August 30, 2014

Elyria
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Ohio puts teachers’ misdeeds on Web

LORAIN — Christina Futchko taught at a Lorain preschool for a decade before she was accused of having an affair with a 17-year-old Southview High School student.

Futchko, who was placed on administrative leave, resigned in January and had her teaching license revoked in September by the Ohio Department of Education.

In the past, the problems of Futchko and other teachers accused of indiscretions might have slipped through the cracks when they sought their next job.

However, the state Department of Education launched a revamped database Thursday that allows anyone with Internet access to look up disciplinary action taken by the state against teachers. Teachers can be searched using their name or the school district for which they work.

The database has been available for some time, but the site was made easier to search and now provides the incident that brought corrective action, said ODE spokeswoman Karla Carruthers.

The site contains about 1,700 teachers who were disciplined, which is only a fraction of the nearly 155,000 who are licensed in the state, she said.

“We wanted to make this more transparent,” she said. “That’s very important.”

The database comes just weeks after a series of stories by The Columbus Dispatch that showed districts sometimes don’t report teacher misconduct to the state, allowing teachers to bounce from district to district once they are fired or resign from their last job.

The Dispatch series, which was based on a 10-month investigation, also mentioned Assistant Principal James Kaczor, who was hired at Durling Middle School in the Clearview school district despite being accused of touching girls and making sexual comments at Newbury Schools in Geauga County.

Kaczor was investigated by police, but was never charged, the Dispatch reported. He never told Clearview about the accusations and told a Dispatch reporter he didn’t think he was supposed to because the allegations weren’t true.

Clearview Superintendent Rick Buckosh said Friday he believes Kaczor is not a danger around students and doesn’t have any plans to remove him now that he knows about the accusations.

“We talked about it, and I believe the accusations aren’t true,” Buckosh said.

Buckosh said he probably still would have hired Kaczor even if he did know the accusations because of all the other positive information he had about him.

Even so, Buckosh said having a Web site now where he can easily check for questionable activity will be a real asset.

“It’s one more way for us to check up on someone,” Buckosh said. “It doesn’t mean that it’ll keep us from hiring anybody, because we might still call them in for an interview to hear their side. But it gives us some more information.”

Elyria Schools Superintendent Paul Rigda said the database will allow more stringent reviews of applicants.

“This kind of Web-based tool will be very helpful, especially when you’re looking at as many as 30 to 40 people at one time. Then you’re getting bits and pieces of information trickling in, and this will help check that person out."

Contact Adam Wright at 653-6257 or awright@chroniclet.com.