Manatee schools superintendent reprimanded by state

Detailed employee testimonies accuse Superintendent Cynthia Saunders of inflating graduation...
Detailed employee testimonies accuse Superintendent Cynthia Saunders of inflating graduation rates
Published: Mar. 11, 2022 at 2:38 PM EST
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BRADENTON, Fla. (WWSB) - Manatee County Schools Superintendent Cynthia Saunders was formally reprimanded this week for allegedly ordering school district employees to improperly record student withdrawals from 2014-2016, which inflated the county’s high school graduation rate.

The irregularities occurred before Saunders because superintendent, when she was executive director of secondary education.

In a settlement with the state Education Practices Commission, Saunders will pay a $2,000 fine, and must pass two three-credit college courses in education ethics within the next two years.

Saunders will also be put on probation with the commission for two years. Terms of the probation include submitting any performance review she receives, pay administrative fees and she cannot run afoul of any district school board regulations.

As a part of the agreement, Saunders did not admit any wrongdoing but agreed not to contest the ruling.

In a statement provided by the Manatee school district, Saunders said serving Florida school for more than 32 years has been a privilege. “That is why accepting this settlement is bittersweet,” she said.

“One of the lessons I have learned through this experience is that I could have done a better job of implementing changes upon entering a new school district, different from the one I previously served,” Saunders said. “Ultimately, the lessons I have learned taught me a lot about myself and leadership that has served me well in my current position.”

In the letter of reprimand dated March 8, the commission’s presiding officer, Kathy Wilks, wrote, “The Commission cannot condone any act that bears negatively on the profession’s integrity, not can the public who employs us.”

In her statement, Saunders thanked the school board and the community for their support. “Moving forward, I pledge to continue working to overcome the challenges of COVID-19 and to maintain the momentum we have built together in strengthening our school district academically and financially.”

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