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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on December 17th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 41 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 41

Santa Maria-Bonita board member's teaching credential could be revoked

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing recently upheld a proposed decision made by Administrative Law Judge Mark Harman earlier this year to revoke the teaching credentials of Will Smith, a former Santa Maria-Bonita School District teacher who now sits on its Board of Education.

“The credential is still in place and I can still teach. This is still in litigation and is not final,” Smith wrote in an e-mail to the Sun.

The commission passed the item as part of a consent agenda during its Dec. 12 meeting. Smith has a 30-day window to appeal the decision; until then his credential remains active.

When asked whether he would appeal the decision within the 30-day timeframe, Smith wrote to the Sun, “I gave you what I wanted you to know and that is it. I am surprised you wrote me. I encourage you to print what you know and not what the District tells you. [The Commission on Teacher Credentialing] did not put out much for a reason.”

The commission’s vote comes at the tail end of a saga that started when the executive director of the commission filed an accusation in January 2012 that Smith engaged in immoral and unprofessional conduct while employed by the district as grounds for revoking his teaching credential, according to documents. Smith appealed the decision later that month.

Judge Harman issued the proposed revocation decision in October 2013, after a series of hearings detailing actions that took place between 2004 and 2009. Much of the testimony highlighted in the 24-page document explaining the revocation decision refers to interactions among Smith, parents, students, and the administrative staff of Arellanes and El Camino junior high schools—where Smith taught—and interactions between Smith and school district employees.

The document lists several accusations against Smith, including claims that he made students run as punishment, threatened students with jail time, and spat on students’ lunches. The document also included allegations that Smith had a physical altercation with one student, interfered with a district board meeting, used a district computer during classroom periods for personal things, and ignored suggestions for improvements in his teaching skills and classroom management. 

“Respondent [Smith] engaged in various deceptions and falsehoods that involved moral turpitude. When confronted with evidence of his misconduct … he offered false explanations. He ignored or rebelled against the discipline imposed on him. He was not honest on a number of levels,” Harman’s decision states. “He intentionally pursued a personal agenda through resistance, antagonizing behaviors, and impugning of district administrators. He created a negative learning environment for his colleagues and students.”

District superintendent Phil Alvarado said the revocation of teaching credentials is not a common occurrence, and that it’s been a long process to get to this point. He said he’s grateful the system was given an opportunity to run its course, but he believes that Smith will most likely appeal the decision, just as he has in the past.

Alvarado said he’s eager to shift the focus back to the students. “It’s incumbent that we get back on track and get the kids what they need,” Alvarado said. “I know it sounds political, but that’s the way it has to be.”