DEFIANCE - A former longtime elementary school teacher who stole more than $11,000 his students raised by selling candy and other items to pay for their week at camp learned yesterday he will lose his teaching license and spend three years on probation.
Dean T. Peverly, 50, of Hicksville, Ohio, who put the money toward his own high credit card debt, was told by Defiance County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Schmenk he would go to prison for a year if he violates the terms of his community control.
But the judge said he reluctantly went along with the prosecutor's recommendation that Peverly not be jailed, "though you might well deserve it."
Peverly, who was paid almost $48,000 a year by the Hicksville Exempted Village School District, had $25,000 in credit card debt and children in college, he told sheriff's investigators last fall in explaining why he stole from the school's outdoor education fund that he administered.
As part of his probation, Peverly is not to hold a position of trust for any school or charity.
"I don't think in light of this anyone would offer you such a position," Judge Schmenk told him. "But I don't want you in such a position even if you could convince someone you should be there."
Some school officials told authorities they thought Peverly took significantly more than $11,000, but recordkeeping was too poor to prove a larger amount.
Peverly, who paid back $11,000 in January when he pleaded guilty to theft, told Defiance County sheriff's investigators in November that he took only about $3,000 from the money his pupils raised.
"I knew it was wrong, but I was gonna put it, was planning on putting it back," he told investigators last fall.
At that time Peverly offered to investigators and school leaders that he would pay back $500 a month if he could stay on at Hicksville, where he taught for 27 years. He later resigned and withdrew money from his teachers retirement - at a penalty - to return the $11,000, his attorney, Jay Feldstein, said.
Mr. Feldstein told Judge Schmenk that Peverly's financial problems snowballed about five years ago when his wife, whose salary was similar to his, was off work because of illness for about six months.
The judge pointed out that Peverly had not mentioned that to investigators earlier. And he told Peverly that he had hurt the ability of area schools and organizations to raise money because such a theft creates "an atmosphere of suspicion and cynicism."
Peverly, who apologized repeatedly in court yesterday, had been in charge of helping sixth graders raise money for their outdoor-education classes at Camp Palmer in western Fulton County since the late 1990s. Costs for the program ranged from $8,000 to $13,000 a year, and pupils sold candy, pickles, chicken, and discount cards to help raise the money.
The law would have allowed Judge Schmenk to sentence Peverly to up to a year in prison and a $2,500 fine. And prosecutors could have charged Peverly with a more serious crime that would have carried the possibility of a harsher sentence, but they agreed to a plea agreement to the one charge which included restitution.
Judge Schmenk said he found some merit in prosecutors' reasoning that Peverly's ruined career and disgrace was a significant punishment in itself.