End the circus


It's time for the circus to leave town. The conflict between Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Cyndy Simms and Strawberry Park Elementary School Principal John DeVincentis has long since boiled over the bounds of professionalism -- as evidenced by the behavior at Monday night's school board meeting -- and the community's patience is wearing thin.

Simms and DeVincentis are both excellent administrators, but at the very least, the volatility of their relationship prevents them from working effectively together on issues related to Strawberry Park Elementary.

More than likely, it prevents either from dedicating full attention to the students and teachers who depend on them. It creates an unhealthy, divisive environment for the staff, administrators and parents caught in the crossfire.

It has to end.

School board members' efforts at diplomacy have been admirable, but if their latest effort -- mediation -- does not work, they need to get off the fence and take definitive action to end the conflict.

Of course, we said that in November.

Before a hearing in which we had hoped the school board would take control of the situation, we said the dispute had gone on long enough. However, despite that hearing, and despite subsequent good-faith proclamations by both Simms and DeVincentis to work together, the situation has only gotten worse.

Now, the two have agreed to try mediation, and a date has been set for Feb. 28.

Ideally, this mediation will work and the school district will be able to refocus its full attention on the business of educating children.

Ideally, the district will have the help -- the cooperative help -- of two brilliant administrators to do that.

But given the past, we doubt mediation will work.

If these two intelligent, professional problem-solvers haven't been able to resolve their differences already, trying to bridge the gap in a single-day session with a mediator doesn't seem likely to fix the problem.

And if mediation does not work, the school board must take whatever action necessary to end this dispute permanently.

He-said, she-said battles may happen on the children's playground and in the classroom, but they shouldn't be imitated ad nauseum in the offices and boardrooms of the adults charged with running the school district.

As good as Cyndy Simms and John DeVincentis are at their respective jobs, no one is irreplacable. Both should remember that, as should the Steamboat Springs School Board.

The school board has mandated -- under penalty of dismissal -- that the two develop a written plan outlining how they will communicate and maintain a professional relationship. The board must be ready to carry through on that threat if this last attempt at diplomacy does not work.

Losing either, or both, of these administrators would be a tremendous loss to the district.

But keeping them, if that means allowing this situation to continue or worsen, could be even more costly.


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