit by about 10 similar thefts in the past three to four years and has sustained hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses. The chain has 49 stores in 10 states.

    Company founder Edwin Watts has said that the stolen clubs may be sold over the Internet, by mail order, by unscrupulous retailers or to overseas buyers.

    Martin said the Palm Harbor store has been hit three times in nine years by smash-and-grab thieves.

    Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call Edwin Watts Golf's corporate office at (800) 874-0146, ext. 127, or Pinellas County sheriff's Detective Mike Weaver at (727) 582-6900.

    Headline: Man killed with baseball bat, police say

    TAMPA -- Police are investigating a man's death after an argument outside a north Tampa apartment Friday morning

    Police did not release the names of the victim or the person suspected of killing the man.

    Officials said the two men were friends and had been drinking when one of them grabbed a baseball bat at 7:30 a.m. and killed the other.

    The duplex is at 10000 N Hyacinth Lane, near Fowler Avenue.

    - Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report.

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