Howell gets 4-year contract

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A new contract will allow Donna Howell to remain superintendent of the Steamboat Springs School District through the 2008-09 school year.

Howell agreed to a two-year contract extension that was approved by School Board members Monday night. The board also approved a contract for new Director of Curriculum and Instruction Ann Sims and salaries for a number of administrative positions.

A glance at salaries Steamboat Springs School District administrative salaries for the 2005-06 school year: Donna Howell, superintendent, $138,577 Mike Knezevich, high school principal, $88,641 Tim Bishop, middle school principal, $86,306 Mark MacHale, Strawberry Park Elementary School principal, $84,335 Dale Mellor, director of finance and operations, $83,236 Judy Harris, Soda Creek Elementary School principal, $82,126 Ann Sims, director of curriculum and instruction, $80,565 Jerry Buelter, middle school assistant principal, $68,998 Cathleen Nardi, director of technology, $68,165 Rick Denney, director of facilities, $60,450 Anne Muhme, assistant to the superintendent, $52,818 Ed Dingledine, director of transportation, $49,277 Darcy Trask, director of nutritional services, $47,784 NOTE: Two other administrative positions, grants writer and high school assistant principal, are vacant

"I'm very pleased we'll be able to keep Donna for another several years," School Board President Paula Stephenson said, adding that it's important to continue the work she has initiated since her August 2003 hiring.

Howell signed a three-year contract with the district at the time of her hiring. The School Board gave her a one-year extension last year. Her newest contract is for four years.

"The district has my word that I won't be pursuing any other opportunities during the length of this contract," Howell said Tuesday.

Howell will be paid a base salary of $138,577 for the 2005-06 school year. Her contract includes a buyout clause that guarantees she will receive her full salary for the duration of her contract should the School Board decide to dismiss her without cause. The contract also includes a clause that gives the School Board the authority to dismiss her if she fails to uphold her job responsibilities.

It's important for the district to have continuity in leadership and to complete some of the initiatives that have been set in motion during the past couple of years, Howell said.

"You really can't make an impact in less than five to seven years," she said. "I was willing to make a four-year commitment so we can see the initiatives through."

Howell pointed to a recently adopted long-range district strategic plan and upcoming decisions related to district facilities as two of the more important issues to be dealt with in the coming years.

"I'd like to see some of the work we've started completed," she said.

Board member Jeff Troeger, who said he fully supports Howell and her continued leadership, abstained from voting on her contract because of concerns he has with health care benefits afforded to district administrators but not to teachers and support staff.

Also Monday, the School Board approved a one-year contract for Sims, who will replace resigning Director of Curriculum and Instruction Kelly Stanford. Board members also gave approval to new salaries for numerous administrative positions. The salaries are part of a new administrative salary schedule developed to pay administrators salaries comparable to those paid by other high-cost-of-living, high-performing districts.

Steamboat Springs Educ-ation Association executive council member Tom Fitz-gerald told board members that approving administrative salaries before a salary schedule for teachers and support staff is approved amounts to giving those employees "what's left" of the money the district can dedicate to salaries and benefits.

Board members said that was a false perception and that the delay in a salary schedule for teachers and support staff is a result of the collaborative bargaining process, not a School Board desire to take care of administrators first.

The district is committed to developing teacher and support staff salary schedules that bring everyone up to the average salaries paid by comparable districts, Howell said.

The district's Collaborative Bargaining Team is negotiating new salary schedules for teachers and support staff.

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