School Board member issues apology

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Steamboat Springs School Board member John DeVincentis issued a public apology Monday night saying it was wrong of him to publicly criticize the district superintendent during a meeting last month.

"My comments were totally inappropriate, and I will never allow that breach of my responsibility to happen again," DeVincentis said to the board at Monday's meeting.

The apology stems from a public comment period at a May 15 School Board meeting when Strawberry Park Elementary School teacher Mike Johnson read a letter written by DeVincentis that chastised Donna Howell, superintendent of the Steamboat Springs School District. The letter accused Howell of "making excuses" for decreased standardized test scores at Strawberry Park and Soda Creek elementary schools. It also stated "hers is not a plan to improve our educational system" and criticized Howell for supporting the use of Education Fund Board reserve money for an artificial athletic field instead of for more teachers in district schools.

Immediately after Johnson finished reading, School Board and Fund Board member Pat Gleason called the letter "highly offensive," and said such a personal attack should not have been read in public. More than 40 people attended the meeting. DeVincentis did not read the letter because he was in Denver helping audit failing schools for the Colorado Department of Education.

Monday night's meeting was the first meeting since the letter was read. DeVincentis apologized to Johnson and to School Board President Tom Miller-Freutel, who thanked DeVincentis for apologizing.

Howell and School Board members were still meeting at press time and were unavailable for comment. DeVincentis was pulled out of the meeting and asked to explain why he apologized.

He wouldn't say whether he changed his opinions, only that he regretted they were expressed publicly.

"Am I embarrassed?" DeVincentis asked. "I wish I wouldn't have done it. Everyone makes mistakes."

He cited a district policy as a reason for apologizing. The policy forbids board members from publicly criticizing administrators or teachers, he said.

The School Board also:

Reviewed the Special Education Audit

Unanimously approved the collaborative bargaining package

Discussed facilities

Reviewed the preliminary budget

Had a lengthy discussion about class size and staffing for next school year

Reporter Mike Lawrence contributed to this article.

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