DeVincentis issues apology for e-mails

Steamboat Springs School Board member says he will not resign from his seat

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The DeVincentis e-mails

Devincentis' apology

There are no words for the regret I feel about the comments I made in anger after what was, for me, a very traumatic year. In 2004-2005, when I wrote those e-mails, I felt that I had been treated unprofessionally for a stand I took in supporting parents concern regarding the issue of class size. Looking back at these e-mails now, I realize that I also acted in this regard, in an unprofessional manner. These e-mails were meant to be private, and I did not intend to make them public or to hurt anyone. But, I do now see how they are hurtful. I wish to apologize to Dr. Simms and her family for the way that they come across.

I used e-mails to vent my anger with a teacher who had emailed me stating he was facing similar problems with her on Mercer Island. Looking back, I wish that I had dealt with his situation differently and can honestly say that I have learned a great deal from this unfortunate disclosure of private communications.

I still believe that there are reasons for change in our district and that we are moving in a direction that will be more beneficial to the children of our district. I also recognize the harm and conflict that this has created in the district. I deeply regret that and that my friends and family have had to read this in the newspaper. I am very sorry to have acted so poorly, no matter the reasons of how I was feeling at the time.

I have not moved for the superintendent's removal. I will honor the board's wishes in that regard and will support any decision related to her tenure.

I will continue to serve the board and will reflect on my past actions and words. I will seek the advice and support from friends in the community and my family. I will work cooperatively with the Board and the superintendent. I know my actions will be under close scrutiny, as they should be.

Please accept my apology to all those involved. In the future, I will serve as the board member the public expects and deserves. There are several goals, as a Board that we still need to accomplish: the completion of our building projects, improvement of staff morale, a better communication system within our district, enhancing our ability to respond better to our staff, parents, children and community members, and continuing to attract and retain the best staff for our children, gifted and talented, and elementary school Spanish. In the future, I will work toward these goals, and I vow to leave the past behind. Is the time to serve the needs of our District and students. Everything else is secondary.

Sincerely,

John DeVincentis

— Steamboat Springs School Board Member John DeVincentis apologized Saturday morning for a series of e-mails he sent in 2004 and 2005.

But he stopped short of resigning even as a growing chorus of past and present community officials asked him to do so.

In the letter, DeVincentis writes, "In the future, I will serve as the board member the public expects and deserves." Asked if he had any plans to resign, he said, "The letter stands for itself."

"Everybody has an opinion," DeVincentis said when told community leaders were calling for his resignation. "I've had others who say I shouldn't resign."

Some DeVincentis supporters accused the Pilot & Today of trying to assassinate DeVincentis' character. They said the newspaper never should have printed private e-mails that are old news, and that news stories about DeVincentis have been unfair, biased and sensationalized.

Mike Johnson, a Strawberry Park teacher, said the newspaper's decision to target DeVincentis' clearly private e-mails sends a chilling message to the rest of the school district and community. He also defended his former principal as a leader who has been wrongly maligned for raising fair questions about the district.

"DeVincentis has always been a leader who invites and states his questions about the direction this school district has been and is headed," Johnson wrote in a letter to the Pilot & Today. "His questioning of what constitutes best practices and trying to implement best practices in Strawberry Park Elementary School allowed our students and teachers to perform at high levels, scoring in the topmost levels on Colorado state standards tests year after year."

Dark side

But others said the e-mails show a dark side of DeVincentis that does not belong on the School Board.

Pat Gleason, who resigned from the School Board last week because of differences with the direction of the board, said DeVincentis will be the subject of a recall effort if he does not step down.

"Denise, you should know that a recall of board members as a course of action is already in place," Gleason wrote in a letter sent to School Board President Denise Connelly and copied to the Pilot & Today. "The funding for the recall has been secured, and a committee has been formed. The only unknown at this point is the names that will be placed on the petition. I am convinced that in the absence of strong leadership from you, your name as well as John's will be on that petition."

