School communications audit begins today

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— The Steamboat Springs School District communications audit begins today when eight focus groups meet with National School Public Relations Association Auditor Karen Klemenz.

Klemenz, who was scheduled to arrive in Steamboat late Monday afternoon and conduct a dinner/interview with two School Board members, will host each of the approximately 16 focus groups scheduled to meet today and Wednesday.

The $10,000 communications audit seeks to identify key issues facing the district and recommend possible solutions for some of them.

The hour-long focus groups will meet at the George Sauer Human Services Center on Seventh Street. Groups were formed to include all district stakeholders, including teachers, support staff, parents, community leaders, non-parent taxpayers and students, among others.

Focus groups will be structured with set questions. However, focus group participants will be able to raise concerns not addressed by the set questions, School Board member Paula Stephenson said.

Bill Newman, recently hired by the School Board to lead a national search to replace resigning Superintendent Cyndy Simms, also was scheduled to arrive in Steamboat Monday.

Newman will sit in on some of the focus groups in an effort to help understand the concerns and desires of district stakeholders. Understanding those issues could help mold a profile of the ideal superintendent.

About four to six weeks after focus group meetings are complete, NSPRA will present a preliminary audit report to the district.

A final report will be issued shortly thereafter, and an NSPRA representative is expected to return to Steamboat to publicly present the report at a School Board meeting sometime this summer.

The communications audit stems from a request for a district survey made by Citizens for Education in response to the conflict that erupted last year between Simms and Strawberry Park Elementary School Principal John DeVincentis.

Simms said the district is excited for the opportunity to resolve some of its outstanding issues.

"The NSPRA audit process has a really good national reputation," Simms said. "They're targeting what the key issues facing our school district -- from all perspectives --are."

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