Mar 012011

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Peoria Unified School District Governing Board voted Monday to fire an Ironwood High School teacher after a student drowned during a gym class under the teacher’s watch in May.

The board by a 4-1 vote rejected the recommendation of a board-appointed hearing officer regarding teacher Timothy McKee. The officer had said the Peoria Unified School District lacked the evidence to prove McKee acted unprofessionally or violated school board policies.

McKee will be taken off paid administrative leave and fired, according to the board.

McKee was one of two teachers in charge of 50 Ironwood High School students in the swimming pool during the class.

Jesus “Jesse” Prado, 16, died May 14, two days after he was pulled him from the school pool by a classmate.

Neither teacher noticed Prado slip under the water.

McKee’s attorney maintained the district could have improved the safety of the student by providing lifeguards on duty instead of teachers, who were not certified as lifeguards.

“We continue to grieve and send our deepest condolences to the Prado family for their tragic loss,” the school district said in a statement.

McKee questioned how the board reached its decision.

“They were not at the hearings,” McKee said. “They did not hear all the evidence, so to do what they did, that’s kind of appalling.”

“I know what happened,” McKee said. “The hearing officer listened to both sides of the story. He had all the evidence. He knows what happened. He made his recommendation.”

Board President Kathy Knecht cast the only vote to retain McKee. “I did not feel that the burden of proof was met,” she said.

Board member Diane Douglas voted for McKee’s termination.

“Would I entrust Mr. McKee in the future with my own child? I’ve come to the conclusion that I would not,” she said.

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