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Internet academy gets a leader

After one teacher resigns under fire, another is picked to help Lecanto High keep a $350,000 grant for a high-tech program.

By BARBARA BEHRENDT

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001


LECANTO -- With just days to go to find a replacement before losing a valuable grant, school officials have chosen Lecanto High School business teacher Susan Hale to become the new instructor for the Oracle Internet Academy.

Hale's acceptance this week means that the county can hold onto the academy grant, said Kelly Tyler, coordinator of work-force development. Valued at $350,000, the academy was awarded to Lecanto High School several weeks ago.

But then instructor Bob Chambers left a local bar and crashed his car. He ended up charged with driving under the influence and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The arrest and his decision to resign afterward threw the grant into a state of limbo. The grant was specifically tied to a qualified instructor, who would agree to stay with the program for several years.

Immediately, school officials hurried to find a replacement. Tyler said that if they didn't have someone to take Chambers' place by the time training started in early May, they would lose the program. Superintendent David Hickey said Thursday that finding another person was a challenge because several people who were approached at other local schools were not interested in leaving their posts.

Then the job was offered to Hale, who accepted.

The grant will provide specialized training for Hale, who will teach a series of courses leading students to certifications in processing.

Hale, 44, is in her second year teaching at Lecanto High School. She also teaches computer classes at Central Florida Community College. Previously she had worked as a bank officer for Sun Trust in Tampa.She has a master's degree in business administration, with one of her certifications in management information systems.

"I'm really looking forward to this," said Hale. Later this summer she will travel to California for additional classes.

"We've got some very, very technically talented students in the system, and this program is very prestigious and so valuable to the entire community," Hale said. "It was very unfortunate what happened with Mr. Chambers, but as far as the community and keeping the program, we're going to do it."

Hale has agreed to stick with the program until July of 2005.

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