Archive for Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Ex-principal’s teaching license revoked

State board of education cites theft charges related to 2005 shoplifting incident

February 7, 2007

The Kansas State Board of Education has revoked the license of former Tonganoxie Elementary School principal Jerry Daskoski.

In December, Daskoski resigned from his position effective Dec. 31, saying he needed to spend more time with his wife and family.

But Thursday, Kansas State Department of Education attorney Kevin Ireland said Daskoski's license was revoked Jan. 9 in light of felony theft charges filed against him in November 2005 in Wichita.

The revocation included Daskoski's license to teach elementary school and work in school administration throughout Kansas.

Ireland said Daskoski had filed a petition to appeal his license revocation. Ireland said it's likely the state board will consider Daskoski's request this month.

"That's not the same thing as applying for a new license," Ireland said of Daskoski's petition. "The bottom line is the state board of education acted to revoke his license."

Sedgwick County charges

According to the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office, the charges stem from a Nov. 25, 2005, incident at a Sam's Wholesale Club in Wichita in which Daskoski concealed a $1,555 Sony 31-inch television in a box that had previously held a file cabinet. And he concealed a $188 DVD player into another box that had held a less expensive item.

When he checked out, he paid $160.77 for the item in the file cabinet box and $16.44 for the item in the other box.

Monday, Daskoski said he didn't know why he committed the theft.

"I don't understand why," Daskoski said. "It's not anything that I've ever done before or anything like it, I couldn't begin to explain."

Daskoski started his career with the Tonganoxie school district in 1991 as elementary school assistant principal. Two years later, he was promoted to principal.

The stress of being a principal, he said, gradually led to psychological problems.

He said he has been under the care of a mental health professional for obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, panic attacks and depression. During that time he took prescribed medications for his conditions.

"Being a principal and a principal of a large school was not a positive situation for a person with the emotional challenges that I was dealing with," Daskoski said. "It's kind of like asking a person who's soaked in gasoline to be a firefighter."

The situation ultimately led to two actions that were out of character for him, Daskoski said. He and his wife, Karen, who have been married for 33 years, began to grow apart. His wife asked him to quit his job and take another that was less time-consuming and less stressful.

"I told her that in making more money as an administrator and doubling my salary over that as a teacher, I couldn't afford to quit," he said.

And in the fall of 2005, Daskoski said, another out-of-character incident occurred -- the shoplifting incident at a Sam's Club in Wichita.

Diversion accepted

Daskoski was arrested and placed on $2,500 bond, after which he entered into a diversion agreement.

Ireland said in Kansas, when a person complies with the diversion agreement and completes the terms of it, the criminal charges are dismissed and the person is not convicted of a crime.

The diversion agreement, in which Daskoski admitted to the felony theft, stipulated that Daskoski would complete a National Association for Shoplifting Prevention course. It also required he remain in the state of Kansas, report to the diversion office by mail or in person once a month, and attend work regularly. The agreement also required Daskoski to maintain the services of a doctor for treatment of a medical or psychiatric condition.

In addition, Daskoski was required to pay $152 for court costs, $33 for jail processing fee and $160 in diversion costs.

Daskoski was scheduled to have completed his diversion agreement in May of this year. However, he completed his terms early, on Jan. 10 -- the day after the state board of education voted to revoke his license.

Board takes action

Ireland said it wasn't until October 2006 -- 11 months after Daskoski was charged with felony theft -- that KSDE learned of the charges against Daskoski.

County and district attorneys report to KSDE names of individuals convicted of felonies or who have entered into diversion agreements in felony-related crimes. KSDE learned of the charges against Daskoski while reviewing those reports.

Ireland said that in October, KSDE notified Tonganoxie school superintendent Richard Erickson that Daskoski was on diversion. On Dec. 11, Erickson, and Chris Korb, a former Tonganoxie teacher who is a principal at Tecumseh North Elementary School, testified in support of Daskoski at a KSDE professional practices commission hearing.

Ireland said, when considering whether to revoke a license, the state board of education considers the conduct of licensed teachers and administrators -- not whether they were convicted of a felony.

"So, therefore, we don't necessarily have to have a criminal conviction before the state board can take action," Ireland said.

Ireland said the board revokes an average of about 15 to 20 teacher or administrator's licenses a year.

Generally, he said, they relate to felonies, including theft, drug-related crimes or harming children.

Daskoski, a Tonganoxie school administrator for 16 years, and a former teacher, would have been eligible for retirement in July 2011 under the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System.

'I am just sorry'

Monday afternoon, Daskoski's voice broke as he talked about the felony theft charges, the diversion agreement, his resignation and the revocation of his professional license.

"I am just sorry. It's been my life to serve kids and to serve our teachers, and I feel like that I did something that totally flies in the face of what all I'm about," Daskoski said. "I can't explain why I did it. I've just given up on trying to figure out why. I love Tonganoxie. I love the elementary school and the teachers and students, and it was tough to write that letter (of resignation) and to hand that in. To not go back on January 3 was the hardest thing I have ever experienced in my life."

And though Daskoski has appealed the state board's decision to revoke his license, he's not optimistic.

At any rate, he has other immediate concerns. Daskoski said his wife, Karen, was diagnosed in January with ovarian cancer. She had surgery last week and in about three weeks will begin chemotherapy.

"Here I am to take care of her," Daskoski said. "She had three days where she couldn't even get off the couch, and she's been here in the hospital for four days. Then when she comes home she's going to need a lot of help. ... It's been a godsend that I've been able to be here for Karen."

But still, the knowledge that he resigned his job haunts Daskoski. He feels he let down a community, including the school board and Erickson.

Tuesday, Erickson expressed his appreciation for Daskoski's service to the district.

"Mr. Daskoski served this school district, the elementary school students and staff very effectively for the past 16 years," Erickson said. "I have enjoyed working with him and I appreciate his service to the school district. As a parent I will owe him a debt of gratitude because he served as the elementary school principal for both of my children and the many other children that he has served at Tonganoxie Elementary School."

Major shock

Daskoski said, in the 11 months before KSDE notified the school, he didn't alert the board to his diversion status because he didn't know it could result in the revocation of his license.

"The idea of diversion is that if you complete ... you are not charged with it," Daskoski said. "That was like a major shock. I never even thought of anything like that; I didn't even know that that was a possibility."

And it was Dec. 20, at a special school board meeting, that board members accepted Daskoski's resignation.

Board member Diane Truesdell said when Daskoski resigned he told board members it was for "personal reasons."

Truesdell said she was crushed to learn of the incident that led to Daskoski's charges.

"I thought he was an excellent principal," Truesdell said Monday of the man who often was referred to as "Mr. D." "My kids thought he was wonderful. I never had anything but good experiences in every encounter I have had with Mr. D."

School board member Darlyn Hansen said he was shocked to learn of Daskoski's diversion but pleased with the years of work he did in the district.

"I think he gave us 16 good years," Hansen said Monday. "I know it's a tough situation all the way around, but he's done certainly a wonderful job for us here."

Truesdell expressed concern about how children would react when they hear about Daskoski.

"I just think that we have to look at the Mr. D that we knew," Truesdell said.

And for Daskoski, who's long been an authority figure whom area children looked up to, he's taking full responsibility for his actions.

"But the bottom line is just like I've always taught the kids," Daskoski said. "We are responsible for what we do. I can say all kinds of things because of the emotional challenges and things like that, but it doesn't take away from what happened. I have to take ownership and responsibility."

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