John DeVincentis should resign from the Steamboat Springs School Board for the sake of his constituents, his school district and his community. His Saturday apology was necessary, but it doesn't change the fact that he must go.
This week, it came to light that DeVincentis exchanged e-mails in 2004 and 2005 with a teacher in Mercer Island, Wash., criticizing Cyndy Simms. Simms, a former Steamboat Springs superintendent who left after an often-bitter battle with DeVincentis, is the superintendent in Mercer Island.
DeVincentis was the principal at Strawberry Park Elementary School at the time. He used a school district computer and school district e-mail account. He knew - or at least should have known - that he had a limited expectation of privacy in these e-mails.
Importantly, DeVincentis had an ongoing conversation involving dozens of e-mails over a 10-month period. We do not know if they continued after DeVincentis retired from the district and pursued a seat on the School Board.
Nearly every e-mail contains at least one statement that could, at best, be described as mean-spirited in its treatment of Simms. This kind of dialogue is not appropriate for an elementary school principal to engage in, particularly on school time using school property. It is far less appropriate in the context of a person who has decided to run for the School Board and who ultimately won a seat on the School Board.
The e-mails consistently demonstrate a disturbing resentment, bitterness and anger that DeVincentis has displayed in public on rare occasions. (Manipulating a school teacher last May into lambasting the superintendent with a letter DeVincentis wrote comes to mind.) It is hard to imagine that these personality traits are conducive to serving the public good as a School Board member.
Our School Board is in near crisis. Pat Gleason has resigned because of the direction the board is taking. The board's relationship with current Superintendent Donna Howell is a mess. The board has had two facilitated conversations with Howell and has met in secret to discuss Howell seven other times in three months. Directing and working with the superintendent is the board's most important function.
DeVincentis' attitude in these e-mails indicate his ability to complete this function is compromised. The e-mails make clear he came to the board with an agenda of taking on Howell. It is now fair to ask how great a role he has played in instigating mistrust between Howell and the School Board. At a minimum, his vindictiveness toward Simms raises serious doubts about his ability to be objective and fair toward Howell.
The public gave DeVincentis a pass in his often-nasty battle with Simms four years ago. Many assumed that ugly chapter ended when Simms chose to leave the district for Washington
Imagine if the first time teacher Joby McGowan contacted him, DeVincentis had responded by sending an e-mail that said, "I'm sorry, but that episode in my career is behind me. I wish Cyndy nothing but the best." Of course, we now know, that's not what he chose to do.
Rather, he thought of the worst things he could say about Simms, and he said them. He invoked her family. He intentionally did everything he could to hurt her professionally and personally. His e-mails lacked civility and decency, two things we should demand of our public servants.
John DeVincentis often has served this district well in the past two decades. He has the opportunity to do the district and the community a final service by resigning. Now.