Connelly issued a written response that said the School Board has not made any decisions regarding the DeVincentis e-mails.

"The board has been consulting with our legal counsel and knowledgeable colleagues, as well as listening to all community input and feedback," Connelly wrote. "We are considering all options, but at this time we are still trying to ascertain all pertinent facts. As a board, we do not believe that a rash decision without accurate information is beneficial to the district or our students."

Connelly would not comment further.

E-mails disgusting

In addition to Gleason, a number of community members said Saturday that DeVincentis should leave the School Board.

"Many of us worked hard to bring a level of professionalism and high ethics to this board and John DeVincentis is compromising that position," said Jim Gill, a former School Board member and past president of the Education Fund Board. "What he is doing is counter to the board's mission. He is following an agenda of petty vindictiveness that has no business on our School Board."

Gill and three other former School Board members - Paula Stephenson, Tom Sharp and Tom Miller-Freutel - wrote a letter calling on DeVincentis to resign.

"I found the e-mails disgusting," Gill said. "He admits to dishonesty, and he uses words that most of us would wash our kids' mouths out for. Why should a person like that be a leader in our district?"

Former supporters

Also seeking DeVincentis' resignation are past members of "Parents for Dr. D," a group that formed to support him in 2002 when, as principal at Strawberry Park, he got into a public battle with then-Superintendent Cyndy Simms.

Jim Swiggart, who chaired the group, has called on DeVincentis to leave the School Board. So has former member Greg Dixson.

"It's irrelevant how and why the e-mails were disclosed," Dixson wrote to the Pilot & Today. "For me, the content is the only issue to address today. Given the vindictive nature of what these e-mails contained coupled with my involvement in supporting John a few years ago, I am compelled to speak out publicly and ask him to resign his position as School Board member."

Unhealthy anger

Former City Council member Paula Cooper Black has called on DeVincentis to resign. So has current council member Towny Anderson, who said DeVincentis' anger is unhealthy for the school district and for himself.

"Given the acknowledgement of the e-mails, I fully expected of him not only an apology but a recognition that he has to step down," Anderson said. "There is a pattern to his behavior that has become painfully clear. To allow him to let his anger overtake him, damage people and then apologize again is not acceptable."

On Friday, the Steamboat Pilot & Today published excerpts from the e-mails, which were between DeVincentis and Mercer Island, Wash., teacher Joby McGowan. The e-mails began in August 2004 and continued through May 2005. DeVincentis used his school computer and school e-mail account to send the messages. They were discovered after he retired from the district at the end of the 2004-05 school year.

Last week, printed copies of the e-mails were left at the newspaper for Suzanne Schlicht, the newspaper's general manager, by a source who has asked not to be identified. To validate the e-mails, the newspaper spoke with and showed the e-mails to multiple sources who worked for the school district when the e-mails were retrieved from DeVincentis' computer.

The apology

In the e-mails, DeVincentis has harsh criticism for Simms, now the superintendent in Mercer Island. He calls her an idiot, says she is not a good mother and says he would be arrested for "battering and abuse" if he were married to her. He jokes about spitting on her and brags about lying to Mercer Island officials to get them to hire her away from Steamboat. He gives McGowan tips on how to undermine her, including suggesting that he go after her personal life.

"These e-mails were meant to be private, and I did not intend to make them public or to hurt anyone," DeVincentis said in his apology. "But, I do now see how they are hurtful. I wish to apologize to Dr. Simms and her family for the way that they come across."

Gill said the apology is inadequate.

"He is expecting the community to extend him the compassion he could not bring himself to extend to Cyndy Simms and others," Gill said. "This did not start with these e-mails in 2004-05. This goes back many, many years."

Like Connelly, School Board member Jerry Kozatch said he is reserving judgment in the e-mail episode. "I don't think because this particular article was in the newspaper that that should be a reason for him to resign," Kozatch said. "I don't see anything particularly productive in me making any other statements."

