Howell's status 'up in the air'

School Board president says conversations ongoing



Steamboat Springs Superintendent Donna Howell, pictured here in her office at the administration building on Tuesday, is in ongoing conversations with the Steamboat Springs School Board about her role and responsibility as primary administrator for the district.

— Steamboat Springs School Board President Denise Connelly made it clear Tuesday that Superintendent Donna Howell's future with the district is not secure.

"Everything is up in the air," Connelly said the day after the board met behind closed doors for at least the ninth time this year to discuss Howell, her contract or her evaluation.

"I think people are soul-searching on what's best for the district. To me, it's like a relationship. You hit some rough patches, and you have to go back and say, 'What do I want out of this? What's best for the kids?' And we have more than two or three kids. It's on the table, and we are looking at a few different options."

Howell has two years remaining on her four-year contract. She makes $144,229, according to a copy of her contract.

"Conversations continue," said Howell, who would not comment further on Monday's meeting.

Board member John DeVincentis, who has been Howell's most vocal critic, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Last month, the School Board and Howell met twice for "facilitated conversations" with Ken DeLay, executive director of the Colorado Association of School Boards, serving as moderator.

The School Board and Howell initially met for the facilitated conversation in public March 19, but decided the discussion would best be held behind closed doors. A March 26 meeting was held in secret session. It started at 9 a.m. and was supposed to end at noon, but didn't wrap up until after 5 p.m., said board member Pat Gleason.

The School Board and Howell held the meetings to attempt to resolve issues that have arisen in recent months and to clarify Howell's roles and responsibilities with the district.

"I think the words after last week are that discussions are continuing about her and roles and responsibilities," Gleason said.

Policy governance, a policy put in place nine years ago under a former administration, was designed to help run the district, but what policy governance means remains unclear nine years later, said Howell and two School Board members.

"Policy governance spreads the responsibility," said Gleason, who has served on the School Board for six years, longer than any board member. "You hire the right people, put them in place and monitor their performance. It's a very simple concept."

Connelly, who has attended a policy governance workshop, doesn't believe policy governance is simple, and that the vision of policy governance nine years ago hasn't been fully realized because certain components of it, such as monitoring employees and communication among all players, were never fully implemented.

"It's something I think affects what we are talking about now as far as accountability and how we get that accountability without messing at lower levels with people's jobs and not usurping people's power," Connelly said.

The School Board is planning to hold a workshop this month on policy governance.

"There isn't clarity in what policy governance is," Howell said. "I think we are using the language, but I don't think we have clarity on what the language means."

-To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail


SteamboatJoe 10 years, 1 month ago

"There isn't clarity in what policy governance is,"

This is nuts - 9 years later and we have comments like this? I wish our school officials would stop acting like kids fighting on a playground and get some Sh*t done.


bcpow 10 years, 1 month ago

It is a joke that in this county we have 3 sups and 3 boards. How is it that sups in cities could have 30,000 students and we have 3 for a couple thousand kids? How about the financial costs of 3 sups salary and benefits instead of 1. Maybe we will get lucky some day and the Hayden and Oak Creek boards will fire their sups, disband their boards and ask for one entitiy to be established. Steamboat will never do it.


gwendolyn 10 years, 1 month ago

Talk about "policy governance"! Why was this discussion held in public? What kind of board member discusses this in public?

who's undermining who here?


beentheredonethat 10 years, 1 month ago

DeVincentis has got to go. His outsized ego continues to fail him, to the huge detriment of Steamboat's school system.


JustSomeJoe 10 years, 1 month ago

The financial impact of firing Howell and paying out her contract will be huge to the school district, and completely avoidable. Dr. D was a well liked principal, but the skills that made him sucessful there have not transferred to the school board. What a shame it was to have him run against and beat Mike Loomis for this school board seat. Dr. D didn't run on a platform of firing Howell and costing the school district hundreds of thousands of dollars, but it seems he's headed there now.


elphaba 10 years, 1 month ago

John DiVincentis and Denise Connelly are both motivated by personal grudges and anger; not the best interests of the District or students. To lose a talented administrator like Donna Howell over their pettiness is unacceptable. If they won't gracefully resign they should both be recalled - and fast.


elphaba 10 years, 1 month ago

Dear fourth generation "raided" in Steamboat Springs. There are too many grammatical errors and spelling errors in your post to make it even readable. Your sentence structure is totally incomprehensible. Perhaps you should rethink "My family and friends know all to (sic) well what has worked well in the past..."


