'We're moving forward'

DeVincentis to address community concerns about e-mails next week

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Steamboat Springs School Board President Denise Connelly told the audience of a Thursday afternoon board meeting that the board is ready to put the John DeVincentis e-mails behind them.

Steamboat Springs School Board President Denise Connelly told the audience of a Thursday afternoon board meeting that the board is ready to put the John DeVincentis e-mails behind them.

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Steamboat Springs School Board member John DeVincentis again apologized for the content of e-mails he wrote two years ago and responded to the public during a meeting Thursday afternoon.

Steamboat Springs School Board member John DeVincentis again apologized for the content of e-mails he wrote two years ago and responded to the public during a meeting Thursday afternoon.

Video

Six people spoke out during the public comment portion of Thursday's special school board meeting.

Six people spoke out during the public comment portion of Thursday's special school board meeting.

The DeVincentis e-mails

— Steamboat Springs School Board member John DeVincentis will not resign, but he will hold three sessions next week to take input from residents about e-mails he sent during his final year as principal at Strawberry Park Elementary School.

During a special meeting Thursday, the School Board heard about 20 minutes of public comment from past board members, community members and parents both in support and opposition to DeVincentis remaining on the board.

Last week, the Steamboat Pilot & Today published excerpts from e-mails DeVincentis exchanged with a school teacher in Mercer Island, Wash., between August 2004 and May 2005. Current Mercer Island superintendent Cyndy Simms, a former Steamboat superintendent, was the subject of the e-mails. In the e-mails, DeVincentis made several personal attacks on Simms and her family and gave Mercer Island teacher Joby McGowan advice on how to undermine her. DeVincentis has apologized for the e-mails.

After public comment Thursday, DeVincentis again apologized to the community for his behavior and is hosting three public meetings regarding the e-mails from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at Steamboat Springs High School.

"I am very sorry this issue has divided the community and the district. It was not my intention," he said. "Reading something you wrote two or three years ago in anger in the newspaper makes you stop and look and reflect about who you were.

"If some of you were disappointed, I don't think any of you were more disappointed than I am. It's very, very disappointing for myself."

School Board President Denise Connelly, reacting to public outcry for the board to take a position regarding DeVincentis' status, said the board is prepared to "move forward" and that there is a process in place for the community to recall board members if the public does not agree.

"We were elected by the democratic process," she said. "Through the democratic process, there is a way to recall us if you do not think we are doing our jobs. Democracy is a messy, inefficient form of government, but that's what we're stuck with."

Connelly referred to the situation as an "accident on the side of the road" and suggested the community stop gawking and move forward just as the board is prepared to do.

"Let's get back to our most important task, which is educating our children," she said. "We have great potential as a school district, but by fighting with each other, slinging mud and spattering blood it's not going to happen."

Longtime Steamboat Springs resident Bethany Aurin expressed her "extreme distaste" with the state of the board's "internal dissension," which she said has been "magnified almost beyond belief by skewed press coverage" by the Pilot & Today.

"I need to at least mention that the extremely poor use of three pages in our newspaper to humiliate and degrade (DeVincentis) for personal comments made three years in the past is incredulous to me," she said. "The accomplishments of Dr. D as a valued member of our community are only exceeded by his tireless and passionate dedication to the (Strawberry Park Elementary School) students throughout his tenure as principal on that campus."

Former board member Jim Gill said it may not be in the district's best interest to keep DeVincentis as a School Board member.

"My concern is that Dr. D is not able to function quite as well in a board capacity as he did in a principal capacity," he said. "If a person is contributing to the board's internal confusion and consternation, the board should consider replacing that person. It's not personal, it's just maybe that person isn't good and healthy for this district. Nothing more than that."

Also during the meeting, the board formally accepted Pat Gleason's resignation from the board, and voted to launch an internal investigation into how the Steamboat Pilot & Today received the e-mails it published last week and to determine whether any district policies were violated. DeVincentis, who said he would not be involved in the investigation other than to answer questions asked of him, abstained from voting on the investigation.

Connelly said the board is following its attorney's advice in launching the investigation, and that it is appropriate to review the district's policies to ensure they are adequate.

"This is something we feel needs to be done in accordance with our oath as board members," she said. "Since this has come out, other employees in the district have raised the same concern."

Spending the money now could save the district money in the future if the district is faced with civil or criminal litigation as a result of DeVincentis' actions, she said.

However, Gill questioned whether launching an internal investigation regarding the e-mails is in the essence of "moving forward."

"I just heard you say you were ready to move forward, but now you're saying, 'No, we're not ready to move forward. We want to dig this up,'" he said. "That's inconsistent."

Connelly responded by saying the investigation is "wise and necessary."

- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234 or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

Scott Wedel 7 years, 8 months ago

Dr D is quoted as saying: "If some of you were disappointed, I don't think any of you were more disappointed than I am. It's very, very disappointing for myself."

I can say for a fact that I am more disappointed in him than he is of himself because he is not sufficiently disappointed in himself to resign. He should resign because he has shown himself to be angry, vindictive, and an admitted liar. The bond of public trust between him and the voting public has been shattered

And his apology is much too much focused on being sorry that the emails became public and that people are upset after reading the newspaper articles than being sorry for writing the emails or feeling so angry.

The more he defends himself the less I think of him and the more I believe the negative stories about him. If he cared about the kids and the school district as much as he cared about himself then he would resign. The fact that he cannot see that shows just how egotistical and self centered he must be.

And if I was asked to sign a recall petition then not only would I sign one for Dr D, I'd sign one for Denise Connelly. This situation is not "accident on the side of the road". "Accident on the side of the road" describes a crash not witnessed by you involving people unknown to you. Dr D is not some anonymous victim, he is serving on the school board alongside Denise Connelly. And this school board has been following his script for forcing out a superintendent that he described in his emails. This is more like the family car crashing into a tree and she is the driver that instead of seeing if any of the passengers were hurt, jumps out of the crashed car and tells everyone that saw the crash "What are you looking at? Mind your own business!". And that is simply not acceptable for a school board president.

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reallocal 7 years, 8 months ago

And even in his apology, he cannot help but make a dig at Simms. He accuses her for a bad relationship with McGowan, and only admits that his behavior was to the effect of "there are no words." Not to be nitpicking, but if I were John (thankfully I have at least slightly better karma, and, go ahead and argue about that), I would have at least had someone read my letter to discern how it would appear to the public. His letter tells more about his "woe is me" tale, regardless of whether it is justified, and less about any tangible or legitimate moral reason to allow him to continue serving in position of public trust.

I must admit, I had not been familiar with the internal board vs. board member policies before today, view them under GP-13 at http://www.sssd.k12.co.us/com. Sadly, I think that the current board policies will result in a recall unless they are edited and those changes are utilized REALLY quickly.

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autumnwitch 7 years, 8 months ago

So, if I am reading part of Connelly's response correctly, other employees are also concerned about their e-mail habits being made public or scrutinized. Why should there be a policy to end that? They are using public funds and a work computer and e-mail, if there is a problem with this being read, do your private e-mailing as you should be, from your home computer on a private e-mail address. You work for us, we pay your salaries, and most importantly, you are being paid by us to teach our children, not spend time on your school computer doing something that is not conducive to teaching said children!

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autumnwitch 7 years, 8 months ago

Real-I tried to follow your link to GP-13 but it said the page could not be displayed. I went to the district website but didn't see a link to what I thought might cover this issue. Could you let me know where to look? Also, I am sorry that someone has proven why we remain anonymous on here. It is people like 123inou, that are as mean and spiteful as they who must be recalled, that prove this point. I hope he/she is stopped by the police and that you will then be able to sleep.

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wissbecklarry 7 years, 8 months ago

For me the most instructive information to come out of the Dr. D. papers was his efforts to get rid of Simms for rather murky reasons. Apparently he didn't like her. Now he is trying to get rid of Donna Howell for equally murky reasons. Apparently he doesn't like her. Dr. D. may have been an able and even beloved school principal. He is a disaster on the School Board. The proper function of the School Board is to provide direction and support to the Administration. Dr. D. is apparently not fulfilling that responsibility and further is infecting the remainder of the Board with his style. If we are to get about the important task of "Educating our Children" the School Board had better get its collective head straight. Trying to improve the SSSD by endlessly shopping for new Administrators that Dr. D. might like is futile.

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Gadfly 7 years, 8 months ago

Attagirl, Denise. Let's avert our eyes as we pass this wreck and get on with our real task: finding and shooting that messenger who dared to expose Dr. Deceit's reprehensible behavior. And let's use that stalest of reasons: our lawyer made us do it. Horse pucky. The board can't be sued for the actions of someone who wasn't a board member at the time he acted. If the District is sued for what he did as a principal (for what? bad taste? having the potty mouth of a 14-year-old?), his actions were outside the scope of his duties and therefore entirely his responsibility. He wouldn't even be covered by the District's insurance. Instead, how about using the District's money and time to hold a few ethics training sessions for all officials and employees. You might start with the list of "Virtues" that is on posters all around the schools. Do they not apply to board members?

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reallocal 7 years, 8 months ago

That link is SSSD's webpage. If you go then to Board of Education on the left, then click on Board Policies on the upper right hand corner, you will be able to scroll down to GP-13.

