Letters to the editor for Oct. 20, 2002


Simms Handles Herself Professionally
The challenges in today's public school environment are profound arguably, more profound than at any other era in our country's history. Just a few elements of this challenge include stressed funding, a public outcry for teachers' and administrators' accountability and fiscal responsibility, overcrowded classrooms and two-income households an unfortunate reality which can lead to less time afforded children by their hardworking parents.
In a way, it's understandable that the current controversy around the Steamboat Springs School District and John DeVincentis has surfaced in this stressed environment. It is not, however, understandable for us to observe a professional school administrator resolve disputes in the public in a less-than-professional manner. It strikes me that a less-than-desirable performance review was delivered to John and now he has chosen an inappropriate public forum with which to voice his disappointment and disagreement of same. Furthermore, his attempt to rationalize his actions as being a function of his passion for a lower student-to-teacher ratio, well as my grandfather used to say, that dog don't hunt.
When I read of the review, I understood immediately the background and its legitimacy. In fact, it was the culture at Strawberry Park Elementary that prompted my wife and I to consider homeschooling for our sons. I want to point out that there were many other compelling reasons why we remain on this path of which the most salient was a genuine caring and concern for our children. Moreover, it is important to note that there are certainly good teachers and well-meaning people at Strawberry Park Elementary.
Our transition from Strawberry Park Elementary to homeschooling included a meeting with John and Dr. Cyndy Simms. At that meeting, I saw a negative man, who seemingly cared less about our children and our input on the culture at his school and more about the loss of funding to his school, which accompanies a student choosing to school at home.
On the other hand, I saw Dr. Simms caring genuinely about our children, their well-being, their education, our thoughts and concerns. To this date she has been supportive and constantly asks how she and the school system can help us in our efforts. I believe that those are the true signs of a caring, compassionate, professional educator. In my opinion, we are extremely fortunate to have Dr. Simms at the helm of the RE-2 School District.
As we struggle to find positive outcomes of the current volatile situation and as caring parents are almost compelled to choose sides, maybe the children will ultimately benefit by way of the creation of even more active-in-education parents and a broader understanding of the challenges of today's public education system.
It is a shame, however, to see fine people such as Dr. Simms, who continue to take the high road and handle themselves in a truly professional manner, suffer along the way. Dr. Simms thank you for your long-standing and genuine commitment to our kids and thank you for handling yourself in an exemplary manner through this difficult situation.
Andy Wirth
Steamboat Springs

Ref. B aids hospitals
On election day, voters statewide will have the opportunity to support a ballot measure placed on the ballot by the state Legislature that will allow publicly owned health and hospital organizations more flexibility in bringing needed health-care services to their communities. Currently, a 100-year-old constitutional restriction prevents government entities from entering into certain business arrangements with private companies or individuals. As a private nonprofit organization, the initiative will not have an impact on Yampa Valley Medical Center, but many rural hospitals in Colorado are public and are restricted by this amendment.
Even though it will not impact Yampa Valley Medical Center, it is an initiative that impacts the state Constitution, and you will have a voice in rural health-care issues statewide. I ask that you vote YES on Referendum B and grant this flexibility to other hospitals in the state. The Board of Trustees at Yampa Valley Medical Center has also adopted a resolution in support of Referendum B.
By removing the current restriction, public hospitals will be able to partner with others to provide services that might not otherwise be available. This could include physician services, diagnostic and treatment services or other health-related services residents currently have to travel out of their communities to receive.
Almost 75 percent of rural acute-care hospitals are governmental. Often, in rural areas, the economics of health care do not make private investment alone attractive enough for development of needed health-care services and the limited resources of local governments are not sufficient either. Under current restrictions, governmental hospitals do not have the option to consider working with private sources to meet community needs. Public funds remain under the authority of local elected leaders. There is no mandate that public funds be spent on any one project. But it can bring needed services to a community without requiring taxpayer funding for the full cost.
Your YES vote on Referendum B is a vote to support health care in rural Colorado.
Karl B. Gills
Yampa Valley Medical Center CEO

