Dr. DeVincentis gets pay raise

Performance evaluation marks not changed

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— The Steamboat Springs School Board ruled Friday that Strawberry Park Principal John DeVincentis should receive a salary increase and pay-for-performance bonus but that the unsatisfactory scores he received on his evaluation should not change.

The board also made it clear that both DeVincentis and Superintendent Cyndy Simms should be retained.

The board issued its findings in a 12-page executive statement released Friday afternoon. The statement followed a public hearing Thursday night in which DeVincentis appealed his most recent evaluation by Simms.

DeVincentis said he was pleased with the process the board used. He said he feels some vindication in the board's findings, though he withheld comment on the board's decision not to change the scores on his evaluation.

"I feel good about it," DeVincentis said. "I'm glad I got a chance to talk to the board, and I felt like the board thought about the issues honestly and thoroughly.

"I feel like this is a new beginning."

Simms said she appreciated the board "taking the lead and working to address the issues."

The board supported the marks Simms gave DeVincentis in his evaluation, including three "unsatisfactory" scores.

"With respect to the checkmarks, we hold that Dr. D did not overcome the presumption favoring Dr. Simms' choice of placement," the board wrote. "The superintendent is entitled, and required by law and policy, to choose where she places her checkmarks, including the 'unsatisfactory' column, so long as those choices are made in the process of an evaluation whose procedures meet statutes and policy."

The board did rule that three comments Simms made in DeVincentis' evaluation should be eliminated.

Two of the comments make reference to DeVincentis' advice to third- and fourth-grade parents on how to obtain additional teachers at Strawberry Park Elementary. Simms criticized how DeVincentis handled the parents, but the board ruled there was no documentation to support Simms' criticisms.

The third comment eliminated was a salary withholding order.

Last May, the school board voted to award DeVincentis a 4.5 percent pay increase, raising his salary to $78,375. But after evaluating DeVincentis in June, Simms withheld the increase, a standard procedure for teachers who receive unsatisfactory marks on their evaluations.

But the board ruled DeVincentis' contract prevents the district from withholding a salary increase that the board has already approved.

"In the future, we direct Dr. Simms to present to the board her recommendations regarding salary increases for administrators after she has completed evaluations of the administrators," the board wrote.

The board agreed with Simms that pay-for-performance bonuses can be withheld for employees who receive unsatisfactory evaluations. But board Treasurer Tom Sharp said it was unclear to DeVincentis that the pay-for-performance award could be denied based on his evaluation.

As a result, the board ruled DeVincentis should be exempt from the policy for the 2001-02 school year. In the future, DeVincentis will be subject to the policy.

Sharp said the board has directed Simms to award DeVincentis a pay-for-performance bonus under the assumption that DeVincentis received a "satisfactory" evaluation. He said Simms will determine the amount of the pay-for-performance award.

Jim Swiggart, the chairman of Parents for Dr. D, said the group had mixed feelings about the board's findings. Parents for Dr. D formed two months ago to support DeVincentis after the dispute between the popular principal and Simms emerged.

"The Parents for Dr. D became involved in this issue because we felt that John's evaluation was unfair and unsubstantiated," Swiggart said. "Having heard the arguments that John and his attorney presented to the board at Thursday's hearing, we continue to be convinced that the majority of the nine negative marks on his evaluation were unsubstantiated. We are disappointed that the board, having heard the same arguments we heard, disagreed.

"However, we are pleased that the board's interpretation of the issues allowed it to compensate this award-winning principal with his pay increase and pay-for-performance bonus. We are ready to moved forward in helping the district heal and discuss the many issues it has on the table."

The board concluded its statement by reiterating that Simms and DeVincentis are assets to the district.

"The turmoil in this district arising from this personnel dispute between Dr. D and Dr. Simms has overwhelmed three basic truths," the board said. "First, Dr. Simms is a capable and competent superintendent and it would be a significant loss to this district if she were to leave. Second, Dr. DeVincentis is a capable and competent principal and it would be a significant loss to this district if he were to leave.

"And lastly, the board is the supervisor of Dr. Simms, and Dr. Simms is the supervisor of Dr. D, and this district, by its policies, relies on the effective implementation and accountability of that chain of command."

The board also said it expected DeVincentis and the other principals in the district to support board policies and follow Simms' directions.

"It is the responsibility of the principal to follow the board's policies and the directives of the superintendent, regardless of whether or not the principal thinks those policies or directives are wise and regardless of whether or not the principal likes or respects the superintendent or members of the Board of Education," the board wrote.

School Board President Paul Fisher said the board's hope is that all parties involved are able to accept the board's findings and move forward.

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