Montessori holds hiring forum

Supporters prepare for fall opening

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— A committee working to establish a Montessori charter school in Steamboat Springs will hold a hiring forum Tuesday. The forum is part of its continuing efforts to open the school this fall, despite the absence of contract negotiations between it and the Steamboat Springs School Board.

The goal of the hiring forum is to inform community members of some of the jobs that will be available at the school, primarily classroom aide and assistant positions, Montessori Steering Committee President Jody Patten said.

The school has placed job advertisements on several Montessori Web sites and in various Montessori publications. A head of school position and two lead elementary school teachers are the most important positions to fill, Patten said.

Thus far, the advertisements have yielded about 20 applicants for the positions, Patten said, including what she called three very strong head-of-school candidates.

However, the school's hiring process is hampered by its uncertain future.

Over objections from the Steamboat school district, the Colorado Board of Education approved the charter on second appeal April 9. However, negotiations between the local School Board and the Montessori school have not yet begun.

Steamboat School Board member Tom Sharp raised the possibility of delaying negotiations and taking the matter to court at the board's April 14 meeting.

One of the problems of the Colorado Charter Schools Act is that it fails to address negotiation deadlines or penalties for districts unwilling to negotiate contracts with state board-approved charter schools, Patten said.

"There's nothing to stop (the board) at this point," she said. "I think we're just counting on them to show the grace and integrity to do what's right for the district."

In the meantime, the charter school's foggy future weighs heavily on the minds of qualified Montessori applicants.

"We can't sign any (employee) contracts until our contract is approved," Patten said. "(An applicant's) first question is always, 'So have you signed a contract yet?' It makes it hard. It's definitely something that weighs on people when I tell them the situation."

The Montessori charter school probably will need five classroom assistants, Patten said. She expects those positions to be filled by community members. The school received grant funding to provide Montessori training to the assistants, although those funds won't be available until a contract between the local board and the Montessori committee is signed.

Despite the obstacles, Patten said she continues to plan for a fall opening.

"I'm positive about our prospects," she said.

The hiring forum will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the First Financial Center.

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