MANATEE — The Manatee County school board will decide Monday whether to fire a pre-kindergarten teacher and a school secretary for reported misconduct in unrelated incidents.
Manatee County School District Superintendent Tim McGonegal is recommending the school board fire Oneco Pre-K teacher Karen M. Stolt, 52, for reporting to work Sept. 17, 2008, under the influence of prescription drugs Lortab and Soma and possessing 18 Vicodin pills for which she did not have a prescription.
Stolt, a district employee for 12 years, took two hydrocodone tablets for back pain that morning at her Myakka home, then drove to work, according to findings from an administrative hearing in early May. Before arriving at the school off State Road 70, she took a muscle relaxant.
At school, a co-worker observed Stolt “out of it,” unsteady and non-responsive, with her speech limited and slurred. When notified, the school nurse found a bottle of Vicodin in Stolt’s purse, according to information from the hearing. She admitted she did not have a prescription for the pills.
She obtained the medication from “another school employee with whom the respondent traded pain medications,” court papers state.
Following the administrative hearing, a judge recommended Stolt be fired.
But Stolt’s lawyer has contested the judge’s recommendation. In court papers, attorney Melissa Mihok wrote her client had been prescribed painkillers and muscle relaxers off and on during the past 10 years due to several medical problems, including herniated discs and a back injury. The doses she took that day were “within the instructions previously given by her physician.” Also, Mihok wrote, no students were present during the time of the incident.
“The school board is urged to reject the ALJ’s recommendation and return the respondent to her position as teacher,” she wrote.
Secretary requests hearing
Tammy M. Johnson, 45, is a senior secretary at Buffalo Creek Middle School who district officials say used a school credit card for personal business prior to the start of this school year.
School district attorney Rob Shapiro said Johnson, who has worked for the district since February 2000, used the card while preparing for an Education First trip to Washington, D.C. He did not say what she bought with the card.
The non-school related education trip took place from June 21-July 1, Shapiro said.
On the trip, Johnson consumed excessive alcoholic beverages and was inebriated in the presence of Buffalo Creek students and parents, according to an administrative complaint.
She was issued a “cease-and-desist” letter noting the reported violations. When Johnson came to school Aug. 14 to collect personal belongings, witnesses say she smelled of alcohol. Principal Matt Gruhl observed Johnson running into walls, having difficulty getting through doorways and almost falling on one occasion, according to the complaint. “Additionally, Gruhl observed Johnson’s pants fall several times, exposing her backside,” the complaint continues.
McGonegal last month recommended Johnson’s termination. Johnson’s attorney, Richard Groff, has requested an administrative hearing for his client.
The school board will decide Monday whether to fire Johnson, or suspend her without pay and grant her a hearing.