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Smokin' Em Charters fishing tours website
FORT PIERCE — A former Port St. Lucie High School teacher, who claims her second job as a bikini-clad mate for Smokin' Em Charters fishing tours was the reason St. Lucie County School District didn't renew her contract last week, hasn't had a moment to think since the story of her termination broke.
"I've gotten endless calls," the former biology teacher Tiffany Shepherd said.
On Wednesday, Shepherd, 30, conducted a satellite interview for television show "Inside Edition," ABC News, magazines, radio stations and a host of local media outlets.
Shepherd said she is scheduled to appear on radio station the Buzz 103.1 between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. today.
Shepherd worked for four years as a science teacher in the school district before she was told last week that she would not be renewed for next school year.
Working as a bikini-clad mate for the fishing charter, she served drinks and food, and cast fishing lines for guests. Some women go topless on the charters, but that occurs only when the boat is three miles out and in international waters. Shepherd said she doesn't remove her top on the charters.
"I'm not doing anything on this boat that I would not do in the presence of my family," said the single mother of three boys, ages 9, 6, and 2.
The charter service made headlines in early April when Fort Pierce city officials evicted it from the city marina because the company conflicted with the marina's family-friendly atmosphere, officials said.
While Shepherd said it was her moonlighting gig that caused her to lose her teaching post, district officials say it was her "excessive absences."
According to district records, Shepherd had more than 30 unexcused absences this school year and had two reprimands in her personnel file. Teachers, who are classified as 10-month employees, are given 10 sick days a school year and Shepherd used all of her days by Sept. 20, 2007, about one month into the school year, according to district records.
"When you're not at work on a consistent basis the students you teach suffer and so does your job performance," said Susan Ranew, assistant superintendent of human resources for the district.
Shepherd, who is pursing a master's degree in curriculum and instruction with emphasis in the sciences, said she suffers from migraines and was out sick those days or had family emergencies.
Even though Shepherd, whose class is being taught by a substitute teacher, has been fired, she will still receive a paycheck for the remainder of the school year, Ranew said. Also, Ranew said the district didn't know of Shepherd's second job until after she told the media.
"Lots of teachers have second jobs," Ranew said. "It's not that, you just can't be on leave (from the district) and work full time someplace else."
Shepherd said the controversy has been a learning experience and she received several encouraging text messages from her students and their parents.
She had one final message for her students.
"I miss them so much and I will always be there for them. They better do all their work," she said.