EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


August 22, 2013

City's decision to fire teacher upheld

Arbitrator: Termination justified despite not-guilty finding at Francescone's trial

HAVERHILL — An independent arbitrator has upheld the city’s decision to fire former Whittier Middle School teacher Daniel Francescone.

The ruling, which followed closed-door hearings this summer, said Francescone, 43, was fired by Superintendent James Scully for misappropriating school money, lying to school officials, conduct unbecoming a teacher, incompetency and insubordination.

Francescone taught science and history at Whittier Middle School for 13 years, and is a longtime Haverhill youth baseball coach. He was fired in May 2012 after a jury found him not guilty of stealing money from student fundraisers and activity accounts.

School officials and police accused Francescone of stealing money from four school dances, from a lollipop fundraiser for student field trips, and from the school store — all during the 2011 school year.

Asked for comment earlier this week, Francescone’s union lawyer Thomas Guiney said he had not seen the decision. A reporter then emailed Guiney a copy of the decision and again asked for comment on Francescone’s behalf. Guiney did not respond to that email.

City Solicitor William Cox said Francescone can appeal the arbitrator’s decision to Superior Court, but only on a legal issue. The facts found by the arbitrator cannot be appealed, Cox said.

A science teacher at Whittier since 1999, Francescone also coached school sports, organized school dances and ran the National Honor Society and school store.

In denying Francescone’s appeal, Philip Dunn, an arbitrator with the American Arbitration Association, said he found “clear and convincing evidence” that Francescone was responsible for misappropriating school money and committing a variety of “non-criminal misdeeds,” for which the school district was justified in terminating his employment, the decision said.

The decision said the standard of proof applied at Francescone’s trial — proof beyond a reasonable doubt — “is a significantly higher burden of proof than the one which the employer must meet in order to have just cause for termination.”

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