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Minneapolis schools settle dispute over unlicensed teachers

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT
  • Star Tribune
  • April 10, 2012 - 9:31 PM

The Minneapolis School District has agreed to pay a $30,000 settlement to the former administrator of a program for pregnant teens whom the district blamed for allowing unlicensed teachers to teach.

The school board Tuesday agreed unanimously to the payment to Mary Pat Sigurdson and her lawyers in a settlement in which she agreed to a retroactive resignation.

Sigurdson was administrator of the Teenage Pregnancy and Parenting Program, also known as Broadway High School, when the district launched an investigation 15 months ago into use of non-licensed teachers and inappropriate awarding of credits to students.

The district alleged that Sigurdson and others were responsible, but she contested that finding. According to a district statement, she asserted that the practices had gone on for years at the North Side program and previous Broadway and district administrators had approved of them.

The district fired Sigurdson but she filed a grievance. She also alleged that the district had violated the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. According to district general counsel Steve Liss, an attorney representing Sigurdson threatened to sue the district over the alleged violation.

Sigurdson's resignation is retroactive to April 2011, about when she was terminated. The agreement settles her data practices claim and avoids a potential arbitration, Liss said. Neither Sigurdson nor her lawyer could be reached for comment.

The graduation plans of some students were jeopardized by the discovery that at least two unlicensed teachers, who were later dismissed, were teaching in the Broadway program. However, after attending classes after school and on Saturdays to make up credits, 39 teen mothers graduated last spring. The program now is at Longfellow school in south Minneapolis.

The Star Tribune reported last year that state officials routinely ignored teacher licensing violations. Since 2005, more than 900 teachers violated rules aimed at making sure children get proper educations, including 62 who worked with no license at all, according to the newspaper's analysis of state education records.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

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