Our view: On the agenda

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It was disappointing to watch a Steamboat Springs School Board meeting bog down as it did Monday in a procedural issue that shouldn't have been dealt with on the public's time.

At the meeting, John DeVincentis, former principal of Strawberry Park Elementary School and newly elected board member, complained that items he wanted discussed weren't on the agenda. He said he sent e-mails Jan. 2 and Thursday to Superintendent Donna Howell and fellow board members asking that all principals be at Monday's meeting to talk about class size, personnel and the budget.

"I want to see my agenda items on the agenda," DeVincentis said.

He went on to castigate previous boards for putting principals "in a box" and rarely asking for information from campus leaders.

"As a principal, I saw the limits on discussion," he said.

Howell said board policy stipulated that she and board President Tom Miller-Freutel set the agendas. She also said that DeVincentis' items were excluded because the request came too late for the agenda posted Thursday and that they contained information that "might not be completely accurate."

More important, Howell said that as members of the district's leadership team, school principals have significant say in district decisions.

"The leadership team has been very involved in (formulating) recommendations for the Education Fund Board," Howell said.

In November, district principals presented to the board a three-year improvement plan that outlined achievement and other goals.

There's no doubt that DeVincentis is a talented educator; his record at Strawberry Park speaks for itself.

There is no doubt that he enjoys community support; he beat his opponent by almost 2,000 votes.

There is also at least a perception, based in part on past flaps, that he has trouble working with administrators and school boards, however. Perhaps that's a misperception. If so, meetings such as Monday's will do nothing to correct it, or ease the minds of some informed and engaged people who say they are worried about the board's ability to function.

We acknowledge that DeVincentis must have been frustrated when his discussion items didn't appear on the agenda. We argue, however, that he should not have made such an issue about it, especially because he was late in asking and the items probably could have been added to the next meeting's agenda after he had consulted with the School Board president.

We hope the perception is wrong and that instead of a rigid agenda and personal intractability, DeVincentis will bring to the board his great knowledge of education and an ability to work constructively with others for the benefit of our schools.

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