School Board member Jeff Troeger could not be reached for comment.

<p>- To reach Scott Stanford, call 871-4221 or e-mail sstanford@steamboatpilot.com</p>

Comments

questions 7 years, 8 months ago

I am still curious as to where the e-mails came from. It seems to me that this much controversy surrounding e-mails anonymously dropped off at the Pilot's doorstep should be a concern. The only people that would have access to these are district officials (Donna perhaps?) or IT people for the district (Correct me if I am wrong). So who is it reading all of John's old e-mails. Sounds to me like someone is doing some digging. I am not trying to side with John because what he did was wrong, but at the same time, why are these e-mails surfacing now?

Another thing that I would like to bring to attention is the lack of concern for the youth of the district. Many youth look up to John as a leader in the community and as their former principal. The paper printed the e-mails and then placed the paper at the front entrance of SPE. Now is that really what you want your children reading.

On a final note, why are we continuing to drill the school board ? It seems to me that this is most certainly going to be the worst school board ever, not because of the issues being discussed in the paper, but because we keeping bringing up non school related issues. I feel like perhaps they should be spending their time defending themselves, they should perhaps be building a plan to get the half cent sales tax renewed. Even better, they could go visit the schools and talk to the students and teachers who are there everyday about what needs to happen in the schools. I will be completely honest it has been a few years since I have been really involved in the district, but I do know that if I were still active I would be pushing for us to spend the recall money on education rather than chasing each other around the playground.

These are just some things I think Scott, his staff, and everyone else reading this paper should think about.

As for me I'm going to put my paper down and go volunteer in the classroom.

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Andyeast 7 years, 8 months ago

Yes, How can you expect the public to have buy in that these emails are accurate if the individual(s) who "dropped them off at the paper" are not named. - If we are uncovering all the truths here, the public has a right to know who is reading district emails... What about the emails that parents send to teachers about their students. Often times they contain sensitive matters. Are we suggesting that we can publish any of those? Should we publish all of the emails that angry parents have sent to school officials? Should we publish any email that is dropped off that would contain sensitive matters related to a student?

WE DEMAND TO KNOW WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR GETTING THESE EMAILS AND BRINGING THEM TO THE PAPER!

Yes, John and McGowan admitted to having emailed one another, but it doesn't say anywhere that either party has read the "dropped off email copies" to verify if they are in fact the original emails.

WHO IS THE ANNONOMOUS DROPPER OFFER? The public has a right to know.

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jnprn 7 years, 8 months ago

Okay people, Scott, pay attention. This is the third time I've tried to tell you and this is important stuff. Dr. Howell directed the retrieval and timely release of the Devincentis emails. And she did it to save her own skin, not out of any obligation to the public. I believe that printing them was justifiable for the greater public good but it is undeniable that ethical boundaries do not exist in this administration or school board. Judging by the date of their retrieval (5/05), the emails were kept until they were needed. If that were not the case, they would have been released when they were discovered and this wart would have been nipped when it first emerged. What other dirt has been collected and stored for future use? It IS possible to recognize exceptionally unethical and unacceptable behavior on both sides of this personal battle. The system needs an extreme makeover not just a wart removal.

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 8 months ago

JNprn- any evidence to suggest Howell was the one responsible for uncovering the emails? Without proof, it's just more nonsense in the mix.

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elphaba 7 years, 8 months ago

Finding out who dropped off the e-mails is just a smoke screen - it diverts attention from the issue - which is the unprofessional conduct of Divencentis. He should resign and let this community get on with life.

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HighlandClover 7 years, 8 months ago

Pretending that the inappropriate and shameful actions of Dr. D aren't pertinent to both the School Board and school related issues is unfair to every member of the community. Children shouldn't be exposed to such a person and the school board should not be swayed by what they previously thought--clearly Dr. D is not a kind or healthy person. There is no switch in Dr. D's mind that makes him think "Oh, hmm...maybe this isn't the best way to handle my issues with Cyndy Simms. This is inappropriate actions and it is time for me to go about this in a healthy, private manner." This makes him a dangerous addition to the School Board, making the Board fall victim to Dr. D's skewed agenda.

