Steamboat Springs Donna Howell, an Austin, Texas-based regional vice president for the private Edison Schools company, will be the next Steamboat Springs School District superintendent.
The Steamboat Springs School Board will hold a special meeting at 4 p.m. today to officially hire her. School Board Vice President Tami Havener said that Howell and the board finalized and signed a contract Thursday.
The new superintendent's first day on the job will be Aug. 8, Havener said.
"We're absolutely thrilled that we were able to get our first choice," Havener said. "In terms of the things the Steamboat Springs School District is on the leading edge of, she's had a lot of experience."
Howell is well-versed in policy governance and "360 evaluations," Havener said. The 360 evaluation method, in which all of the people who surround an employee -- those who supervise the employee, those who are supervised by the employee, the employee's peers and those the employee interacts with regularly -- are involved in that person's job evaluation.
The method was implemented by the Steamboat Springs School District last year, Havener said, and has only been used to evaluate superintendent Cyndy Simms, but the district hopes to expand its use and expects Howell's expertise to help them do so.
"I was very impressed with some of the cutting-edge things (the Steamboat School District) is doing," Howell said, citing the district's standards-based instruction and effort to implement a Knowledge and Skills-Based Pay program.
Howell, 59, has been with Edison Schools for two years, serving as a type of regional superintendent overseeing Texas schools one year and Texas, Kansas and Missouri schools the next, she said. Edison Schools is a private company that partners with school districts and charter boards to operate public schools with the goal of improving academic performance.
Howell's experience with non-traditional education was attractive to the School Board, Havener said.
"If you come into an Edison School, it doesn't look that much different than a regular school except for the organizational structure and very tight, research-based instruction," Howell said.
Before her involvement with Edison, she served for seven years as superintendent of the Burlington, Vt., School District, Havener said.
"With people there, a common point of reference was, 'When Donna was here ...' and how great things were," Havener said. "She has been a teacher, a superintendent in two other states, a gifted education director. She is very strong in curriculum, she was a director of finance, she has been published -- she just comes with a very broad background."
Her resume also includes time spent as a teacher, principal and another superintendency in the Parks Forest, Ill., school district.
"I'm really interested in getting back into a superintendency in one district, particularly one with the sense of community that Steamboat Springs has," Howell said.
Howell's references also credited her with having a very open, communicative leadership style, which the School Board thought would work well in Steamboat Springs, Havener said.
"I really feel the skills I bring, strong leadership and communication skills, will help the district move to the next level collaboratively with the community," Howell said.
In selecting former superintendent Cyndy Simms' replacement, the School Board was "purposely looking for someone who was not exactly like Cyndy," Havener said. "If we chose someone close to Cyndy, it would have been extremely hard to fill her shoes. We wanted someone who would bring new strengths, and appreciate and build on the old."
Howell was one of three finalists named by the School Board on June 28 from a 50-applicant field. The other two finalists were Wayne Johnson, who recently had resigned as superintendent of the Manitowoc, Wisc., Public School District, and Ron Ciranna, superintendent of Michigan's East Detroit Public School District.
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