Board happy with Howell

School Board content it made right choice for superintendent

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In her first year as superintendent of the Steamboat Springs School District, Donna Howell initiated a curriculum audit, streamlined the process of meeting accountability standards and diligently explored community education values.

Those are just a few of the accomplishments that have confirmed to School Board members they made the best decision in hiring Howell for the position.

"I couldn't be happier," School Board President Paula Stephenson said.

Howell's performance evaluation, conducted by the board and an administrative team of the district's principals and directors, is complete, but details won't be released until board members present the results to Howell later this month.

The evaluation assesses whether Howell has met or exceeded her job expectations and designates areas she might improve.

"I think the school year went very well," Stephenson said. "I'm pleased with the job she's doing. ... Donna has the vision and the strategic thinking this district needed to take it to the next level of success."

During the fall and winter, Howell engaged the community in 17 focus forums aimed at understanding residents' interest in the school district. She used that input to devise a strategic five-year plan for the district, as well as long-term goals.

"It was a very, very busy time but a very productive time," said Howell, who was hired a year ago to replace former superintendent Cyndy Simms.

The school board recently approved a $5,253 raise for Howell, whose salary is now $132,753. All administrators received the same percentage raise, said Anne Muhme, the assistant to the superintendent.

Not long after arriving in the district, Howell formed a team to implement recommendations from an audit that analyzed communication within the district and between the district and the community.

"I think communication in the district is much better in the district because of that," board vice president Tami Havener said.

Havener also noted Howell's organization of a process to fulfill local, state and federal accountability standards that minimizes the time teachers spend filling out paper work -- giving them more time in the classroom.

Howell also worked with the district's Fund Board, which had discussed throughout the years how to access programs they supported.

Howell's solution was a curriculum management audit, which recently produced recommendations for improving district procedures based on documents, interviews and classroom visits. The board plans to review the audit this month.

"I really believe that the staff and the community is very ready to accept the recommendations," she said.

Aside from Howell's experience -- she has served as a teacher, administrator, assistant superintendent, superintendent and education professor throughout her career in three states -- her personality encourages a positive atmosphere and progress in the district, Havener said.

"She brings some inherent personality qualities that make her enjoyable to work with and that make her very open and accessible to staff, as well as parents and the community at large," she said.

Howell reciprocated the feeling noting that the staff is "fantastic" and among the most competent she's worked with.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com

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