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Matanzas Teacher Tells Girl Accusing Him of Sex: “Because I Thought I Cared About You”

| August 20, 2013

Matanzas High School teacher James R. Wolfe's alleged victim, who ran for him on his cross-country team, alleges that one of their encounters took place at the Princess Place Preserve. (© FlaglerLive)

Matanzas High School teacher James R. Wolfe’s alleged victim, who ran for him on his cross-country team, alleges that one of their encounters took place at the Princess Place Preserve. (© FlaglerLive)

“James is proof that certain people were born with the rare talent to teach English,” Kim Pandich wrote of James R. Wolfe, summing up his first year’s evaluation as a teacher at Matanzas High School in 2007-08. He’d been a substitute teacher there for a year before that. “Although still a bit of a rookie, he is competent and professional and is a wonderful addition to our staff. He has the potential to be a truly great teacher of literature.”

In his first four years as a teacher at Matanzas—the four years when his evaluations are available, as Florida law keeps a teacher’s last two years’ evaluations closed to public inspection—Wolfe had bit of a rough time and somewhat uneven evaluations, challenged mostly by demands on his time and classroom management. His 2010 school year was especially difficult and resulted in the poorest evaluation of his tenure. But on the whole he garnered strong and at times exceptional marks from his evaluators, who consistently recommended that his contract be renewed.

There is not a single blemish on his record, based on his personnel file as released by the Flagler County school district.

Until now, and that blemish is not officially part of his record. It is an allegation that shocked his colleagues when the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office publicized it Saturday: Wolfe, 31, was arrested for unlawful sexual activity with a girl who ran for him in the Matanzas cross-country team, which he coached, and who would have been 16 at the time of what she alleges were the initial of “at least” seven instances involving intercourse and oral sex, beginning in August 2010.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you,” Wolfe told his alleged victim when they met on Saturday, according to his arrest report, in what would turn out to be immediately before his arrest. “I know it messed you up.”

They were meeting behind the Red Lobster restaurant in Palm Coast’s Town Center.

The victim, who was wired—the meeting was arranged between the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office and the alleged victim, apparently without Wolfe’s knowledge—asked Wolfe why he had sex with her when she was 16. “Because I thought I cared about you,” Wolfe allegedly responded.

He was then arrested.

James Wolfe

James Wolfe

Wolfe—an imposingly tall man at 6’4’’, handsome, athletic and popular with students—was placed on paid administrative leave before the first day of school Monday, as is customarily the case with any school employee facing a criminal accusation, and not yet afforded his due process. (He could not be reached Tuesday.)

Wolfe is a 2005 graduate of the State University of New York at Brockport, where he earned a BS degree. He planned and supervised youth programs, for children age 12 to 18, as a recreation specialist for the town of Brookhaven, N.Y., for four to five years, according to a 2006 recommendation from Gerald Wiesmann, a former supervisor, who gave him high marks. It was a summer job from 1999 to 2003, when Wolfe was 18 to 22 years old.

He began substitute teaching at Matanzas in 2006 and was hired the following year as a full-time teacher, at a salary of $38,000 a year. That was the year of Pandich’s first evaluation, when Wolfe earned a 32 out of 40 possible points in one set of evaluations, and 29 out of 40 in another, for a “very effective” rating. (“Outstanding” would have required at least 38 points.)

The following year he was “very effective again,” as his evaluator noted: “James is working on developing strategies to more effectively manage the planning and time necessary to both coach two sports and teach 160 students high school English.”

Issues developed over the next two years. “James has the makings of a very good teacher but currently needs to spend more time planning his classes so that the lessons are more engaging and less likely to allow for student disruption,” Pandich wrote in 2009. One evaluation netted Wolfe 20 out of 32 possible points, with specific prescriptions: “Needs improvement.” “Limited planning was evident.”

It got worse the following year—the year of the allegations against him—with his points dipping to 19 out of a possible 32, and resulting in a “needs improvement” plan.

“The engagement level of students during observation ranged from two students displaying retreatism, most showing ritual engagement and some displaying passive compliance.” (The evaluation defines each term, with retreatism meaning a total disengagement from work, passive compliance meaning carrying out the work but with no interest in doing so, and ritual engagement meaning fulfilling minimum tasks to get the job done.) Wolfe issued disciplinary referrals at more than twice the school average.

“Lesson plans incomplete and not up to date,” his evaluation read. “Lack of higher level assessments,” meaning that he didn’t administer enough tests and essays. “Insufficient parent contact resulting in classroom management issues.” The struggles are not unusual for young teachers, and his reappointment was still recommended.

