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Teacher in Chandler sex case hired because of error

PHOENIX — A clerical error prevented Chandler’s El Dorado High School from knowing that one of its teachers was under investigation by the state in connection with a 2006 incident involving a student.

Arizona State Board of Education Executive Director Vince Yanez said the board will now review every file to make sure information about the estimated 400 cases under investigation is entered correctly.

Tamara Hofmann, 48, was able to get a teaching job at the public charter school even though the state board was investigating her involvement with a former Marco de Niza High School student. The student, Sixto Balbuena, now 20, is facing a second-degree murder charge in the April 10 stabbing death of another of Hofmann’s students at El Dorado, 18-year-old Samuel Valdivia.

Balbuena was serving in the Navy in California and drove to Arizona to see Hofmann, who was his girlfriend, according to police reports. After arriving at her home, no one answered the door so he went inside and found Hofmann naked in the bathroom with Valdivia, who was in his underwear.

Hofmann’s personnel file at El Dorado was obtained by The Arizona Republic. It notes two instances in which her teaching-certification record was reviewed using a secure database provided by the Arizona Department of Education.

The school reviewed the record in August. The file did not indicate Hofmann was under investigation in a 2006 incident in which Chandler police say they discovered the teacher and Balbuena together in a car. Both denied a sexual relationship, although officers said they found the teacher’s bra in Balbuena’s pocket.

Hofmann was formally reprimanded and moved from her math-teaching position at Marcos de Niza to the Tempe Union High School District office.

She resigned in May 2007 and took a job at El Dorado.

Chandler police closed the case, but notified Marcos de Niza High of the incident.

The state board did record the investigation internally, but it wasn’t made available on the Web site, which districts use to check teachers’ certificate status, Yanez said.

“Obviously it should have been done immediately,” Yanez said. “The only reason it wouldn’t be is some sort of clerical error.”

Yanez did verify the records now show Hofmann is being investigated by the state.

El Dorado reviewed Hofmann’s record in 2008 as part of an audit, according to the school’s attorney, Ernest Calderon.

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