Steamboat Springs The disagreement between Strawberry Park Elementary Principal John DeVincentis, the Steamboat Springs School Board and Superintendent Cyndy Simms was at the heart of the school board's discussion Monday night.
DeVincentis was asked by board member Tom Sharp to clarify his intentions for early retirement as well as his relationship with the group "Parents for Dr. D." DeVincentis said he felt it was inappropriate and unfair for the board to ask him to comment without giving him time to prepare a public statement.
He stated in an earlier interview he was seeking early retirement because he felt caught between parents and school administration.
DeVincentis said he is not negotiating a retirement contract with the school board.
DeVincentis said his disagreement with the school board and superintendent stems from concerns parents of students at his school have risen about policy governance and class size.
He said parents became frustrated when the board redirected their concerns about class size because they did not follow the school board's policy governance when trying to reach a resolution. He said it made parents feel as if they were being disregarded and ignored. According to policy, parents need to discuss an issue with their child's principal as an initial step for resolution, then the superintendent, and then the school board if necessary.
School Board Vice President Tami Havener said parents and community members are always welcome to present an issue to the board at every school board meeting during pubic comment time. However, people cannot expect a resolution by approaching the board unless they have gone through the process.
"How do we avoid people getting so high in the emotions?" Simms asked.
Simms said parents are angry because they feel board members and administrators do not respect and consider their concerns.
Administrators and board members discussed the origin of the confusion and hard feelings.
"That's the challenge of the year for our school district," Simms said. She said making parents feel welcome to discuss the issues they have with the board, herself or a principal is something that needs to happen for communication to continually occur and for large-scale conflicts to be avoided.
Parents for Dr. D, the group supporting DeVincentis as principal of Strawberry Park Elementary, has illustrated through its formation the gap in communication between the parent community and the district.
Parents for Dr. D issued a statement that supported DeVincentis for his hard work and dedication to the children of Strawberry Park as well as to address its concerns about DeVincentis resigning or retiring.
"I have a ton of respect for them and I know they want to resolve this in a positive way," DeVincentis said of the group. He said he is not in contact with the group.
To address the concerns the Parents for Dr. D group has, the school board released a statement saying it was willing to hold community forums to solve the issues at hand.
Steamboat Springs High School Principal Dave Schmid said he would discourage the use of community forums but feels a continual communication system between the board and administrative team is necessary.
He said forums would take away from the time administrators should be spending on their school programs.
"Everybody just wants to get back to what we were doing very well," Simms said.
The board will begin meeting with members of Parents for Dr. D starting next week, Simms said.
Soda Creek Elementary Principal Judy Harris said she understands why parents feel "shut out" regarding the class-size issue. She said parents came to her with their concerns and she spent months along with DeVincentis formulating a district-wide class-size proposal. She said she proposed her plan to the education excellence commission early in the spring but was dismayed after the school board passed a 20-to-1 district-wide student-to-teacher class-size ratio soon afterward. The school board's decision was shocking to DeVincentis and Harris because the ratio established was higher than the class-size ratios that had been already established by the administrative team, Harris said.
She said when parents did their part by coming to her with their concerns, and then the end result appeared to be an increase in the class-size ratio, she felt as if it was a "slap in the face."
School board member Pat Gleason said the school board's policy was meant to establish only a maximum class-size ratio, not to override principals' authority to establish their own class-size ratios according to administrative team policies.
Gleason said he would prefer to have the principals making decisions pertinent to their individual schools rather than having the board making the decisions.
Simms said the summer vacation granted to school district staff was part of the reason the class-size issue was left unresolved.
She said the administrative team is working on a class-size proposal to be approved and recommended to the education excellence commission for support. She said the plan includes allowing Strawberry Park Elementary to have three additional teachers' aides to help minimize class size.
Simms said the administrative team is looking at different class-size formulas and how much they cost to implement.