UNION CITY -- A third-grade teacher who faces dozens of child molestation charges for allegedly kissing and fondling female students has been placed on unpaid leave.
Michael Howey, 47, who teaches at Alvarado Elementary School, was arrested May 1 in connection with the allegations and has been held on $750,000 bail at the Santa Rita Jail since his arrest. The move to freeze his pay came Tuesday night during a unanimous vote by New Haven Unified School District board members, said Derek McNamara, the chief personnel officer for the district.
The 5-0 vote came during a closed session of the board's monthly meeting.
Howey had been on paid administrative leave since the allegations were reported on April 12, but the board decided to make the move after learning he'd been formally charged, McNamara said. He was arraigned this week on 17 counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 and 23 counts of annoying and molesting a child.
Police say Howey made sure he had extracurricular activities for girls -- specifically arts and crafts -- during recess for a choice group of students who made his "cutiest (sic) girl list."
Court documents show he sent the other girls and the boys to the playground and after isolating his nine select female students -- whom he told he was "rewarding" for being good students -- he would give the girls long hugs, rub their bellies and kiss them on the mouth.
The behavior went on until April 12, when police say another teacher reported seeing him kiss one of the students during recess. She alerted the school principal, who interviewed his students and then alerted police.
Howey has worked for the district for 14 years; he was hired in 1997 but had taken a couple of years off, school officials said. He has taught at Alvarado Elementary, Cabello Elementary and Cesar Chavez Middle School. School officials said Howey had no disciplinary incidents on his record.
Howey, who police say has no criminal history, is due back in court June 5 to enter a plea in his case. His lawyer also plans to ask the judge to reduce his bail, records show.
Contact Natalie Neysa Alund at 510-293-2469. Follow her at Twitter.com/nataliealund.