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steamboatsconscience 7 years, 8 months ago

reallocal I made a reply to your 4 AM post (rant?) on the "School Board meets today" thread you should read. PS Give it a rest and get some sleep

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Andyeast 7 years, 8 months ago

autumnwitch: McGowan DID send from a private email and he had his put in the paper... So, your theroy doesn't really hold water... What about his rights?

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Leellen Koroulis 7 years, 8 months ago

"Democracy is a messy, inefficient form of government, but that's what we're stuck with." ~ Denise Connelly

What form of government would she prefer?

To whom have we entrusted our childrens' education?

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JQPUBLIC 7 years, 8 months ago

Connelly "suggested the community stop gawking and move forward", it sounds like her ego is almost as big as Dr. D's. Connelly, said the board is prepared to "move forward", may I ask when and how this subject was discussed? Did the board vote unanimously to overlook Dr. D's offenses? Did they discuss this in a public forum as is required of public officials? I agree with Connelly on two points, #1 they need to move forward, #2 "there is a process in place for the community to recall board members... unfortunately to do what is best for the district #2 has to happen before #1 can be accomplished.

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reallocal 7 years, 8 months ago

Conscience-I replied to your post there. Thanks for encouraging people to read both sets of comments to look for them.

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gwendolyn 7 years, 8 months ago

Scott,

Did McGowan give permission for his email or any excerpts from it to be printed in the Pilot?

gwendolyn

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reallocal 7 years, 8 months ago

It shouldn't matter, as long as it was on a public computer. If DeVincentis saved them on his hard drive, that's public too.

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gwendolyn 7 years, 8 months ago

It matters to the Pilot and their attorney, I would guess. Unless, that is, McGowan sent his email from HIS school computer!

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 8 months ago

Gwendolyn- it might just matter to Dr. D. See this case where it was remanded back to the court. A couple of key paragraphs:

"At the time of the transmission of the e-mails, Arapahoe County had an e-mail policy, of which both respondents were aware, pursuant to which the County "reserve[d] . . . the right to review . . . and disclose all matters on the County's e mail systems at any time." The e mail policy further provided that e mail was to be used for business purposes, and that all e-mail messages are the property of the County.

However, the County's e mail policy also provided that "messages not deleted by users will be automatically purged after 90 calendar days . . . with no further possibility of retrieval," that "some occasional use of e mail for personal reasons is anticipated" and "that notwithstanding the County's right to retrieve e-mails, they should be treated as confidential by other employees and accessed only by the intended recipient." A number of the e-mails in question were retrieved by a computer expert after having been deleted by respondents."

So, what is the written email policy for the school district?

This case was from: www.phillipsnizer.com/library/cases/l...

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Scott Stanford 7 years, 8 months ago

Gwen:

We did not ask McGowan or DeVincentis for permission. It would be my guess that both would have said, "no." McGowan said what we were doing was sneaky and disrespectful, while also acknowledging that the things he and DeVincentis wrote about Simms were disrespectful. These quotes from him can be found in the original story.

We used one excerpt from McGowan's e-mails - the one where he told DeVincentis that he was going to switch to his home e-mail account because there was no telling who might be listening in on his school e-mail account. I think it's pretty obvious why we used that comment.

Scott Stanford Editor, Steamboat Pilot & Today (970) 871-4221/(970) 291-9278 editor@steamboatpilot.com

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gwendolyn 7 years, 8 months ago

Thank you Scott. Clarifies a great deal for me. Including the fact that DeVincentis had his "wake-up call" when McGowan told him he was switching to his home email account. DeVincentis had a chance to hide his spiteful behavior, too, and didn't. Interesting.

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jaunty 7 years, 8 months ago

It is our right and obligation to criticize elected public officials when we feel they are abusing the public trust. It's also so much easier to sit back and post anonymous comments than to run for election and serve on a public body such as the School Board.

I applaud Denise, Jeff, and Jerry for their courage, commitment and leadership. Having known each of them for many years, I have no qualms about their character or selflessness. I am confident that they are making progress in their efforts to obtain the most effective school administration.

Just out of curiosity, how many of the anononymous bloggers on this site have served in an elected position? That is certainly not a prerequisite to posting a comment, but I wonder if we fully relate to this Board's situation.

I won't be signing any recall petitions.

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linus 7 years, 8 months ago

You're absolutely right, jaunty! Unfortunately the level of discourse in these comments is usual pretty pathetic.

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gwendolyn 7 years, 8 months ago

I have. Nominated by someone I didn't even know who was aware of my work and then elected by a group of people I also did not know. It was extremely interesting serving on that public committee, as I became privy to insider information that widened my field of vision about many, many items of public interest that have never been made public due to security and public panic issues. When the results of the 911 health reports were finally released in NY, I was there. Reading the first issues of the report and attending a conference that was associated with the news report.

