PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — A Palm Beach County teacher resigned one day before he was set to be fired after police said he stole $60 from a student because he needed gas money.
Superintendent Mike Burke had recommended that Matthew Csoka, 51, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor petit theft in July, be terminated.
The Palm Beach County School Board was set to vote on Csoka's firing at its meeting on Wednesday. However, the school district's public records department confirmed to WPTV that Csoka's resignation was processed on Tuesday.
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The investigation started on Oct. 31, 2022, when a school district police officer received a report that Csoka, a crisis intervention teacher at William T. Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, had stolen money from a student's book bag inside the boys' locker room while the student was in gym class.
According to an incident report from the district’s police department, a student noticed money missing from his book bag on three separate occasions.
To catch the thief in the act, police said the student secretly recorded Csoka on Oct. 27, 2022, opening the boy's book bag and unzipping several pockets.
The student then showed the video to a sports coach, who in turn set up his own camera and recorded Csoka entering the locked boys' locker room and "going through multiple bookbags on multiple occasions on various days," the incident report stated.
School police investigators met with Csoka on Nov. 1 and showed him the video, after which he admitted to stealing $60 from the student, adding that he had been going through students’ bags "for a long time."
According to the incident report, Csoka said "he is aware that this searching is against school policy, and that taking the money was wrong." He explained that "he did not have gas one day and left his wallet at home, and that he was ashamed to ask administration for money."
As part of Csoka's guilty plea, he was sentenced to six months probation, 15 hours of community service, and was required to take a theft abatement course.
Documents show the school district's Office of Professional Standards conducted its own investigation and found Csoka violated several policies including misuse of authority and theft of funds from a student, failure to exercise best professional judgment, and failure to follow policy/rule/procedure/directives.
At a June 29 meeting between Csoka and the school district’s human resources department, the teacher said he "wanted to move forward and get some closure" and he was trying to get back to work, adding that it was "going to be by the book when he goes back," investigative documents showed.
The School District of Palm Beach County said that, until Csoka's resignation on Tuesday, he had been suspended and not teaching because of the crime.
Csoka was hired by the district in February 2008 and had been a crisis intervention teacher at Dwyer High School since July 2022.
WPTV contacted Csoka's attorney for a comment on the case but has not yet received a response.