Teacher in alleged murder-for-hire plot suspended - FOX 13 News

Teacher in alleged murder-for-hire plot suspended

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

James Pepe has been suspended without pay by the Hillsborough County School District. The board members voted to suspend him at their meeting on Tuesday.

But reading his personnel file, James Pepe was, by all accounts, a good teacher. He received mostly positive evaluations when it came to how he worked with students.

It was his interactions with adults that had some said were "hostile" and "aggressive."

Pepe was arrested last month for allegedly trying to hire a hitman to kill a former colleague, a teacher.

Hillsborough School Board Chair Candy Olson says they have 20,000 employees. Most of the time they don't get involved when there are differences.

"There are lots of people in our schools. A lot of people don't get along, all the time. That's not generally something we address. Obviously in this case it went way too far," Olson said.

Olson said she does not believe the district dropped the ball in their handling of Pepe and his career. He taught in Hillsborough County for 28 years.

But according to his files, it appears he became more suspicious in recent years, believing everyone "was out to get him".

In 2009, he complained someone was manipulating the temperature in his classroom. He said vents were purposely closed, and it made him sick. He also believed teachers were spreading rumors about him.

Candy Olson says the district needs to take a look at why one teacher moves so frequently from school to school. In Pepe's case, it was seven schools.

"The one thing I would say, we look very closely at how our kids benefit from the teachers. We need to put a little piece in there that says if they move a lot, why is that? Is it because they're needed, and asked to go into this school to help? Or is something else going on," Olson said.

The victim in this case, Bob Meredith, still hasn't returned to the classroom. His attorney says his health has been affected by the stress of a plot to kill him. But he plans to return to school, as early as this week.

His attorney James Guarnieri, says he's reserving judgment for now on how the district handled Pepe over the years until he sees Pepe's entire personnel file.

But believes there were enough red flags to get Pepe out.

"If there's repeated patterns, it seems there may have been indications this individual shouldn't have been working as long as he was," Guarnieri said.

 

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