This issue is wholly and completely important and pertinent to the students and the school board.

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 8 months ago

Elphaba- finding out who dropped them off is equally important. Why are these emails even relevant to what's happening with the school board now? They're almost 3yrs old, and pertain to Simms. Since that is the case, why even bother to bring them to light at this time?

I know what may be your answer: to show a recurring theme. If that's the case, then it means someone else is going after him in revenge for the Simms fight. Until the person who brought the emails forward comes forward themselves, how can we know what that person's motivation is? It becomes the same offense as what Dr. D is accused of. That makes it a recurring theme not just for Dr. D, but the Board as a whole, possibly.

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autumnwitch 7 years, 8 months ago

The fact is that the e-mails were written and both sides have admitted that. Don't let yourself be distracted from that. While you may feel it is important to know who dropped them off, until John is off the board and no longer a threat to that person's position, why would that person come forward? That person would be insane him/herself to admit giving them up. The paper didn't have them when he was running for the board or they would have printed them at that time. Duh!!! As others have stated, I am appalled at the whole situation of who gave them to the paper, who gives a crap! They were written by two mean-spirited individuals who are not happy unless they are causing conflict for someone. History shows this to be true and the saying that History repeats itself is also a provable fact.
Look at the big picture, use your brains and think like logical human beings instead of a ventriloquist's puppet!!!!

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Hammurabi 7 years, 8 months ago

If you read the emails, you would see that he planned to carry out the same plan with Donna Howell. It seems that has been his plan all along and he has been carrying out that plan over the past months. Perhaps that's why it is relevant now.

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avetwhodoesntforget 7 years, 8 months ago

Andyeast - Did you see my previous response regarding the king finger-pointer - he who should NEVER live in a glass house?

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retiredinss 7 years, 8 months ago

I would like to offer the following:

  1. The e-mails are what they are--unless someone can show that they were not written by Dr. D or were significantly altered to change them; and that is, a very clear demonstration of the person's judgement and behavior. When they were written is unimportant unless someone can show that the judgement and behavior have changed for the better.
  2. While the person/s who brought the e-mails to light may have had less than honorable motives for doing so (and I do not know that they did) that is beside the point. It is understandable that some may find the e-mails uncomfortable and at odds with their prior experience with Dr. D; however, that doesn't change the e-mails and they do offer light on judgement and behavior.
  3. In bringing up questions about Scott Sanford, the dates of the e-mails, and the identity of the person/s who brought the e-mails to the newspaper, those doing it are simply trying to change the subject away from the actual content of the e-mails, and what they demonstrate. They are, in effect, asking the community to ignore them.
  4. I continue to believe that Steamboat is a very friendly town, that the relatively few participants in these commentaries do not fully reflect the broader community, and more importantly, that we do not need to behave as if we are 'talking heads' on a tv show, or talk radio hosts, but rather in a respectful, concerned manner to each other, even when conversing via the net.
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autumnwitch 7 years, 8 months ago

John, I hope you are reading these posts. I want to be as logical and blunt as I can be. You have stated many times in the past few years that everything you do is in the best interests of the kids and their education. Here is your chance to prove it. You have been involved in enough scandals to know that when something like this hits the papers that this is all people want to talk about. Your work to better kids education is about to come to a grinding halt. The board meetings, including the one coming up next Monday will be packed with people on one side of this issue or the other. The meetings will become even more of a three ring circus than they already are. This is not what the kids of our community need. Please resign and let this community and district heal and put this controversy behind us. To the board, Do what's right - demand John's resignation. What more information do you need to make this decision? If you don't, your professional lives will be hell in the coming months, until John gets recalled.

