Simms leaving district

Superintendent accepts top post in Mercer Island, Wash.

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— Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Cyndy Simms announced her resignation Wednesday morning. She has agreed to become the superintendent of the Mercer Island, Wash., school district.

Mercer Island is a wealthy, upper-class area located just minutes from Seattle. With almost 4,200 students, the Mercer Island School District is approximately twice the size of the Steamboat Springs School District.

"I love Steamboat Springs and will cherish my memories forever, but it's time for a new adventure," Simms said. "I'm leaving the school district in great hands. Our schools are outstanding, our staff is excellent and our students are the best. Steamboat's community support of its schools is the envy of every school district in Colorado."

Mercer Island resembles Steamboat in many ways, including challenges facing its school district, Simms said.

"It's a tight-knit community, a lot like Steamboat Springs," she said. "It's a beautiful place."

Simms has been at the forefront of district change and reform over the past nine years. She helped form the 10 + 2 Committee that analyzed why the community voted against a high school bond issue in the mid-1990s, she witnessed the major expansion of the high school and has been at the forefront of pay for performance and the Knowledge and Skills-Based Pay program still in the works.

Unfinished business within the district was a major obstacle in her decision to accept the Mercer Island position, but she said she left district issues in good hands.

Simms has also been subject to local controversy, including the recent public feud between her and Strawberry Park Elementary Principal John DeVincentis.

Simms and DeVincentis recently attended mediation in a board-mandated attempt to resolve their problems, and the results have been positive, Simms said.

"We both think the mediation was very successful," she said. "We've honestly and genuinely put that piece behind us. We've known each other a very long time and actually have high regard for each other. I think it's unfortunate we had that little blip in time because we had a long, positive history."

But when it comes to being a superintendent, controversy is difficult to avoid, Simms said.

"I think anytime a superintendent does their job, there will be some people who don't like the decisions the superintendent makes. That's just part of the job," she said. "There will be issues wherever you are. So recognizing that, pick the place you want to live and confront those issues."

Many people within the school district were surprised by Simms' decision, but most agreed it was a wonderful opportunity.

"I was so surprised I didn't know what to say," DeVincentis said. "We reflected on the mediation and our past. I think (Mercer Island) is going to be very satisfied. She's done a lot in the district. I don't think they're going to find anyone more dedicated and willing to put the time in."

"I was definitely caught by surprise, but I'm happy for her," Steamboat Springs Education Association President Mike Smith said. "I'm kind of sad at the same time. It's going to be a big change for the district. I think it's a good move, but it's definitely going to affect a lot of things we have going on right now. I just hope we find someone as forward-looking as Cyndy."

School Board President Paul Fisher credited Simms with much of the positive reform the district has undergone.

"She's been the focus behind a tremendous amount of progressive change and reform in the district," Fisher said. "Her energies and knowledge and talent are just immense. I think the district and the community owe just a tremendous amount to Cyndy."

Fisher was also surprised by the decision.

"I didn't know it was coming," he said. "Do I wish she wouldn't take it? Yeah, but it's a great opportunity for her."

"We're all sad to see her go, for the district and the kids, as well as me personally," board Vice President Tami Havener said. "Cyndy's been such a great leader. We're also very excited for her."

Simms was recruited for the Mercer Island position, Havener said.

"She wasn't actively looking, it just kind of happened," she said. "I think it's an amazing opportunity for her."

Simms and her daughter, Cami, will move to Mercer Island. Simms' husband will remain in Steamboat. Cami Simms is excited for the move, her mother said.

"She's pretty excited, but a little sad," Simms said. "I told her we'd have a guest room for friends to visit."

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