Coolidge: Accused teacher not in database - East Valley Tribune: News

Coolidge: Accused teacher not in database

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Posted: Tuesday, September 29, 2009 5:54 pm | Updated: 1:14 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

A Coolidge Unified School District official said this week it would not have hired former Higley High School teacher Alfonso Padilla had a state database indicated he was under investigation or had been disciplined for alleged inappropriate contact with a student through the use of a computer.

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Coolidge hired about 20 new teachers over the summer to begin work for the 2009-10 school year, and Padilla's name was not in the database of teachers under investigation or who had been disciplined for allegations of wrongdoing, according to Cecilia Johnson, chief administrative officer for Coolidge schools.

School districts are required by law to report allegations of sexual misconduct to the state Board of Education.

Padilla, 36, a computer teacher at Coolidge High School, was arrested Thursday by Maricopa County Sheriff's Office deputies on suspicion of 10 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor after investigators said they discovered more than 50 pornographic images of children younger than 13 on his home computer, according to the sheriff's office.

His ex-wife's divorce attorney provided the computer to authorities, informing them it contained material that might be cause for concern, according to the sheriff's office.

Padilla resigned from Higley High School in May 2008 following a report the district filed to the Arizona State Board of Education on May 13, 2008, according to Sara Bresnahan, spokeswoman for Higley Unified School District. The report alleged that Padilla "allowed students access to unauthorized Web sites (such as MySpace), installed unauthorized software on district computers (such as key logger) and downloaded pornographic Web sites," that were "adult" in nature, according to a Higley school district press release.

A Higley school resource officer was also involved in the investigation of the employee to validate it was adult pornography, Bresnahan said.

"We would not have hired him had it shown that he was under investigation during our hiring process in June," Coolidge's Johnson said. "We're disappointed we weren't able to access detailed information that would've prevented us from hiring this person. It should've been on their (the state's) Web site."

Johnson said the district also conducted a criminal background check on Padilla before he was hired, and he passed it.

Coolidge schools reported Padilla's arrest to the state Board of Education last week, and his name now appears in the database as being under investigation, Johnson said.

Charles Easaw, chief investigator for the state Board of Education's investigative unit, confirmed there is an investigation into Padilla, but would not say if it stemmed from the Higley report or the Coolidge report. Easaw declined to comment when asked if the state had received a report from Higley.

Padilla is on paid administrative leave from Coolidge, pending the outcome of an investigation by the state board and a criminal investigation by county sheriff's deputies, Johnson told the Tribune on Tuesday.

Padilla was employed by the Higley district from 2002 to 2008. He was a long-term substitute before becoming a full-time computer teacher at multiple HUSD schools.

The Higley district governing board approved Padilla's resignation on May 29, 2008.

Padilla worked as a substitute teacher in three different districts during the 2008-09 school year after he resigned from Higley, according to his application to Coolidge, Johnson said.

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