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Andyeast 7 years, 8 months ago

"The emails were written by two mean spirited people." - Let's talk about that..........First off, who here has talked to this McGowan guy and just because John and McGowan emailed each other are we sure that they saw things in exactly the same light? We didn't see enough of McGowan's emails to know the tone of his thinking, did we? - And if someone emails from their own personal account to a school official is it then public record? Or, just the responses from a public account?

Who here knows this McGowan guy? - Based on the few email quotes from him it doesn't seem that he is necessarily mean spirited. There weren't any quotes that suggested so. The contrary...

and once again.. YES, they both admitted that they emailed. but they didn't verify that these are REAL emails.... SO, once again..... If you are going to expose something on someone, have the guts to admit who you are... Annonmyous dropping off of emails isn't necessarily a valid source..... Regardless of how many times Scott tells us he "checked with sources and verified the information" Just because he or anyone else says they "checked the sources" doesn't mean it is true.

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Scott Wedel 7 years, 8 months ago

The content of these emails show someone that is extremely vindictive. It is one thing to have professional differences with a person that includes fighting for your job. I've been in that situation several times. But to deal with that situation by going after the person personally including hoping to use that person's children against that person is so far out of bounds to be inexcusable. He also recommended a strategy to McGowan to force Simms out of her Mercer Island job. It appears he has largely been following that same strategy as school board member targeting Donna Howell. His credibility is gone. He should resign or be recalled.

It is obvious that Dr D thought the emails would be confidential. I'd be shocked if the school district's privacy policy and/or email policy allowed the anonymous disclosure of current and former employee emails. It might even have been against the law to disclose these emails. It is reasonable to reprimand and seek compensation for using work resources improperly for personal use. It is not reasonable for your employer to then publicly release personal emails. So after Dr D is no longer on the school board then the school board should ask for an investigation into who knew Dr D wrote these emails and who gave them to the SB Today. Whoever was involved with the release of the emails should then be fired, if not prosecuted. I note the newspaper's account of how they confirmed the emails indicates there are current and former school district employees willing to confirm information which they are presumably not at liberty to disclose. Dr D may even have grounds to sue the school district for improperly disclosing his personal emails.

It is not the newspaper's responsibility to care if the emails were disclosed according to school district policy or even if it was legal to disclose the emails. The emails are extremely relevant because not only is Dr D in a position of trust on the school board, the school board is having issues with Superintendent Donna Howell. Imagine the screams of conspiracy and cover up if it became known the newspaper had these emails and had failed to write any articles!

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ElBorracho 7 years, 8 months ago

Andyeast, John must be thrilled to have such a die-hard supporter in his camp who can be so thoroughly oblivious to the truth.

You said: "YES, they both admitted that they emailed. but they didn't verify that these are REAL emails.... "

You are looking at a lengthy letter of apology from Dr. D. Does that letter say anything about him being falsely accused or the e-mails not being real? No and no. Because they are real. Dr. D isn't trying to get out of this by saying the e-mails are fake, so why are you trying so hard to argue that point for him? He knows he's busted, and at least he's man enough to not try to lie his way out of it now.

And why are you so worried about whoever gave them to the paper owning up to it? Dr. D certainly never would have owned up to trying to subvert and undermine Cyndy Simms in Washington. He's getting a taste of his own medicine. Call it karma.

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 8 months ago

Borracho- Dr. D did own up to it. Granted, it was after the emails came out, but he did own up to it.

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suckerfreeforlife 7 years, 8 months ago

To those who are surprised at how childish, vindictive, dysfunctional and hypocritical this all is, welcome to the home of Amplify and Distort. That is how beefs are dealt with in our little mayberry. Always has been, always will be. Basically, its the same paradigm as High School, except the players are older. Dont bother trying to address it, thats one elephant noone is going to talk about. If you do speak up, the usual response is a dismissive "Highway 40 goes East, and Highway 40 goes West, Pick a direction." No artificial ingredients or people, indeed.

