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Tuesday, Oct 16, 2018
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Termination hearing for Pasco teacher canceled

LAND O' LAKES - A middle school teacher's termination hearing before the Pasco County School Board has been canceled because a settlement appears imminent, a school district official said. An agreement in the case of Seven Springs Middle science teacher Robert Fine could be reached before the end of the week, making the hearing unnecessary, said Kevin Shibley, the district's employee relations director. "It is my sincere hope this is a cancellation and not a postponement," Shibley said. Fine, who has been on unpaid suspension since October, had been scheduled for a Tuesday appeal hearing before the school board.
Former Superintendent Heather Fiorentino recommended the board fire Fine because of his habit of making sarcastic and demeaning comments to students, according to school district records. Fine appealed the recommendation. School officials warned Fine for four years to stop making inappropriate remarks, Fiorentino wrote in a letter notifying the teacher of the plan to fire him. According to records: Fine told a student, "Honey, you look bad every day. Pages will be turning in the yearbook and mirrors will be smashing." He suggested a girl with hiccups look in a mirror to "scare" the hiccups away. Once, when a boy called out an answer that a girl couldn't come up with, Fine told the girl she was a good ventriloquist because "you made the answer come out of the dummy in the back." Parents complained and some requested their children be moved out of Fine's class after this year's open house when Fine reportedly told the parents he was an "equal opportunity picker-oner" and his wife often reminds him to "stop tailgating the students." Fine, who also was the subject of complaints when he taught at Bayonet Point Middle, told district officials that the use of sarcasm and humor was his way of building rapport with students, Fiorentino's letter said. United School Employees of Pasco appealed the recommendation on Fine's behalf. Lynne Webb, president of the union, told the school board in October that the case "falls far short of termination."

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