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San Juan Superintendent reprimanded over 'research paper'

San Juan schools
San Juan schools' Superintendent Rick Thompson was reprimanded March 4 for referring to his master's degree research paper, as a 'thesis'
— image credit: File photo

The San Juan Island School Board agreed late last week to reprimand Superintendent Rick Thompson for referring to the research paper which he authored in obtaining a master's degree, as a "thesis."

On the heels of a March 4 executive session, the board voted without dissent to issue a letter of reprimand citing Thompson for "misstating" his qualifications prior to applying for the superintendent post, and to have that letter placed in his personnel file. Thompson referred to the research paper as a thesis as part of an autobiographical introduction circulated within the community and to the local media before he officially applied for the superintendent's job.

The reprimand is the latest flashpoint in an ongoing tug-of-war over the resignation of elementary school principal Gary Pflueger and the willingness of board to accept it.

The letter from the board states, in part: "While we find that you did not misrepresent your paper as a Master's thesis in our application materials for the position of superintendent ... we do find that your use of inaccurate language and mis-statment of that fact in your biographical information has undermined your credibility and caused considerable damage to your professional relations with this board, (district) teachers and staff, and members of the community."

The reprimand follows a determination by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction clearing Thompson of any professional misconduct involving that controversial paper and his application for the superintendent position. The investigative branch of OSPI, the Office of Professional Practices, determined Thompson did not "deliberately misrepresent" his qualifications or breach professional conduct rules as outlined in state law.

The Professional Practices office notified the school board of its determination in a letter dated Feb. 25.

Included in the letter of reprimand, the board directed Thompson to be more thoughtful, intentional, and accurate in word choice in the future, and to seek professional guidance in "addressing this situation and assuring that it is not repeated."

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