Steamboat Springs Popular Strawberry Park Principal John DeVincentis is negotiating with the Steamboat Springs School Board for early retirement, saying he has not seen eye to eye with Superintendent Cyndy Simms and the school board for some time.
Simms would not discuss the issue, saying she considered it a personnel matter. The school board issued a release stating the board does not want DeVincentis, who is in his 19th year as Strawberry Park's principal, to retire.
DeVincentis met with the board in a closed session last week. He said the source of the conflict is that he no longer feels he has the power to seek the best education for his students.
"If a principal feels like he is in the middle," he said, "it is time to get out."
A group of Strawberry Park parents formed a political action committee, "Parents for Dr. D.," in an effort to show support for DeVincentis. Members of the group would not discuss their goals or their membership. It is not clear how many members the group has. The group held a meeting Thursday, but the meeting was not open to the public or the media.
The group did issue an anonymous release.
"It is the committee's understanding that by Jan. 1, 2003, Dr. D will either resign under duress or his contract will not be renewed as a result of conflicts with the current administration and board of education," the release stated. "Our belief is that Dr. DeVincentis is truly dedicated to the children of our school district. Dr. D has the full respect and support of the majority of teachers and parents in the Steamboat Springs community."
DeVincentis said despite his school's success he said it ranks among the top 4.6 percent in the state in terms of performance he feels he has been treated unfairly by the district's administration.
He said he received a negative personnel evaluation for his performance last year and was the only principal who did not receive a pay-for-performance bonus. He said his salary was frozen at about $75,000.
Simms, who performed DeVincentis' evaluation, said it would not be appropriate for her to discuss the evaluation for legal and ethical reasons.
DeVincentis said his disagreement with the school board and superintendent stems from concerns about class size and the school board's policy governance system.
Under policy governance, there is a specific chain of command for residents to follow in bringing issues to the board, Board President Paul Fisher said. Parents should first broach issues with the school principal and then the superintendent before bringing the issue to the board's attention.
DeVincentis said some of his parents feel board members have used policy governance to avoid responding to their concerns.
DeVincentis said he supported Strawberry Park parents who were concerned about class size at his school and sought funding first from the Educational Excellence Commission and later the Education Fund Board for an additional teacher. The Educational Excellence Commission is a subcommittee of the Education Fund Board, which oversees half-cent sales tax funding.
In June, the school board set an average student-to-teacher ratio of 20-to-1 for all schools within the district. Overall, Strawberry Park's class sizes meet those ratios.
No funding for an additional teacher was ever granted.
DeVincentis believes he was penalized on his performance evaluation for supporting his parents in the class-size dispute. DeVincentis, who carries his personnel evaluation with him, said he received an unsatisfactory for not informing Simms that parents were going to approach the Educational Excellence Commission and then the school board about class sizes.
DeVincentis said he was unaware the parents were going to approach either group.
According to district policy, a principal is required to inform a superintendent of staff and external points of view, so the superintendent can make fully informed choices.
Fisher said he thinks a lot of the Strawberry Park parents' concerns can be cleared with discussion about the function of the school board and other administrative policies.
Fisher said the board is willing to hold public forums to resolve the issues.
He said he is unsure of the number of community members who are upset by policy governance or other district issues but said the board is open minded to changes if a large number of parents are not content with the function of the board.