Mrs. Angelucci stated that a major priority for her was the restoration of the reputation of teachers who had been falsely accused. Her stand on this issue, as well as comments by board Chairman Randy Scamihorn and board member David Banks indicate that there may be hope for teachers who have been terribly mistreated.
In 2005, 2008, and in April and May of this year, the Marietta Daily Journal editorialized, and editor Joe Kirby wrote columns on the plight of a Cobb County educator who had been accused of child molestation. A review of that educator’s ordeal is in order.
In 2005 Greg Leontovich, a teacher at Green Acres Elementary School, was accused of child molestation. He was ultimately proven innocent and cleared by a Cobb Superior Court Jury. He was exonerated by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, cleared of all charges by the District Attorney’s office, and most importantly, cleared by then-Superintendent Fred Sanderson to re-apply and be interviewed for teaching positions.
So why is Leontovich, eight years later, delivering pizza for a living instead of teaching? Why is he understandably so discouraged and distraught? Leontovich was not a classroom teacher as such. At the time, he was in charge of Green Acres Elementary’s “Opportunity Room,” a euphemistic title for the in-school suspension area. He did not teach the first-grader who, along with her mother, accused him of the molestation. In fact, the teacher in whose class the child was sitting swore that the child never left the classroom on the day of the alleged incident.
Unfortunately, within three months of the 2005 allegation and well before the teacher was even charged with a crime, the school district’s Human Resources administrator and the district’s attorney brought a case to dismiss Leontovich. He was dismissed. After spending nearly three weeks in jail, he was finally given a bond hearing and released on the condition he would not be with children under 16. He was required to wear an electronic ankle bracelet for which he had to pay $500 a month.
Further recent attention has been given to Leontovich’s predicament by MDJ columnists Don McKee and Dick Yarbrough. McKee and Yarbrough have also highlighted the cases of principal Dr. Jerry Dority and counselor Yatta Collins of Tapp Middle School, principal Jeff Crawford of Awtrey Middle School, and principal Trudie Donavan of Kell High School.
Leontovich asked to be transferred to another position temporarily until he had a chance to prove his innocence, but was refused. It was soon after his eventual trial and exoneration in 2008, that Superintendent Fred Sanderson approved Leontovich for re-employment. Unfortunately for Leontovich, Sanderson retired, and a new human resources administrator, Dr. Michael Shanahan, was brought in from out of state. He reviewed the case and chose to reverse Sanderson’s decision.
Fast forward to 2013. Those who were making efforts to obtain justice for Leontovich finally reached the new superintendent, Dr. Michael Hinojosa. One of these supporters, former Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, Dr. Stanley Wrinkle, requested Hinojosa reverse the Shanahan decision and open the door for Leontovich’ s re-employment. Wrinkle asked Hinojosa to consider helping Leontovich clear his name relative to his termination. Hinojosa denied both requests.
Dr. Wrinkle attempted to appeal to the board at a subsequent board meeting, but the board attorney, who is apparently in charge of who speaks and who doesn’t, denied him the right to speak.
So Greg Leontovich stands cleared of all charges, was granted permission by a previous superintendent to re-apply for employment, but still languishes.
Most school system applications pose the question, “Have you ever been dismissed from another system?” A “Yes” answer to this question invariably ends any consideration of employment.
Leontovich’s name needs to be cleared. Given the system’s other foul-ups, particularly the forced retirement of Kell High School principal Trudie Donovan, the treatment of Tapp Middle School’s Dr. Jerry Dority and Yatta Collins, and Awtrey Middle School’s Jeff Crawford, it’s time for our school system to redeem itself.
Board Chairman Randy Scamihorn has spoken concern and wisdom regarding the matter ever since his election. So have members David Banks and Kathy Angelucci. Let’s hope that this week’s board meeting will yield some justice and common sense, and will set clear and hard fast policy about how innocent educators can have their lives, careers and reputations restored.
Roger Hines of Kennesaw is a retired school teacher and former state legislator.