State reprimands local school superintendent for altering data

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SUGAR CITY — A state agency has issued a formal reprimand to Sugar-Salem Superintendent Alan Dunn for instructing his staff to falsely report that all of the district’s teachers earned identical scores on their evaluations.

The Professional Standards Commission in September ordered placing a letter of reprimand in Dunn’s permanent certification file, according to public records obtained by Idaho Education News. Dunn did not appeal the PSC’s decision.

The issue arose in August 2015 when Dunn said publicly he altered teacher evaluation data to protect his staff’s privacy. Dunn told Idaho Ed News that he and his staff completed teacher evaluations truthfully and honestly. But Dunn said his district submitted different data to the state, inaccurately reporting identical ratings of proficient.

On July 6, Director of Certification Lisa Colon Durham filed a formal complaint against Dunn based on Idaho EdNews’ reporting. The complaint alleged, “rather than uploading actual evaluation scores for the above school years, Dunn intentionally gave all of his teachers identical evaluation scores.”

In an interview Wednesday, Dunn confirmed he signed the settlement agreement.

“I recognize the link between teacher evaluations and the career ladder,” Dunn said. “If that link is what makes reporting of accurate evaluation scores critical, while I disagree with the fact teacher evaluations should be tied to movement on the pay scale, I believe the Legislature and State Board of Education are working toward the betterment of education in Idaho.”

The letter of reprimand states, in part, “Dunn had previously questioned that the state did not need to know this information about district personnel, so he instructed his staff to upload identical scores.”

The complaint against Dunn is similar to a complaint Colon Durham and the PSC filed against state Rep. Ryan Kerby, the New Plymouth School District’s retired superintendent. Kerby appealed, but a panel of his peers ruled against him earlier this month.

Both PSC complaints were based on Idaho EdNews’ original reporting. The complaints against Dunn and Kerby appear to represent the first times the state has held superintendents accountable for inaccurate teacher evaluations.

Dunn announced last month he is retiring from the Sugar-Salem School District next summer, after 13 years as superintendent.

At the time he submitted inaccurate evaluation data to the state, Dunn was serving as the president of the Idaho School Superintendents Association.

That year, he told Idaho EdNews, “I feel confident most, if not all, of the districts that gave everybody the same evaluation, those scores did not reflect and did not correlate with the actual teacher evaluations they gave.”

That year, 34 school districts and 12 charter schools reported that every single one of their teachers earned identical overall evaluation scores.

This story originally appeared on IdahoEdNews.org. It is posted here with permission.

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