Gadfly 10 years, 1 month ago

Yes, "Dr. D" must go. He ran the last superintendent out of town, and he's trying to do the same with Howell. He will never be satisfied until HE is the superintendent, and then heaven help us all.


commonsense1776 10 years, 1 month ago

Before you are ready to tie John DiVincentis to the stake, maybe it would interest you that, Howell is not what she seems. For the past few years Howell has Enlarged her staff to bigger then any superintended before her, with minimal student growth in. John has questioned her on this matter and has asked why she requires such a huge staff who have for the most part proven to inefficient in complaisant to her predecessors. Her large staff requires mass amounts of funding and money out of our child's educations. John as ask why this has happened as also was the first to state that these funds could be used for increasing our teacher's salaries. Howell has proven to be even worse at providing transparency in the workings of our school districts. She has been accused of having meetings concerning our schools which by our charters the school boards should be present yet she has skillfully navigated her way around including our elected school board in these meetings while providing such knowledge to her staff as well as their well placed counterparts. I am a fifth generation of Steamboat Springs and the Fourth generation to be raided in this school district. My family and friends know all to well what has worked well in the past for our school district. I know that will the careful guidance of both our superintendent and the school board 'as it stands'. Superintendents come and go but the body of the school board was established to elect those members who represent the common wealth ideas and motivations.


Bullpen 10 years, 1 month ago

As a produce of a Dr D run elementary school, and more over, a K-12 product of the Steamboat Springs School District, it seems to me that really, not much has worked in the past, and not much seems to work now, no matter how rich and smart we think that we have become. The problem with the schools is that they seem to have forgotten that they are in reality, a small, rural district with little to offer, scant resources and a homogenous student population. Presiding in this small pond shouldn't be the ego trip that it has been manufactured to be.

Oh, and Dr. D has always been like this..... don't act suprised now, I mean, he goes by "Dr. D" how egotistical is that?


reallocal 10 years, 1 month ago

Yes, if we had a smaller staff more money could be spent on teacher's salaries and directly benefit our children. However, that has never really been a concern for some board members. DeVincentis has consistently wasted taxpayer dollars on many things...his pay-for-performance bonus was not rewarded one year, and we all know how that turned out. Not only did he insist on getting his bonus, he spent thousands and thousands of taxpayer dollars on mediators and, eventually, a new hiring process to replace Dr. Simms. And now we are wasting more dollars mediating yet another situation between DeVincentis and a superintendent who is highly qualified. Does anyone know how much those mediators cost? Let me tell you, they aren't cheap.

We are, quite frankly, a small district. We should be very thankful that our community has been able to attract quality candidates for this job. I wonder, if when the next candidate is thinking about picking up their life, and that of any family members, they will think twice about choosing our community given the track record we have of running off qualified candidates. Yet another lasting legacy of "excellence." The common factor in all of these problems has been DeVincentis. Policy governance applies to elected officials too. But I'm guessing that nothing would please DeVincentis more than spending more of taxpayers' dollars on a recall election. Oh well. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.


plainjane 10 years, 1 month ago

John DeVincentis is a disgrace to the office of School Board director. Denise Connelly isn't much better. Actually, the only member of the Steamboat Springs Board of Education who has any morals, common sense and integrity is Pat Gleason. DeVincentis has convinced the remaining majority of the Board of Education to follow him in his personal vendetta against Dr. Donna Howell. If you look at his history with the District, you will see that he has never gotten along with his superiors, especially if they were female. As a matter of fact, he wasted thousands and thousands of the tax payer dollars on his insane antics. Why on earth would the District have to hire mediators? Only for John DeVincentis, since he can't get along with anyone who doesn't agree with him!

Dr. Cyndy Simms only mistake was that she didn't fire him. Dr. Howell made the same mistake. Now he's on the Board. He intimidates, throws tantrums and just bullies people until he gets his way.

It sure would be nice to have a school board composed of reasonable, intelligent adults who have the ability to make decisions in the best interest of the kids and not their own.


Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.