COOLIDGE — Following the arrests of two former teachers that left the fire science position vacant for the remainder of the school year, CAVIT’s search for a new instructor has come to a close.

During the June 5 meeting of the Governing Board held at Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology’s main campus, board members unanimously approved the hiring of a new teacher to fill the position for the 2019-20 school year, with members Marty Baca and Mary Duarte absent.

The vocational school district elected to hire Robert DiPietro, a former fire instructor for the Pima County Joint Technical Education District.

According to the most recent copy of his resume available on the networking website LinkedIn, DiPietro spent 27 years at the New Britain Fire Department in Connecticut — working his way up from private to deputy chief in September 2005.

He retired from the department as the deputy chief of training in 2007. He then went on to become a battalion chief and shift commander of the Northwest Fire District in Tucson.

While employed with the district, he also took on the role of chief fire instructor at the Pima JTED, creating a fire service program designed for high school juniors and seniors. According to DiPietro’s resume, the program enabled students to earn up to 18.5 community college credits and provided them the opportunity to earn their Firefighter I and II certifications through the Arizona Center for Fire Service Excellence.

Beginning in the upcoming school year, DiPietro will be the new fire science instructor at CAVIT, replacing former instructor Brian Sharp, who was terminated midway through the previous school year following his arrest.

Sharp was arrested in October on charges of sexual misconduct with a minor after police reportedly caught him engaging in sexual activity with an underage girl within a parked vehicle in Coolidge’s Martin Valley neighborhood.

His subsequent termination left the program without an instructor and led the school district to partner with neighboring fire departments to teach and train students for the remainder of the school year.

A month later, Sharp’s predecessor at the vocational school district — Andrew Hensley — was arrested on similar charges after police received reports that he had engaged in sexual intercourse with a minor on four different occasions.

Months prior to his arrest, Hensley was fired from his position as the CAVIT fire instructor following a public dispute with district administration. Leading up to his termination, CAVIT students expressed concern about whether the fire program would continue — arguing that school administration was attempting to phase the program out.

In light of the consecutive arrests, the district defended its safety protocol and reassured parents that all candidates undergo “rigorous background checks.”

Board members also approved hiring Emery Hudson as the new law enforcement teacher for the 2019-20 school year. Hudson will be replacing former instructor Devon McLaws, who resigned at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

Board member Alma Farrell, who joined the meeting by telephone, praised the efforts of Superintendent Mike Glover in finding both candidates.

“It looks like these guys (DiPietro and Hudson) have really good qualities and I was really excited reading the information that they furnished us,” she said.

CAVIT’s upcoming school year begins in July.

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