2 teachers face inquiries
By MONIQUE FIELDS
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 2, 2000
Two Pinellas County teachers will learn next week what happens to educators who are accused of using their jobs for personal gain.
Superintendent Howard Hinesley has recommended the dismissal of a teacher who focused her time and attention on her law studies, not her students. Another teacher's paycheck may be short $464.40 because she directed her students to visit two inappropriate Web sites.
The School Board will make a decision on the fate of the teachers, both of whom were assigned to Clearwater schools, in a meeting Tuesday.
Doukissa Lowe, a special education teacher at Coachman Fundamental Middle School, is facing dismissal for excessive absences, failure to complete her files and allowing her quest for a law degree at Barry University law school in Orlando to interfere with her teaching duties, Hinesley said.
"Ms. Lowe has failed to follow directives to correct her performance deficiencies," said Hinesley in a memo to the board. "Her actions amount to misconduct in office, incompetency and insubordination."
Lowe, 48, has been on paid administrative leave since Aug. 17, the first day of school. She may appeal the board's claims, and has until Nov. 6 to request a hearing. She could not be reached for comment.
At the same School Board meeting, Rosemary L. Geier-Scalzo, a Spanish teacher at Kennedy Middle School and aspiring Latin music recording artist, will be suspended for three days without pay for directing her students to twomusic sites. Parents tipped off the principals after their children said their teacher urged them to vote for her version of Britney Spear's You Drive Me Crazy. She told her students the winner could become famous and receive a recording contract, district officials said.
She also advised her students to visit another Web site where they could vote for her in the 98Rock (WXTB-FM) is Hot for Teacher contest. The site, which featured at least one scantily clad woman, asked its visitors, "Did you ever have a teacher you wanted to have sex with?"
That time, $1,000 was at stake, district officials said.
She could not be reached for comment, but she has signed an agreement that says she accepts a three-day suspension, beginning Nov. 8. She also will explain to her classes why her actions were inappropriate.
In July, Geier-Scalzo, 32, said she had cut a demo CD of Spanish and English tunes at a local recording studio and planned to talk with record company executives in August about breaking into the burgeoning Latin market.
"Put me on a stage and I'm happy," she said at the time.
Geier-Scalzo's actions are examples of poor judgment, said Jackie Spoto, staff attorney for Pinellas County public schools.
"We all recognize that kids get exposed to a lot of things out there, but they're not supposed to get exposed to inappropriate material through our teachers," she said.
Both teachers, who are accused of violating the district's code of ethics, have significant classroom experience.
Ms. Lowe was first employed by the school district in the 1970s as a substitute teacher. She was later hired for a full-time position and worked off and on for the district until 1982. Her latest stint began in August 1991, when she was hired as a special education teacher at Safety Harbor IBIS School. She was transferred to Coachman Fundamental School in September 1997.
Since 1992, Lowe has received a rating of "improvement" in several areas, including punctuality, effective use of time and meeting minimum performance requirements. Ms. Lowe was absent 24 days, including a week taken off to study for law school exams during the 1999-2000 school year. School officials contend Lowe attended law classes up to four times a week, taking time away from her teaching duties such as parent conferences, Spoto said.
"I think she took advantage of things on the job, shortchanging us for her benefit of keeping up in law school," Spoto said.
Geier-Scalzo has been employed by the school district since August 1995. Each year, her evaluations show she met or exceeded job expectations.
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