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El Molino teacher suspected of testing violations resigns, gets year paid leave

An award-winning El Molino High School biology teacher suspected of giving her students advance copies of questions on a statewide standardized test is receiving full pay and benefits this school year while on administrative leave of absence.

The terms of a financial settlement released by the West Sonoma County High School District show that Joan Vreeburg, a teacher on the Forestville campus for 29 years, agreed to resign effective June 30, 2012 in exchange for a promise by the district to drop all disciplinary action against her. In the meantime she will remain on the payroll.

District officials on Tuesday would not disclose Vreeburg's pay but said the top teacher salary was $72,776, not including health benefits of up to $20,400.

Neither Vreeburg nor Superintendent Keller McDonald responded Tuesday to requests for comment.

The settlement document, which was signed Aug. 30, was provided by McDonald to The Press Democrat following the filing by the newspaper of a California Public Records Act request. Portions of the document, apparently references to disciplinary issues, were blacked out.

Vreeburg, 54, of Santa Rosa, was suspended in May following allegations she provided students with questions for the biology portion of the California Standards Test, given this spring.

The allegations surfaced after a student told Principal Doria Trombetta that she thought about 75 percent of the questions on an April exam were the same questions included on a practice exam, according to an investigative report from the district.

Trombetta interviewed other students in the class, who also said many of the practice questions were identical to the ones on the official test, the report said.

Vreeburg maintained the questions were officially sanctioned review materials but students didn't recognize a list of questions she subsequently produced, the report said.

One student provided a copy of the practice test used in the biology class and a district official determined the questions were on the state exam, the report said.

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