DeVincentis signs contract

Strawberry Park Elementary School principal agrees to board's conditions

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— Strawberry Park Elementary School Principal John DeVincentis' employment contract was discussed publicly, so it seemed natural for him to sign it publicly.

DeVincentis inked his new contract at Monday night's school board meeting, shortly after the board moved to not renew his current contract in favor of one that mandates mediation between DeVincentis and Superintendent Cyndy Simms.

"I have no concern at all about the contract," DeVincentis said. "I have completely agreed to mediation."

The two administrators butted heads in June when DeVincentis received a poor performance evaluation from Simms. DeVincentis appealed the evaluation to the board, which eventually granted DeVincentis his pay-for-performance bonus but refused to change his evaluation marks.

On Dec. 19, Simms and DeVincentis signed a mediation agreement. Board member Tom Sharp previously said DeVincentis has "waffled" on that agreement.

"I'm not waffling on this mediation," DeVincentis said. "I am trying to follow the policy set up by the school district. I've never been against the board, nor am I now."

Section 4 of DeVincentis' new contract -- "COMMUNICATION WITH SUPERINTENDENT" -- establishes a deadline of Feb. 28, 2003 for mediation between DeVincentis and Simms.

The two must also develop a written plan outlining how they will communicate and maintain a professional relationship throughout the remainder of DeVincentis' employment with the district.

Failure to obey these contractual obligations "shall constitute unsatisfactory performance, insubordination, neglect of duty, and good and just cause for dismissal under the Colorado Teacher Employment, Compensation, and Dismissal Act of 1990," according to the contract.

DeVincentis signed two copies of the contract a short time after it was presented.

Board member Pat Gleason thanked DeVincentis for his willingness to adopt the new contract.

"I'm extremely pleased with the direction this is heading," Gleason said. "I really think Dr. D. has been an asset to this district."

The contracts of DeVincentis, Simms and high school assistant principal Mike Knezevich were up for renewal at the meeting. Simms' and Knezevich's contracts were renewed with minimal changes.

Audit problems

BONDI & Co., the Denver-based auditing firm hired by the school district for its annual financial audit, discussed the circumstances surrounding the qualified audit at the board meeting.

BONDI & Co. "couldn't audit the books because we didn't have enough information (from the North Routt Community Charter School)," said Kim Higgins, one of the firm's partners.

It's fairly common for new charter schools to have problems with audits, Higgins said.

"It takes a while to get the financial aspects of the school up and running," she said.

Because the district is "financially sound," it should not be affected by the qualified audit, Higgins said.

Charter school director Mary Bramer said miscommunication among the auditors, the school district and the charter school led to the qualified audit.

Bramer and the school board agreed it's time to look forward, not backward.

"It doesn't do any purpose in fixing blame on anybody," Bramer said.

The charter school plans to hire an independent auditor for this year's audit, Bramer said. That audit will be given to finance director Dale Mellor to be included with the district's own audit.

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