The following year Wolfe had turned it around. “James has improved dramatically and has become a truly competent and engaging English teacher,” Kim Gridley, at the time an assistant principal at Matanzas, wrote. “His classes are well managed and interesting. His work outside the classroom in coaching has been recognized by the media as he was also coach of the year.”

Wolfe’s “summative” evaluation netted him 30 points out of a possible 32, rating “very effective” in six of the eight categories. His “formative” evaluation got him 28 of 32 points for an overall “satisfactory” rating.

Subsequent evaluations are not available.

The file does not include a job application—an unusual omission for a personnel file, though a document indicates that he completed an online application—but includes other standard documents, such as Wolfe’s clearance of a criminal background check, a loyalty oath, his signature on the district’s policies, including ethics, and other such documents.

A Flagler County sheriff’s detective interviewed Wolfe on Aug. 16, when he denied all allegations, according to his arrest report. During the interview, he requested an attorney, which put an end to the questioning.

Later in the evening, a “controlled call,” that is, a call monitored by detectives, took place between Wolfe and his alleged victim, when both agreed to meet to discuss their past relationship, according to the arrest report. The meeting took place on Aug. 17, when Wolfe and his former students allegedly spoke about the previous relationship—and when deputies arrested Wolfe.

Wolfe was briefly jailed over the weekend before posting a $140,000 bond.


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23 Responses for “Matanzas Teacher Tells Girl Accusing Him of Sex: “Because I Thought I Cared About You””

  1. Seriously? says:


  2. Vincent says:

    We seem to have a number of requirements in place with regard to this situation that might preclude someone from getting hired that would potentially harm a student. I am talking about the application, criminal background check, interview process, and the certification process. We know that he was hired so these requirements were met. Mr Wolfe then met other requiremets with regard to evaluations. He in fact even received praise from some of his evaluators. The problem is however that we have a 16 year old girl that was allegedly harmed by Mr Wolfe. I would like to think that we are better than this. We are dealing in an educational environment where the bar should be set high when it comes to the screening process for employment. Does the screening process for employment measure what it supposed to measure. Obviously it does not and therefore lacks validity. Reliability and validity are two entirely different metrics. Now is the time for the Flagler County School District to say we can do better because we are better than this. May the education in those that can effect change force the conscience to reject mediocrity just as your professors rejected in you. Resting on ones laurels did not prove to be successful and we can do better because this is America where your best can be improved upon.

    • Bunnell Resident says:

      The bar was set at $38,000 a year. What a miserable salary. Should they be willing to pay the rightbsalary they will get better teachers. I am somtired of teachers being paid blue collar wages for performing one of the mist important jobs in our society.

    • Nancy N. says:

      If this man had never done this before (or at least never been caught doing it before) what exactly did you expect the district to do in a background check that would have weeded him out? Every offender’s record is clean before he or she gets caught for the first time. Did you expect the district to be able to tell that he was a child molester because he didn’t have the right certification or went to a certain school? Or do you think that you can tell that someone is a child molester just by talking to them for a few minutes? As someone who has unfortunately been forced the past few years to spend a lot of hours in the company of many convicted of sex crimes on underage victims, I can tell you that most of them look and talk just like everyone else. Occasionally you meet one that looks and acts like hollywood casting – creepy and freakish – but mostly they just look like someone’s brother or grandpa that you wouldn’t think twice about upon meeting.

      Bottom line – there is no way to detect a sex offender that has no record. Which is why you have to teach your kids to protect themselves, and be extremely careful who they are with and supervise them.

      And Bunnell Resident – this has nothing to do with the offered salary. There are people making much larger amounts of money who engage in these sorts of vile behaviors. Hello, Jerry Sandusky? Making money doesn’t cure you of being a pervert. Wolfe wouldn’t exactly have turned down the job if it paid better.

  3. Rick Belhumeur says:

    How come I never heard about crap like this when I went to school? Oh yeah, I know why… Teachers were authority figures back then, not friends to students.

    • flagal says:

      Rick, The difference is, probably back when you went to school these things were kept secret, even when they were discovered!!! We’re in an age where this behavior cannot be tolerated and kept secret ANY MORE!

      I remember my female teacher having a ‘secret’ relationship with a boy in my 10th grade class (many years ago). There was no doubt that the other faculty members knew, everyone in school talked about it, but she went on teaching for years. Then there’s the older gentleman teacher, whose wife worked in the school office, that actually sent my friend a note telling her he loved her wearing certain clothing that was sexy and wanted her sitting in the front of his class. She went to an older female faculty member for help and was told to just ignore him. Nothing was ever done. Make no waves, sweep it under the rug.

