Zeeland pays teacher to leave

ZEELAND, Mich. - A separation agreement will cost Zeeland Public Schools nearly $80,000 to avoid a tenure hearing over a teacher the district wanted to fire, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

The district reached an agreement with Timothy S. Oonk that will pay him more than $59,000 in salary through December and more than $19,000 in health insurance benefits through May 2009, both dating back to March, The Press reported.

Oonk was put on paid leave after a report based on a police investigation recommended he be fired. The report said Oonk "was not competent to function as a teacher" because of his relationship and treatment of female students, The Press reported.

"No matter how strong a tenure case is, it's in the best interest of the district to settle before it goes to a hearing,"

Craig Mutch, Zeeland's attorney, told The Press. "The law requires the district to continue paying the teacher until there's a decision, and there's never any certainty of outcome if you go through the whole process."

Fil Iorio, hired by the Michigan Education Association school employees union to represent Oonk, said Oonk "denies in full that anything inappropriate happened," according to The Press.

The separation agreement does not prohibit Oonk from teaching again.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Zeeland, fired choir teacher reach deal to avert tenure hearing," Aug. 26, 2008

Michigan Education Digest, "Saginaw pays to get rid of teacher," Aug. 26, 2008