September 23, 2009 in City

Teacher back after rebuke for behavior

He was put on leave after complaints
By The Spokesman-Review
 

University High School teacher Mike Cronin went back on the job this month after receiving a letter of reprimand for allegedly inappropriately touching a female student and a female staff member while drunk.

Documents released by the Central Valley School District this week in response to a public records request show Cronin was placed on paid administrative leave on Jan. 30 while several complaints involving his behavior were investigated.

The first incident involved a female student in the school’s DECA store on Oct. 17, 2008. The student and a witness told district officials that Cronin put his hand on her back and rubbed her stomach several times. According to the documents, the male witness said it appeared that Cronin “kind of felt her up.”

The documents also state that an office employee said Cronin sat next to her on that same day, put his head on her shoulder and put his hand on her inner thigh. She reported that he appeared to be drunk because “his eyes didn’t move together” and his speech didn’t make sense.

The documents state that multiple students said Cronin appeared to be drunk in class on several occasions, smelling of alcohol and slurring his words. They also reported that there had been a “dramatic change” in his behavior during the 2008-2009 school year.

Cronin did not respond to a message seeking comment. The documents released by the school district didn’t include a statement from Cronin other than a letter demanding that the report be released to the newspaper.

The letter said the results “contradict the allegations which formed the basis for my leave of absence” and that “I would benefit extremely by the release of this document.”

The documents released also included a report from a DSHS examiner that Cronin had passed a polygraph test.

The letter of reprimand was dated May 12 but Cronin did not return to work until school began this fall. Since he teaches mostly seniors, it was decided to keep him out of the classroom to maintain continuity for the students, said Jay Rowell, assistant superintendent of human resources/operations. “We were so near the end,” he said.

The reprimand letter called Cronin’s behavior “unprofessional” and “unacceptable.”

But Central Valley Superintendent Ben Small said the “totality of the situation” did not call for more punishment than a reprimand. “That is what we believed was appropriate discipline,” he said.

The Spokesman-Review archives indicate that Cronin was sentenced to a $500 fine and 12 months probation in April 2008 for a driving while intoxicated charge that was amended to first-degree negligent driving, a common reduction for first-time offenders.

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