Local News

Former district teacher faces probation

SEBRING - A state commission will decide Friday whether to approve a proposed settlement with a former Sebring High teacher, who is accused of accessing Internet sites containing "pornographic and sexually explicit materials" using his school district computer, according to the Education Practices Commission.

Matthew Stunkard, who taught exceptional student education students, was originally suspended for violating the district's management information systems' policy.

The School Board of Highlands County has to date not publicly revealed the specific nature of Stunkard's violation, which occurred during the 2011-12 school year.

The first time the issue surfaced in a public meeting was at a school board meeting in May 2012 when Superintendent Wally Cox recommended a five-day suspension for Stunkard, which the school board rejected.

School Board Member Andy Tuck had asked then what Stunkard was alleged to have done. When told it was an "improper use of a computer," Tuck had asked if it involved pornography.

Human Resources Director Vivianne Waldron did not directly answer, explaining the information could not be released to the public until the investigation was completed.

"I am a little upset of the fact that this was done on our time, on our computer and this person is getting five days suspension when he really should be relieved of his job, if this is true," Tuck said at that time.

The board voted unanimously to withhold action on Stunkard's suspension pending further information.

After being placed on administrative leave May 10, 2012, Stunkard, who was facing termination, resigned with prejudice in June 2012, meaning he was not eligible to be rehired.

According to the pending settlement agreement, Stunkard neither admits nor denies but elects not to contest the allegations in Education Commissioner Pam Stewart's complaint.

Stunkard also agrees to accept a letter of reprimand to be placed in his personnel file with the employing school district and a two-year probation, according to the settlement agreement. He also has agreed to pay a $500 fine and $150 for each of his two years of his probation, to defray the cost to monitor him.

Stukard holds a Florida Educator's Certificate issued by the Department of Education covering the areas of elementary education, middle grades integrated curriculum and exceptional student education, which is valid through June 20.