Criminal investigation keys in on ND Teacher of the Year

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Students in North Dakota go back to school next week, but at West Fargo High School, the state's 2014 Teacher of the Year won't be among the instructors to greet them.

Forum News Service reports that the instructor, a West Fargo High School English teacher and coach, has been under criminal investigation since Feb. 21. Forum says it obtained the information about the teacher from district memos through an open records request.

The teacher declined comment on the investigation when contacted by Forum last week.

WDAY says no charges have been filed against the teacher – who has taught at West Fargo High School since 2004 – in either North Dakota or Minnesota.

The station says the teacher has been absent from school since Feb. 19, and substitute teachers instructed the class until the end of the school year.

According to Forum, West Fargo Schools Superintendent David Flowers wrote to school board members on Feb. 21 to notify them that an investigator said a teacher was being probed for a possible crime. In a follow-up memo a week later, Flowers wrote the "school district employee under investigation for possible criminal conduct remains on administrative leave" and it appeared the investigation would be concluded within a week.

Flowers told Forum that as of last week, he had not heard of any change in the investigation.

"I keep hearing something may happen soon, but nothing does,” Flowers tells Forum. “This has been going on for six months."

In an interview with WDAY after winning the North Dakota Teacher of the Year honor last September, the teacher said, "Like every one of my colleagues I come in here every day and just do my job and try to make sure that I can teach my students to the best of my ability and give it my best effort every day, nothing I do is unusual compared to what every other teacher does."

The teacher received nothing but high praise in a handful of posts on the online forum Rate My Teachers from 2010-2013. The most recent post, made in October 2013, a user called the instructor the "best teacher I've (ever) had in my life." A 2012 entry said the teacher "really pushes you to do your best."

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