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Manatee School Board Takes Time To Consider Saunders

Dec 12, 2018

Manatee County still doesn't have a permanent school superintendent. 

Just days before the Manatee County School Board was going to offer the position to the interim superintendent Cynthia Saunders, the state education commissioner filed an administrative complaint against her.

It alleges that Saunders inflated graduation rates in the years between 2014 and 2016, the attorney for the school district called the complaint baseless.

Ryan McKinnon covers education for the Sarasota Herald Tribune.  He says the timing of all this is causing a lot of buzz, because the related allegations have been known about for years.

“It goes back to 2014, McKinnon said. "And so I think there's immediate suspicion on the part of the school board members as to, ‘Okay this is something that happened in 2014 the investigation started a couple of years ago, why is this all dropping now?’”

That is why McKinnon thinks board members didn't reject Saunders outright. However, one board member urged caution.

“Charlie Kennedy, one of the school board members, he said we need to treat her like any other employee and if there was an employee under investigation by the state with possible sanctions as extreme as losing their license we wouldn't give that employee a big promotion. So that's why they kind of put the brakes on it a little bit,” McKinnon said.

McKinnon said Saunders has been a problem solver for the district, cleaning up messes she inherited, such as a computer debacle. 

The school board will reconsider the question of whether to hire Saunders permanently in January. In the meantime, Saunders will have the opportunity to respond to the allegations herself.