Teacher Tries to Take Leave From Work to Serve Prison Time

A city teacher convicted of stealing from elderly women tried to take a leave of absence from work to serve prison time in New Jersey without properly reporting his arrest or conviction to the right authorities, school investigators said Tuesday.

Thomas Everett will not be welcome back to the classroom, school officials said. But Everett, a disbarred lawyer who taught social studies at Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn, said he hopes to teach again someday.

His strange tale was uncovered earlier this year when he submitted a request for an unpaid leave of absence lasting 60 to 90 days. In the late January request, he wrote that he had "problems with the State of New Jersey Judicial System" and "must fulfill an obligation to the State."

That raised a few flags.

The office of the lead schools investigator, Richard Condon, soon learned that Everett had been convicted in Essex County, New Jersey, of misappropriating entrusted funds and theft by deception. The charges stemmed from allegations that he stole more than $1 million (euro780,000) from elderly women who hired him to execute their estates in the 1990s. The investigators' report did not specify the victims' ages but referred to them as elderly and said two had been in nursing homes and had died.

In late January, Everett was sentenced to serve up to three years in prison but apparently anticipated a truncated sentence and submitted the application for the short leave.

The length of time it took to arrest and convict Everett allowed him to slip through the hiring cracks, Condon said.

"We get some strange ones, but this one is a little different," said Condon, who was recommending that the schools not take back Everett, whose leave request was denied.

Dogged by allegations, Everett was disbarred in 2002 and turned to teaching. He told Condon's office that when he applied to the schools he said he was under investigation but was told he had to report only arrests and convictions.

He began teaching in the fall of 2003.

Everett was arrested in May 2005 and pleaded guilty that October. He was imprisoned early this year but was let out under special supervision last month. New Jersey officials allowed Everett to enter the supervision program partly so he could work and repay the families of the victims.

Everett, 59, said he hopes to return to teaching, which earned him $54,823 (euro42,674)a year.

"I miss the students," he said. "I miss the people."

The city Department of Education said in a statement that Everett was a probationary employee and it would pursue ending his services.

His lawyer, Don Belsole, said finding him a job was the top priority.

"The tragedy in this case is that he's a pretty good fella," Belsole said. "I thought he was doing a terrific job teaching, and he loved it. And he brings with him a lot of life experience going through what he went through."