Dr. D is formally reviewed

Strawberry Park principal, district superintendent's attorneys go over evaluation

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— Whether Strawberry Park Principal John DeVincentis fulfilled his responsibilities as an administrator was argued between Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Cyndy Simms and DeVincentis' attorneys at Thursday night's school board meeting.

The meeting was a formal review of DeVincentis' performance evaluation.

He received an unsatisfactory evaluation in the spring and was the only principal who received no pay-for-performance increase.

DeVincentis' attorney Janne Siegel argued DeVincentis' performance evaluation did not comply with state statute because it failed to provide data and documentation supporting the evaluation. Simms' attorney, Chris Gdowsky, said there has been longstanding documentation expressing Simms' expectations of DeVincentis.

One of the key points of the evaluation written by Simms said DeVincentis failed to inform parents of the proper process in requesting funding for additional teachers at Strawberry Park Elementary. Siegel said Simms never verified that DeVincentis didn't explain that process to parents.

"Dr. Simms should have stepped in and helped him through that process," Siegel said.

Simms' attorney said DeVincentis should understand policy and properly address concerns parents of his school may have about larger district issues.

"It is about process and procedure and how those were handled," Gdowsky said. "Simms has praised him over and over for being the devil's advocate. In this case, there is a concern that he didn't exercise leadership. At some level it is fair for the superintendent to raise some unsatisfactory evaluations when issues brought up should be handled at the building level."

Siegel said DeVincentis did send Simms e-mails regarding the class-size issue that parents were concerned about but couldn't control the actions of those parents, who were set on addressing the school board about the issue.

Gdowsky said Simms wanted a community-wide assessment of the problem and wanted to address it with the administrative team before developing a solution to the issue.

"In terms of good practice, you've got to let people make subjective judgments," Gdowsky said.

He said according to policy principal limitation 10, DeVincentis is required to inform Simms of concerns parents have. DeVincentis said when concerned parent Jason Throne informed him he was going to the school board to ask for funding for an additional teacher for the third grade, he told Throne to inform Simms and the board of his plans because he figured he couldn't stop Throne from attending the meeting. Siegel said DeVincentis was responding in the best interest of the parents and needed Simms' intervention to resolve a larger issue.

Simms said Throne called her and she explained the correct process for him to take. Throne, however, still approached the board with his request for additional funding for a third-grade teacher. According to policy governance, a concerned parent needs to address his or her concerns with his or her student's principal and then the principal can take the concern to the administrative team for discussion.

Siegel argued Throne's behavior should not be used as evidence for DeVincentis' evaluation or his failure to follow policy.

"It was his responsibility to tell the parents how to handle their requests on how to get another teacher for third grade," Simms said. "I expected John to explain to Jason how the process works and expected him to work with Jason and bring a request to the administrative team."

Simms said DeVincentis should have respected the right for all administrative team members to have equal access to allotted fund board monies.

DeVincentis said he did not have the opportunity to go to the administrative team before the board meeting and did so when he had the opportunity. He also stated other fund requests were made by Simms without the approval of the administrative team.

Finding the concrete evidence that DeVincentis violated policies and whether Simms followed procedure in his evaluation process often came down to the interpretation of policy.

DeVincentis received a "needs improvement" mark for failing to eliminate a committee at his school, a requirement made for all of the district's schools. He also failed to meet at two to three pay-for-performance subcommittee meetings and was criticized for escalating his evaluation into larger issues.

DeVincentis said he didn't attend the last two meetings because he was given a day's notice for the meetings and already had meetings to attend.

Simms also said that she commended DeVincentis for numerous items on his evaluation.

"You're the best-read, most knowledgeable person on the team," Simms said.

School Board President Paul Fisher said the board is only responsible for determining if the procedure required by evaluation was followed. He said the board would consider the findings with the guidance of an independent attorney and release a public statement today.

"This is a district that I have a high regard for," Gdowsky said. "We understand that some folks may not agree the evaluation Cyndy did, but we hope they can understand why she reached those conclusions."

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