A Saskatchewan teacher is facing disciplinary action after allegedly changing students’ final grades, including those of her own daughter.
Kimberley Sautner faces charges of professional misconduct for allegedly using the Wolseley High School’s electronic marking system to change her daughter’s grades and the grades of at least three more students, as well as asking two other teachers to change her daughter’s English grade. Sautner was the school’s principal from 2008 to 2014 before she moved to Alberta.
Sautner sat quietly next to her lawyer at her disciplinary committee hearing Monday while the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation retainer laywer Dennis Fisher presented the facts of his investigation into the allegations. He called seven witnesses to the stand over the course of the first day of the hearing.
The allegations began in January 2015 when teacher Gayle Wheatley testified she received text messages from Sautner, who had already moved to Alberta, asking her to change her daughter’s Grade 12 English final grade and offering to pay Wheatley $500 for her time.
Between February 2014 and 2015, Wheatley was covering a maternity leave for another teacher who Wheatley said also received a text message from Sautner the day before her. The other teacher wasn’t present to testify herself.
The school’s new principal, Crystal Hrbachek, testified she received a text message from Sautner on Jan. 22, 2015, letting her know she had contacted Gayle to change her daughter’s grade and she had cleared the matter with Prairie Valley School Division director of education Ben Grebinski.
“It seemed odd to me that Ben would be a part of this,” Hrbachek said.
Grebinski would later testify that he had not given his permission, and knew nothing about the matter at the time.
Both Grebinski and Hrbachek expressed their puzzlement at changing the grade of a student who had already graduated, was enrolled at a university and was living in Lethbridge. In addition, the final grades had already long been submitted to the Ministry of Education and Wheatley said she would not be able to change them.
“It was odd and a little bit of a stretch in my opinion,” Grebinski said, adding upgrading a mark is typically achieved by repeating the course.
More student marks brought into question
Wheatley said she was then approached by Hrbachek, who asked about Sautner’s daughter’s final English grade.
Hrbachek said before final marks are sent to the ministry, teachers must look over and sign mark verification reports to make sure all the grades are correct. The original verification report with Wheatley’s signature showed the girl’s final mark was 60 per cent, but a later transcript said it was 80 per cent.
Hrbachek said she checked the verification reports for all of the girl’s classes and found discrepancies between her English, Social Studies and Theatre Arts grades on her final transcript. She also noticed oddities between the reports and transcripts of three more students.
Changing marks online
At this point Grebinski said they called in the school division’s IT supervisor Ashton Calder to find out how and when the marks were changed.
Calder explained the different programs teachers and administrators use to look at and enter grades. Teachers use the program Teacher Logic to input grades and comments. Final grades are then uploaded to another application called SIRS to which only the principal, the secretary and SIRS technical staff have access. Both programs also tell when a grade was entered.
Calder testified the girl’s last English grade entered through the Teacher Logic system was 60 per cent on June 19, but her final mark in SIRS was 80 per cent. Using the SIRS daily backups, Calder found that some time on June 26 the grade was changed. On that same day, the girl’s Theatre Arts mark was changed from 81 to 90 per cent.
SIRS logs what time staff members access the program. On the day of the changes, both Sautner and the school’s secretary Marianne Greening had accessed the program. The system’s auditing function was not turned on, so it is impossible to know what each person did while they were logged on.
Greening testified she did not change any marks through SIRS on that day.
Other accusations of professional misconduct
Sautner is also accused of professional misconduct for how grades were given out to other students during her time as principal.
Teacher Meaghan Cross said in the same year, she was listed as the English teacher for a student when she did not teach him. She said her efforts to have her name removed from the boy’s report card did not work, and her notes on the mark verification report were scratched out.
Saunter’s defence lawyer said the student had completed the class the year before, but his mark had erroneously been left out of his previous report card. He said the student’s mark was put on his next report card and Cross was listed as the teacher because the boy’s actual teacher could not be listed.
Cross said she was not told this.
Meanwhile biology teacher Jay Reid said he was also listed as the teacher for a female student who wished to upgrade her biology mark, but said he never saw her in his class.
He said Sautner asked him if he would help the girl, who had failed the course once before in Melville. Reid said he didn’t think the girl could upgrade in his class and needed to retake the class or upgrade what was lacking in Melville. However, when report cards came around, his name was listed as the girl’s teacher and her final grade was 65 per cent.
The defence will present its case Tuesday followed by closing remarks.