Where credit is due
I am a teacher at Strawberry Park Elementary School and am writing in response to recent letters in the paper regarding Dr. D and the current issues within our school and district.
To the person who, in Sunday's Sound Off, wrote that Dr. D is "using his parents and teachers for personal gain," you've got it all wrong. Dr. D doesn't need to his performance speaks for itself.
Dr. D is an incredible leader. His first priority is providing our children the best education possible. He consistently recognizes the hard work of his staff and encourages and supports us in any way he can. He is an advocate for teachers (not just Strawberry Park teachers), and he asks important questions in order to better our schools and district.
Even though it is not required, Dr. D puts out an extensive evaluation (76 questions plus three open-ended questions) every year so the staff can evaluate his performance. He then shares the results and comments with all staff, and he always makes changes where necessary.
In my experience at Strawberry Park, Dr. D has received excellent performance ratings by the staff, but we don't have the power or privilege of awarding him the "pay for performance" bonus he rightly deserves. Our current system of policy governance empowers only the superintendent to evaluate the principal and then to award or not award a bonus. Despite Strawberry Park's high-ranking CSAP results, Dr. D was not awarded a bonus.
I don't want to point my finger at the members of the Board of Education, as they volunteer a lot of time for the district, but I do want to clarify a few things. Paul Fisher, president of the Board of Education, has mistakenly given credit where it is not due and not recognized those who deserve it.
He credits the superintendent and the Board of Ed. for "acquiring and maintaining excellent teachers." I don't know many teachers who came here because the superintendent or the board sought them out. For me, it was the quality of education, the involvement of parents, and largely, the obvious integrity of my principal, that brought me here.
Ultimately, it was Dr. D and a committee of teachers and parents who hired me, not the superintendent or the Board of Ed.
Paul Fisher has written, and also been quoted in the newspaper, stating that "policy governance is clearly the enabling model that allows our staff to produce results."
Not only does that fail to give credit where it is due, but it is an insult. Our students' successes and our schools' excellence have little, if anything, to do with policy governance.
Does he mean to tell us that our high CSAP scores are a result of some bureaucratic hierarchy? Rather, it is the dedication of our teachers, the involvement of parents, the hard work of students and the support and leadership of our principal that "produces" these results. I suggest that members of the Board of Education get into the schools so that they may have a better picture of what really enables our staff and students to be successful. It is important to truly connect with that which you are trying to govern.
In last Sunday's paper, someone wrote, "There is no doubt that Strawberry Park Principal John DeVincentis has been good for his school. But has he been good for his district?" Is this person unsure of the fact that a Colorado School of Excellence is good for a district?
It is the schools that make up a district. A district is not successful without successful schools. Our community should be extremely proud of what our schools are accomplishing. It is obvious some changes need to take place in this district, but the role of John DeVincentis is definitely not one of them.
Tracey Tyson
Steamboat Springs

A better way?
Having read the 16-page water consolidation proposal several times, it seems to me there must be a simpler way to consolidate the water and sewer providers than by an amendment to our home-rule charter.
I found that over the past few years, at least three other water districts East Steamboat, Riverside and Fish Creek have dissolved and now have water and sewer service provided by the city.
Why can't Mount Werner Water District do the same?
I feel that in the interest of fairness, all water users in the city should pay the same monthly fee in their category and that all board members should live in the city.
If you, as an informed voter, agree with any of the above statements, then remember to vote "no" on Referendum 2C.
Barbara De Vries
Steamboat Springs

A serious issue
Question 2C may well be the most important issue we will vote on for a long time. An amendment to the city charter is very serious and will affect us all in the years to come.
Consolidation of the Mount Werner Water District and the city water system is way past due and should be done, but not the way the proposed amendment is written.
I have read the amendment and offer kudos to anyone else who has, especially if you can stay awake. It is written in such obscure legalese it's hard to figure out.
There are several points that concern me:
1. The water board will be appointed (not voted on by us) and will have autonomous authority, not answering to anyone. Even though the people on the water board supposedly are appointed for certain length of terms, they virtually have a position with no term limits. Those on the Mount Werner Water District board have been on for many years.
2. Why has the City Council appointed three members to the water board even before the election?
3. Water rates are supposed to be equalized it will never happen because Section 13 of the amendment prevents equalization. Mount Werner has a flat rate, and the city's rate changes with usage. The city rates are at best double the district's. But the Sheraton Golf Course is allowed 62 million gallons of water for $4,000. Is this equal?
4. Every other amendment on the ballot has a description attached to it. 2C has only "yes" or "no."
I am in favor of consolidating the two water districts, but not the way this amendment is written. We need a better plan. I will vote NO on 2C.
Betty Leipold
Steamboat Springs

More research
I don't remember the details, but many years ago the residents of Steamboat Springs were told that instead of raising property taxes to finance city services, the sales tax would be raised. Now there is a proposal to impose a Fire Safety Tax with a 5 mill levy that would increase a $300,000 home by $137 per year. I would guess the average home in Steamboat is well over $300,000.
The city's only legal obligation is to supply fire service to the community. I was wondering if any research has been done of privatization of the Ambulance Service. It seems that with the lopsided numbers of calls between the Ambulance Service and Fire Service (01-09 2001, ambulance: 738, fire: 452; 01-09 2002, ambulance: 765, fire: 348) that a private company may be interested in serving Steamboat Springs. It may be worth researching to see the financial saving to the city and its residents.
If this tax proposal were to pass, what effect would it have on real estate prices and the ongoing concerns about low-income housing? Is there a guarantee that this money would be earmarked specifically for ambulance and fire service? Would the city sales tax decrease? I know you could easily be blindsided by this year's unusual events, but the community needs to consider the long-term consequences of this tax.
Gary Gray
Steamboat Springs


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