03/07/2011: "SJI School Board Censures Superintendent"
(Chair Boyd Pratt reads letter as Board members [left] & Superintend Thompson in background listen )
(UPDATED 03-08-11) - The Office of Professional Practices (OPP) has reviewed complaints filed by the public against Superintend Rick Thompson ( Related Story), as well as a “self-report” he filed, and concluded his action “was not a deliberate misrepresentation of material facts, and does not constitute an act of unprofessional conduct as specifically outlined in WAC 181-87-5”.
The OPP found no legal problem with the fact that Thompson had repeatedly responded to questions about his “master’s thesis” as if he had in fact authored one. When requested to produce a copy of it, he had refused, and only after it became clear a complaint was to be filed with the State after the public became aware the thesis did not exist, did he “self report” that he had not written a thesis, but rather a proposal for a research project. Copy of OPP
Letter .pdf (248\k file)
On Friday (03-04-11) the San Juan Island School Board (Board) decided for it's part, it was not willing to simply walk away from the issue without some formal action against Thompson.
The Board took action after coming out of an executive session called to “review the performance of a public employee.” After the Board resumed the open session, newly elected Board Chair Boyd Pratt informed the public in attendance that while the OPP found no fault with Thompson’s actions, “The Board considered those charges, in separate light, and in relation to that [OPP] letter itself; and I would like to bring forward an actual response to that [letter[ for Board consideration, an actual letter of reprimand to Rick Thompson.”
Pratt then read a prepared Letter pdf (288\k file) addressed to Thompson, which in part stated: “This letter is in regard to your misstatement of your qualifications…Specifically that your research paper on the efficacy of principals was a master’s thesis.”
Pratt said that while Thompson had not claimed in his application that he had produced a master’s thesis, the Board did find that Thompson’s “use of inaccurate language and misstatements of that fact in your biographical information has undermined your credibility and caused considerable damage to your professional relationship with the Board, the San Juan Island School Distinct teachers and staff, and members of the community. Therefore, we hereby reprimand you, and direct you to be more thoughtful, intentional and accurate in your choice in the future. We expect you to comply with this directive, and note that a violation will result in further disciplinary action, up to and including possible termination of your employment.”
The letter also expressed a concern that Thompson needed to receive assistance, stating “we also direct you to seek professional guidance in addressing the situation and ensuring that it is not repeated.”
Pratt said the letter -and any response from Thompson- would be placed in his personnel file. After some limited discussion Boyd moved to adopt the letter, and the motion passed with all in favor.
Following the approval of the motion there was some additional discussion, statements made and questions asked by those in attendance, and for awhile Thompson responded, but eventually both Thompson and board member Brent Snow said enough was enough. Pratt concurred and adjourned the meeting.
What, if any, impact the Board censure of Thompson will have on the call for the Board members to step down is unclear, but at this time the re-call process is still in process, with no indications from either side if the petition for recall will continue, and if so, will the Board continue to go to court to fight it, or will the two sides now be able to resolve the relevant issues outside of the court room.
Based on the form of notice and the procedures followed in the conduct of the last executive session by the Board, it is clear that at the very least the Board has become cognizant of the need to carefully follow the rules and procedures for conducing executive sessions.
For both Thompson and the Board it has been, as teachers like to say: “A learning experience.”