Culinary Arts Teacher at High School Charged With Stealing Kitchen Supplies

By CHRIS BURRELL

High school culinary arts teacher Peter J. Koines was arraigned yesterday in Edgartown District Court on charges that he stole school-owned kitchen supplies and diverted school funds to buy food for his own commercial kitchen.

Mr. Koines, who heads up the culinary program at the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, was arrested Friday by Oak Bluffs police after they searched his home and an outbuilding in Oak Bluffs and found equipment and supplies missing from the high school valued at roughly $11,000.

In addition to his work as a teacher, Mr. Koines also runs his own business selling pies at the Farmer's Market in West Tisbury. Police said Mr. Koines also operates a private catering business.

He pleaded not guilty to three charges of larceny and one count of receiving stolen property. The police investigation is ongoing and could lead to more charges.

School officials notified the police of missing equipment on June 24, according to a statement from Oak Bluffs police.

High school principal Peg Regan has recommended firing Mr. Koines, who is 56 years old and has taught at the school since 1989. But the final decision is expected to come from Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash sometime before the end of the month.

Yesterday, Mr. Cash told the Gazette that he wants to talk to Mr. Koines first. "The matter is being scheduled for a hearing at my level," he said. "The employee has contributed over 15 years of highly valued service to the school and community. We will take all the facts of the situation into consideration."

Neither Mr. Koines nor his defense attorney, Charles Morano, Jr. of Edgartown, could be reached for comment.

Among the items discovered by police Friday were a commercial four-door refrigerator, two commercial mixers, two stainless steel tables, assorted cooking and baking utensils and frozen pie shells and frozen fruit.

"School invoices indicate diversion of food inventory to school use," a police report stated.

Mr. Koines teaches in the vocational side of the regional high school and is in charge of a special revolving account, created to handle the income from sales of pies and other baked goods made by the culinary students, said Mrs. Regan.

Mrs. Regan would not say whether the charges against Mr. Koines will lead to any changes in the way school officials oversee purchasing or keeping track of school-owned equipment in the vocational high school.

"That hasn't been decided. We're taking things step by step," she said.

Police began interviewing teachers and other school staff three weeks ago when administrators reported the equipment missing. "We've been investigating for a while before we went for a search warrant," said Oak Bluffs police Sgt. Timothy Williamson.

By most accounts, Mr. Koines has been a popular teacher in the vocational high school. In 1999, his students won second place honors in a regional cooking contest. He has also led his students on overseas trips to Italy and France to learn more about international cooking.

In 1997, he told a reporter from the student newspaper that his program boasted a strong job placement rate, supplying many of the Island restaurants with the labor force they needed.