By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — A middle school teacher who was fired last year after he was found not guilty of stealing money from students is fighting for his job back.
Dan 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 shortly after he was found not guilty by a jury of stealing money from student fundraisers and activity accounts.
He appealed his termination to an arbitrator and a hearing was held last week in City Hall, City Solicitor William Cox said. The hearing was continued and is expected to conclude May 16, Cox said.
Around the time Francescone was fired, city officials refused a formal request from 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,” Cox said in his response to the newspaper’s May 2012 request for the letter. “However, it is our position that said records are exempt from disclosure pursuant to exemptions to the Public Records Law.”
Cox’s response said the letter delivered to Francescone provides “information of a highly personal nature, are 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, Haverhill School Superintendent James Scully told The Eagle-Tribune that he determined that Francescone “should have no contact with students after reviewing the facts and the teacher’s demeanor with students.”
Francescone’s union lawyer Tom Guiney did not return an e-mail from The Eagle-Tribune yesterday seeking his comment for this story.
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 him 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.