Before Kenneth Mathis launched his candidacy for the Pasco County School Board, he was under investigation into whether he had a sexual relationship with a student while serving as the band director at Land O’ Lakes High School.
A review of Mathis’ personnel file reveals he was being investigated in 2015 after a new teacher hired by the district told officials she had had an inappropriate relationship with Mathis. Amarilys Barbosa was a member of the high school band from 2003-2007, the same period Mathis served as band director.
Mathis and Barbosa later had a child together, but Mathis told investigators the relationship between the two never turned physical until years after she graduated.
[Ed. Note: Florida Politics is naming Barbosa because she is no longer a minor.]
Mathis told investigators the relationship between the two never turned physical until years after she graduated.
However, uncovered messages exchanged by the two reference an intimate relationship dating back potentially to her time in high school.
On Dec. 6, 2012, the two discussed a maturation of their current relationship in a lengthy online conversation, which included one revealing exchange:
Barbosa: “I think we needed the four years apart to get us where we are now … I just didn’t feel this way the first time around.”
Mathis: “Was I your sex toy?”
Barbosa: “Sometimes I felt that way”
The investigation never determined conclusively the relationship turned inappropriate while Barbosa was in Mathis’ band program, but investigators spoke to the band’s Color Guard sponsor at the time, Andrea Szarowicz, who said she confronted Mathis during Barbosa’s sophomore year.
Szarowicz noted to investigators that Mathis “almost daily” took Barbosa home alone after football games and practices, despite his insistence he had never spent time alone with any student. The Color Guard sponsor also noted the student had baby-sat for Mathis and his then-wife, Christina “Chrissy” Mathis.
Mathis held the high school band director job, professed early in work documents as a career ambition, through the 2006-07 school year.
Then in August 2007, he began teaching music at Pasco Middle School.
During the 2012 electronic exchange between Mathis and Barbosa, he indicates being unhappy with his marriage and discusses a potential divorce. Kenneth and Chrissy divorced in July 2014, according to Pasco County Court records.
The two also discuss potential professional complications in a relationship.
Barbosa: “Teacher-student accusations.”
Mathis: “Not at this point … we haven’t been around each other … especially that know (sic) else knows about.”
Szarowicz noted Barbosa, a top musician in the band, was part of leadership as early as her sophomore year, and she stressed to investigators that was because of musical talent, not any type of favoritism. The leadership position meant she often had to stay after most students had left practices.
Mathis said in interviews with investigators that his relationship was always an appropriate teacher-student connection while Barbosa was in the band. A friendship started years later, when she was a senior in college. He did acknowledge to investigators the relationship evolved from friendship to something intimate.
Pasco County court records show Barbosa and Mathis had a romantic relationship that lasted at least until January 2015, when Barbosa and Mathis had a child together six months after Mathis’ divorce finalized. A court in 2016 determined Mathis was the biological father and ordered he pay thousands in back child support.
Hernando court records show the two reached a custody agreement with their child.
But investigators expressed great concern for several reasons, including the fact he had reached out to Szarowicz, having a 30-minute conversation about the investigation with her when he was supposed to be supervising students in class. He also admitted to talking with other potential witnesses during the course of the investigation.
In January 2016, Employee Relations Supervisor Kathy Scalise notified Mathis that a report would be filed with the Department of Education’s Office of Professional Practices and that his actions could threaten his education certification.
Mathis two years later resigned his teaching position at Pasco Middle School “due to personal reasons.” He gave one day’s notice. A few weeks later, he filed for School Board against incumbent Allen Altman.
The potential relationship certainly proved the most scandalous piece of information in Mathis’ personnel file with the Pasco County School District, where he served in various capacities for more than 20 years.
Through the early part of his career, he generally received high marks during employee evaluations and progressed up the teaching ranks.
But in later years, students and parents started to complain about loud outbursts and confrontations.
In November 2015, a student reported Mathis shouted at him while he was cleaning a trumpet, and the music teacher eventually took the instrument apart and threw it in the water.
Then, in May 2016, he got in trouble for multiple instances, including spreading a false rumor at Pasco Middle School that Pasco High School had gone on lockdown after heroin was found on campus; it turned out a drug search yielded a marijuana arrest instead.
He also got suspended without pay for three days after officials found out he had been using the school gym during work hours and had left campus while school was in session on multiple occasions.
Around that time, he also had problems in his personal life. He and girlfriend Darinda Dimick, another teacher on campus, had been living together but an altercation at their house resulted in both filing injunctions against one another. Mathis accused Dimick of violence against him and his ex-wife. Dimick countered that Mathis had cursed at her son and had routine outbursts.
“I believe his aggression and acts of threatening behavior are induced by his steroid abuse,” Dimick alleged.
Dimick’s name also shows up in Mathis’ file when he gets accused of one time asking Dimick to cover his class and her own in the band room.
At one point, Mathis sent a letter to school officials suggesting the trouble with his relationships contributed to his problems at work.
“There have been several false accusations made toward me by the other party that have been deemed unfounded, but still cause stress and tension for my family,” he wrote. “This has turned into a non-positive custody battle that the other party chose to bring to my place of employment.”
It’s unclear whether he’s talking about Dimick or Barbosa at that point.
Regardless, his problems just may now interfere with his political ambitions as well.
Mathis faces incumbent Allen Altman and challenger Brian Staver in the District 1 race