By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — An arbitrator has set a Sept. 3 deadline for deciding whether former school teacher Daniel Francescone should get his job back.
Francescone, who taught science and history at Whittier Middle School for 13 years, was fired in May 2012 and warned to stay away from all city schools, except the one his children attend. He was fired shortly after a jury found him not guilty of stealing money from student fundraisers and activity accounts.
He appealed the firing to an arbitrator and a hearing on the matter ended earlier this summer.
School officials said they were unable to calculate how much money the city has spent fighting Francescone’s appeal in time for this story, but this week’s School Committee agenda alone included $3,000 in legal bills for the case. The bills, which the committee must approve before they can be paid, are for legal briefs and emails written by lawyers and for school attorneys to attend arbitration meetings.
Around the time Francescone was fired, city officials refused a formal request by The Eagle-Tribune to provide a document that spells out exactly why Francescone was fired.
“Please be advised that the School Department has records which could be responsive to your requests,” Solicitor William Cox said in his response to the newspaper’s May 2012 request. “However, it is our position that said records are exempt from disclosure pursuant to exemptions to the Public Records Law.”
Cox’s response said a letter delivered to Francescone provides “information of a highly personal nature ... related solely to internal personnel rules and practices of the School Department ... disclosure of which may constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
Shortly after Francescone was fired, School Superintendent James Scully told The Eagle-Tribune that he determined Francescone “should have no contact with students after reviewing the facts and the teacher’s demeanor with students.”
Francescone was accused of stealing money from a school dance and lollipop fund-raiser at Whittier Middle School. His trial on the charges ended March 23, 2012, when a six-member Haverhill District Court jury found him not guilty. On his way out of the courtroom, Francescone said he hoped to return to teaching at another school in Haverhill.
The next day, a police officer arrived at Francescone’s home in Haverhill and served him a letter from Scully indicating he was still on administrative leave, that he was to stay away from public school property, and to contact Scully if he had any questions.
A science and history at Whittier since 1999, Francescone also coached school sports, organized school dances and ran the National Honor Society and the school store. He is still involved in Haverhill youth baseball.