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JQPUBLIC 7 years, 8 months ago

I think it is laughable the way some people are trying to turn this around on the whistle-blowers. Who gives a crap how this unethical, bigoted, vindictive public official was exposed, the fact is.. he was, now it's up to the voters to decide it's importance. Why should we care what this McGowan guy had to say, it means nothing to this school district, let his own district deal with him. Sorry, emails on a computer paid for by public taxes, written on the taxpayers time in a public school does away with the privacy theory. If you are ashamed of what you are saying, don't put it in writing, you know, open mouth insert foot. WHOEVER brought this ugly mess to the publics attention...CUDOS... it took nerve, even anonymously.

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 8 months ago

JQ- I care since maybe the same type of person released these emails and may do the exact same thing as what everyone's fired up about. Plus, doing anything anonymously takes no nerve at all, same as posting on an anonymous forum. Anyone with real conviction will own up to what they did as soon as it's done.

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JQPUBLIC 7 years, 8 months ago

Sorry, you would have to be on the wrong end of someones revengeful nature to find out what lies and vindictiveness can do to someones reputation (and their nerves). I know, I've been there and by the time people realized they were giving credence to a self-serving person with a vendetta, it's was too late, the damage had been done. Like I said before, it's more important to know how your elected officials are representing you than it is to know who is exposing them for wrongdoing. Doing something anonymously can be much better than taking no action at all. Had this turned out to be nothing but unsubstantiated rumor, then by all means expose the rumor monger and bring the paper to task for printing it, since Dr. D fessed up that point is moot. If a newspaper researches it's information so that it is not printing rumor, let them keep there sources anonymous, maybe more people will be willing to speak up with the truth.

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 8 months ago

JQ- I have been on that end and even the other. Karma is sweet. The thing with doing something anonymously, though, is that by all rights it should raise the exact same questions in people's minds as to why it was done compared to what Dr. D did. As it is, those email records should be public anyway, right? So why not own up to it?

Maybe Howell did possibly get someone to do this on the sly. If so, that would make her no better than what people think of Dr. D right now. Plus, no matter what, these emails really don't have any bearing on what's happening now, since Simms is gone. That means those emails were released in a mean-spirited fashion or for personal gain on someone's part. That makes that particular suspect in my mind. Without confirmation of motivation, how can that person not be suspect? If a person feels that strongly about something, it should never be anonymous. That's a coward's way out in my mind.

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JQPUBLIC 7 years, 8 months ago

"DeVincentis also predicts in the e-mails he will be elected to the School Board and that he will take on the new administration." ...Does that sound like it "really don't have any bearing on what's happening now"? No matter what the reasoning for releasing the emails... it doesn't change the content of them one iota, neither does revealing the source. I just went back and reread the emails that were published, and I can't believe anyone would condone a public official that... explains how he overrode an "idiot" board president, tells someone that they need to find a way to listen in on executive sessions, actually states he "wished he could have ended her career" and being so egotistical as to state "I made the intelligent move and told your suckered board members that she was great. I could tell right away what kind of people they were".... Regardless of how you feel about anonymity, Dr. D's superiority complex is showing, deal with it.

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autumnwitch 7 years, 8 months ago

Do the words "pattern of abuse" mean anything to those who say the e-mails have no bearing now? Do these people not see that he is trying to do the exact same thing to Donna that he did to Cyndy?

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Andyeast 7 years, 8 months ago

I am not in support of Dr. D or Howell. I just like to stir the pot! Haven't you figured that out yet? I don't care who resignes or is forced out... It is just fun to get people worked up!

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autumnwitch 7 years, 8 months ago

Andyeast: thubbttttt! That was a raspberry, pot stirrer! :)

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Andyeast 7 years, 8 months ago

I got raspberries and strawberries, blueberries, huckelberries. You name it. I got it baby!

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