More bribes alleged
Published 4:40 pm Monday, April 10, 2006
By By JANET LITTLE COOPER – Special to The Standard
A former Earnest Ward Middle School teacher turned herself in Thursday on charges she took bribes from students in exchange for grades.
The physical education teacher turned herself in at the Escambia County (Fla.) Jail Thursday afternoon after a warrant was issued for her arrest.
Tamara B. Tootle, 39, of 9801 Loquat Drive in West Pensacola, Fla., is charged with six counts of felony bribery following allegations she accepted money from students in exchange for a 100 percent daily grade, according to Escambia County Sheriff's Office investigators. She is the second teacher from that school to have been charged with the allegations.
According to the sheriff's office, investigators questioned some of Tootle's former students at Ernest Ward, which across the state line from Atmore, and students who had moved on to Northview High School in Florida.
Tootle, a University of West Florida graduate, taught the girls P.E. from August 2004 through May 2005. She was not rehired due to teacher cuts last year that resulted in a reduction of staff for the middle school, according to school board officials.
Allegations against Tootle came to light during the sheriff's investigation of physical education teacher Terrence Braxton, 28, of Atmore, who was the first Ernest Ward teacher accused of charging students for not participating in gym class.
Braxton, a University of Alabama graduate, was in his second year at Ernest Ward when allegations of bribery surfaced, prompting an investigation that began in December 2005. Braxton resigned from his position on Jan. 13, before being terminated by the school district. He turned himself in to deputies on Feb. 16 and was charged with six counts of felony bribery. He is scheduled to appear in court on May 3.
Ernest Ward Principal Nancy Gindl-Perry was not aware of the incidents involving Tootle until the Braxton investigation was complete.
According to Gindl-Perry, teachers are required to complete an activity form, calendar form and money collected form that has to be signed by the teacher, bookkeeper and the principal when they collect any money. A money conciliation form also requires the principal's signature.
Tootle never completed such forms for a P.E. fund or equipment, according to Gindl-Perry. Tootle faces six counts of bribery, a third-degree felony, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in state prison.
She was contacted Friday but declined to comment on the allegations.