With a little over two weeks to go before school starts, Washburn High School is again without a permanent principal.
Patrick Exner, who was to have been Washburn’s principal this fall, was placed on leave an anonymous tipster sent detailed allegations to state regulators claiming Exner had falsified student test data this spring at Ubah Medical Academy in Hopkins. Exner was the charter high school’s assistant director. The Star Tribune originally reported the story.
While Exner is on leave, former interim principal Craig Vana will "temporarily provide support" to Assistant Principals Linda Conley and Nilo Guanzon. Vana served as interim principal after former principal Carol Markham-Cousins was forced out last year.
"As with any allegation, we should not necessarily assume that it is true. MPS will do its due diligence to investigate this matter and, until this process concludes, Mr. Exner will be on administrative leave," a statement from the Minneapolis Public Schools read. "It is our intention to resolve this matter as quickly as possible and continue with our focus on providing a strong start to the school year."
When Exner was hired, Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson praised gains in reading and math test score gains at Ubah, and credited Exner with making those gains.
"During his tenure, Mr. Exner increased math and reading proficiency and reduced student discipline reports. Enrollment at Ubah also increased 25 percent under Mr. Exner’s leadership," Johnson wrote in a letter to district staff announcing Exner's appointment.
Ubah Medical Academy did not return Patch’s call seeking comment.
Few details have emerged from the case. According to Minnesota Department of Education spokesperson Josh Collins, Ubah Medical Academy notified the department that it was invalidating three sets of scores from the 2013 state GRAD test, which students must take in order to graduate high school. Ubah personnel said test proctoring procedures not properly followed, and that the “testing environment not secure.”
“They weren’t any more specific with us than that,” Collins said, explaining that discipline for such incidents is handled at the school level.
The Star Tribune reported that Exner was temporarily suspended around the same time Ubah notified MDE it had invalidated the test scores. The paper did not explicitly link the two events, however.