      There is no harm in a teacher befriending a student and caring about that student, this is actually needed more often in today’s society, a show of caring and concern. It’s just when they take that ‘caring’ to another level that it becomes a problem.

  4. Yellowstone says:

    Wait . . . hold your horses . . . call the lynch mob off (for awhile anyway).

    Disgusting? Yes.

    This now just a disgusting allegation. Innocent until proven guilty – remember?.

  5. Shocked, I tell you... says:

    Shame on you, James Wolfe. You took advantage of this young girl and you knew you were messing her up.

    You put your own needs ahead of the children you were responsible for. Teaching is NOT where you belong.

  6. Muriel says:

    Awe, emotions are like a runaway horse even for a 16 year old. In some States you can marry at 16?
    What I find disgusting is how Pandich and her underling, Pryor, kept passing him evaluation wise. Bottom line, Coaches are giving more freeway despite the classroom workload which only hurts students. Flagler County Schools is all about who you know to remain a teacher and to get what you want.

  7. Nikia says:

    Because I thought I cared about you?! Wtf is that. I hope he pays for this.

  8. anonymous says:

    Case closed. Plea deal and sentence negotiations are the only things left for this case at least.

  9. Shocked, I tell you... says:

    Hope you have the chance to find out about caring relationships in the state prison system. She’s a minor and you knew the law.

  10. YA BISH YA says:

    handsome and popular ? I recall him as a tall weird looking loser who he and a few other teachers thought they were the coolest things. Probably got picked on a lot in school.

  11. Beach Guy says:

    It would have been bad enough had he said “Because I Care About You” but rather…. “Because I Thought I Cared About You.” He wasn’t really sure, which makes this even worse. He’ll have plenty of time to “think” about it now.

  12. Free wolfe says:

    Free coach Wolfe!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Really???? Come on Coach…what were you thinking about or what with??? What gets me also is that even though evaluations were clearly not good several times, he has been allowed to get reappointed when other teachers that are really good are being let go for little or no real reasons…What’s wrong with the system….Politics!!!!

  13. Jailbait says:

    The guy had a thing with one of his pupils and now the girl comes forward about it, this sort of thing goes on all over the place and of course when a Male teacher is involved he is crucified but what about the female? And when there is a declining trend on the guy’s performance report then there is usually a problem or a large distraction so an investigation should have been set in motion irregardless how good he was at literature. Fail on both ends, the evaluators and the rest of the people that knew about this extra curricular activity taking place. Sounds like that runners high got the best of these two individuals.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Could it be he was never properly instructed on teacher etiquette with students and how to avoid becoming over familiar with them? Why didn’t anyone get in his face and tell him to quit trying to be a little bachelor teenybopper playboy -in his mind? Teachers: You are NEVER to be alone with any students of the opposite sex and if you are, it will be reported. Shouldn’t that be policy?

  15. mellissa says:

    For anyone to be sexually interested in a minor is unacceptable and disgusting. Yes, we know that. Obviously he didn’t think about the law and he doesn’t agree with it either. But….. I am willing to guess there’s more to this story, she was 16 at the time. I’m not condoning it and I’m not saying its inexcusable either. But the way the article reads just sounds like there’s a lot more than we know, with her asking him the question why did we have sex then makes it sound like he broke her heart and stuff, not sure.
    But please tell me if that’s not possible or if I’m reading wrong, yes I think he should be punished

  16. dewey says:

    I had coach wolfe as a teacher he seemed to be an alright guy had sum laughs a few beers, who would of thought!

  17. Beach Guy says:

    Melissa,she was wearing a microphone when she asked him that question. It was the bait the authorities needed to make their arrest.

  18. saddened says:

    It is sad to hear such things that go on. Continued reappointment after poor ratings but yet others who are let go after no disciplinary action whatsoever and excellent evaluations. It is a perfect example of why things go awry in Flagler. When teachers are kept on because of their coaching or teams abilities and not their teaching abilities or perfromance.

    It is sad that a young lady was taken advantage of but tell me how she is excused from being a party to this. Why is it now she is finally coming forward to say something and not before? No it doesn’t make it right, what he did was appalling, however she had a role in it too. This young lady WILLINGLY met with him, WILLINGLY went with him to meet up and KNEW that he was her teacher and it was inappropriate just as well as he did.

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