- By Sonja Isger Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
When confronted nearly two years ago, high school math teacher Courtney Sheetz told investigators she changed the grades of 100 students to an A in a fit of frustration with an assistant principal who told her “no senior could fail,” according to district documents.
West Boca Raton High’s principal said Sheetz’s students turned her in. She admitted the deed and corrected the grades. And by summer she was gone, resigned without a job offer from the district.
Now the state has meted out its own discipline, suspending Sheetz’s teaching license for a year. Should she decide to return to a Florida classroom, it would be under probation and a $750 fine to be paid in the first year.
Sheetz, 28, declined to comment for this story.
But Principal Craig Sommer said Sheetz’s reaction was based on a misunderstanding.
“The AP stated that a large number of students shouldn’t be failing without academic interventions put in place, and parents contacted,” Sommer said in an email last week.
The class in question was Math for College Readiness, a course some students take after Algebra 2 instead of going to Pre-Calculus. Sheetz taught several periods of that class and one Algebra 1 class – but the Algebra 1 grades were untouched, Sommer said.
The grades were changed for 100 students — essentially all of the students taking that course from her — regardless of their academic average, Sommer said. About 10 students had failing grades at the time.
“On or about March 14, 2016, it was reported that you told every student in your class that they were going to get an A. When questioned by me, you admitted this,” Sommer wrote in a letter informing Sheetz that she was under investigation. In the notice of reprimand that followed, he wrote, “Moreover, you reported that you did not regret your actions. Not regretting your misconduct brings into question your fitness to teach.”
Sheetz’s actions violated both the Palm Beach County School Board’s and the state’s codes of ethics, and violating the codes on purpose was an act of insubordination, Sommer wrote in a reprimand to her that was copied to Florida Department of Education.
Once admonished, Sheetz corrected the gradebooks, Sommer said. “We don’t feel like it negatively or positively affected students.” Nor did it affect the school’s graduation rate, he said.
The Education Department concluded that Sheetz violated its code of conduct and broke rules requiring honesty in all professional dealings. According to the state’s order, Sheetz did not respond to the state’s move to act on her teaching certificate nor did she ask for a hearing.
Meanwhile, Sommer has found the silver lining.
“It’s funny. Students reported this, and that’s the good news. They didn’t feel it was right,” Sommer said. “They want to protect the integrity of the diploma.”