Stuart Handloff watched the creation of "Little Shop of Horrors" with the objective eye of a man on his way out.
After six years as the drama instructor at Steamboat Springs High School, Handloff anticipates leaving his position, citing a contract dispute.
"I knew this could be my last production, so I wanted to do something fun," he said. "For me, it was a more relaxing production than ones in the past. Probably because it's possibly my last."
In his tenure at the high school, Handloff has directed such productions as "Into the Woods," "Children of a Lesser God" and "The Sound of Music."
Handloff said he made his decision to look for other employment after a meeting with Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Donna Howell in September. He was told that his contract would be renewed with a cut in pay and the elimination of benefits, he said. "I don't know anyone who would say yes," he said. "I told them I was willing to freeze at (the pay) I have now.
"I think they are looking at ways to cut money, and this was one way they found. But I'm squealing like a mashed cat about it to anyone who will listen."
Howell said Handloff is being treated fairly.
"I haven't changed his contract," she said. "We are looking this year at salary and benefits, and we are looking to standardize the way we compensate employees for their extra-duty assignments."
Handloff teaches 21/2 class sections in addition to his play sponsorship.
Handloff, she said, is paid for his work on school plays under a pay scale that considers the play sponsorship the equivalent of teaching another class section. Under the new system, Handloff would be paid a stipend for directing the school plays.
"I gave him that information," Howell said. "What we offer him next year will reflect (our new pay system)."
Coaches and club sponsors might be affected similarly depending on how they currently are paid, which is not universal, Howell said.
"The change is not a measure to save money," Howell said. "We're not sure we will save money. We just want to deal with all employees in a fair and equitable way."
Handloff has not given his resignation, and the school district has yet to give him any specific information about his future pay or benefits, Howell said. "We are still doing an analysis."
If Handloff does resign, the school district intends to continue the drama program at the high school, she said.
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