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CUYAHOGA FALLS -- An art teacher at Falls High is on unpaid leave after the city school district found out she was missing school because she was in jail.
"Currently [Kerry L. Conti] is on an unpaid leave of absence," said Ellen McClure, the district's director of human resources. "And then we are in consultation with our counsel as far as our steps."
The unpaid leave of absence for Conti began on April 4, McClure added, "per our teachers' contract." According to McClure, the agreement between the Board of Education and the teachers' union calls for the leave of absence to be unpaid "because of the legal proceedings [Conti] is involved in."
McClure said the action to place Conti on unpaid leave was taken by the payroll department.
Conti's personnel file at the district office contained two copies of a letter signed by district superintendent Dr. Todd Nichols dated April 5 that was sent registered mail to her home and to the Oriana Glenwood Jail that stated the district learned she was in jail and she never "directly contacted the school district administration with regard to [her] absence."
According to Nichols' letter, Conti called off on April 3 through AESOP, the district's online absence reporting system, classifying her request as one for "sick leave." The letter goes on to say, "court documents suggest you were ordered to appear in [Stow] Municipal Court on said day this appears to be a falsification of sick leave."
The letter also says there are no provisions for leave due to incarceration in Conti's teacher's contract, and there has been no further documentation of absence or leave requested, as of April 5. "Therefore, you are subject to deduction of pay for the duration of absence without approved leave," stated Nichols' letter.
District administration is going to schedule a hearing with the Cuyahoga Falls Education Association, the teachers' union, to "discuss discipline up to and inclusive of termination," stated Nichols' letter.
Conti's attorney, Donald Malarcik, did not return a call seeking comment by press time. When reached via email, CFEA president Melody Carlisle declined to offer a comment.
On March 29, the court remanded Conti to Cuyahoga Falls Jail for six days after it found her "guilty of violating the terms and conditions of community control."
A court record states Conti tested "positive for alcohol and [admitted] to use of alcohol." A prohibition from consuming alcohol is a standard condition of community control, according to a court official.
Conti had been placed on community control for 18 months after pleading guilty to physical control last November. She was also sentenced to 180 days in Akron's IBH Addiction Recovery Center; fined $400; had her driver's license suspended for six months; given limited driving privileges and ordered to have an ignition interlock device or a SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor) bracelet. This plea and sentence was in connection with Conti being arrested outside a Cuyahoga Falls tavern on May 11, 2016, and charged with physical control and third refusal (of a breathalyzer), both first-degree misdemeanors.
She had a SCRAM bracelet before the court granted her March 10 request to remove it, according to a court official.
When Conti appeared in court on April 3, she was sentenced to Oriana Glenwood Jail for 47 days and was scheduled to go into Oriana's multiple offenders program on April 20 to spend 30 days there. She was also placed into more intensive substance abuse treatment (IOP) and placed on SCRAM upon her release from jail and will remain on that program until the community control officer determines she has made enough progress, according to a court official.
Conti is scheduled to return to court on May 22.
At the time of her arrest in May 2016, Conti was relieved of her duties as a teacher and placed on paid leave on May 20 after her May 11 arrest outside of Burntwood Tavern in Cuyahoga Falls. According to district superintendent Dr. Todd Nichols, after an internal investigation revealed nothing to prevent her from returning to work, Nichols reinstated Conti and she returned to work in September having missed about 15 days.