On April 23, 2011, months before she was hired as assistant principal at the Mavericks High charter school in Palm Springs, Tisa Brandon was videotaped hanging out with teenagers at Denny's in the wee hours of a Saturday morning.
At the time, Brandon was dean of Liberty High School in Kissimmee. Three students spotted her in a booth at Denny's around 1:30 a.m., sitting with a former student who had recently withdrawn from Liberty because he was about to be expelled. According to statements the witnesses gave the Osceola County school district, Brandon and the ex-student were kissing.
"She was kissing him and had her arms around him," one 12th-grader wrote in a statement to the school district investigator. "When she saw me... she tried to keep us from seeing her."
One of the witnesses pulled out a cell-phone camera and tried to capture the moment. "They were kissing in the booth before we videotaped, and as we videotaped, they did a pop kiss," the student told the investigator.
Afterward, one of the witnesses alleged other kids threatened him to delete the video, because Brandon would get in trouble.
Brandon denied kissing the boy, but she admitted sitting with him and his friends. When school-district officials reviewed the video, they didn't see a kiss either. They just saw a high school dean hanging out with students at a Denny's, at an hour when nothing good can happen.
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Stuart Singer, Osceola's chief human resources officer, chastised Brandon in a letter. "However it came about that you were in the company of the former student... it is the opinion of the Osceola School District that such decision, under all such circumstances, was inconsistent with good professional judgment."
However, Singer said Brandon did not violate the district's code of ethics, so she was not punished. "There is no substantial evidence that you either kissed [the student] or directed a student to threaten another student to delete a video made a Denny's," he wrote.
Mavericks High School in Palm Springs is part of a chain of charter schools run by the for-profit company Mavericks in Education Florida. When the school opened last August, it promised to serve 500 students who were at risk of dropping out. Brandon was hired as assistant principal.
Neither Brandon, Mavericks High Principal Thomas Lockett, nor Mavericks in Education Florida manager Lauren Hollander have returned calls seeking comment.