The public committee I was on was lopsided time and again with one person's agenda items, over and over. After a year of that nonsense I told the board director to notify me when the agenda doesn't include her personal pet project on it anymore cuz I didn't really see the point of participating or giving my input when one member's agenda always monopolized the conversation--even when that member's issue was NOT on the formal agenda for a given meeting! Take care of the problem or your members may resign. Members were polled on the issue and the problem was "taken care of" and we continued with our work.

This was the only issue I was aware of that created problems with that committee and it was taken care of civilly and without malice or vindictiveness.

John's words and behaviors were unprofessional and offensive. He DOES need to be recalled.

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autumnwitch 7 years, 8 months ago

I too have served on several different boards, some positions were nominated positions others I volunteered for (none have been for pay). Almost all of them have dealt with pre-k-12 education in one form or another.

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oofcboy 7 years, 8 months ago

I have also been in the highlight ,but I got power hungery and I so , I saw my problems and didn't run the next time. I set back and let someone else take over Just like John should do.

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WZ 7 years, 8 months ago

I don't buy it one bit. This is not over.

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housepoor 7 years, 8 months ago

if dr d was really interested in the best interest of the community he would step down........he knows it also.....his oversized ego just won't give in, the arrogance & malice displayed in his emails says i'll i need to know about the man.

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housepoor 7 years, 8 months ago

and the witch hunt looking for who exposed the emails is very Bush es que

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WZ 7 years, 8 months ago

Don't you people care about how 3 year old information buried in a sea of bits and bytes walked right out of your school district?!

Imagine all the private information held in the school district's possession for goodness sake! Sensitive information about your sons and daughters.

What Scott is saying is that anyone can walk into the school district and demand their public information without discretion?!

What a bunch of dedicated, thoughtless swallowers you must be if you concur.

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Watcher 7 years, 8 months ago

Dr. D had no right to expect privacy when he used school district property to send his personal emails. Since he cannot see that his actions call for him to step down he must be recalled and Denise Conally should be on the petition also for not being able to understand the gravity of what happened. This is too much like a 'teachers union' stance for me and not in the best interest of the children of our district.

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 8 months ago

Too bad all the people who admitted to serving in an elected position can't prove they have, since they remain anonymous. Sorry, Linus- nice question, but wrong place to get an honest answer.

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gwendolyn 7 years, 8 months ago

I can prove it and would be happy to show my credentials to the Pilot for verification. But I certainly don't see the point. My own actions aren't in question and I doubt I (or any other citizen) need be "qualified" in this manner to write unequivocally that DeVincentis grossly erred in his judgement and manner and should NOT be on our school board.

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 8 months ago

Gwendolyn- showing the Pilot for them to keep it confidential still doesn't prove anything to me in particular. Until you'd be willing to say, "My name is ** and I was elected to **, it's still an anonymous person making a statement that can't be verified. Also, as an anonymous person, how do I know that you aren't being investigated for something? Odds say you aren't, but people still lose playing the odds in Las Vegas.

That's like if I hadn't allowed for my name to be visible, I could say I'm Trey Parker or Matt Stone (creators of South Park) and nobody (except those 2 people) could prove otherwise. You'd have to accept that just as I'd be expected to accept what you tell us.

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JQPUBLIC 7 years, 8 months ago

kielbasa... just who are you to think anyone cares to prove anything to you in particular? Knowing your name doesn't impress me one bit, doesn't influence my postings, and certainly doesn't make you any more credible. As long as a story can be proven to be true, it's no one's business where it came from and as long as we are discussing our opinions it's no one's business who we are; if someone is spreading false rumors as fact, then they need to be exposed. Write on anonymous posters, it's your right.

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 8 months ago

JQ- Nobody has to prove anything to me...unless they want to actually change someone's perception of the issue at hand. Faceless people can't do that. So,yes: go right ahead and post anonymously. It's hilarious hiding behind the wall to protect yourself while feeling safe attacking someone else. At least D signed his emails.

He also did own up to the fact that he wrote them. He owned it. Sure, you can say it was because he got caught. So what? Are you ready right now to just "stand up and testify" about all the wrongdoing in your life before someone just happens to uncover it? Don't bother answering: being anonymous means you can lie your a$$ off with no repercussions, right?

If you are too afraid to own your words, that's your right. It's my right, as it's other people's right, to question your motivation behind being anonymous. That makes it my business to question. False rumors are always perpetuated by both sides...but unfortunately, one side only cares about hearing one side. That takes a very small mind.

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reallocal 7 years, 8 months ago

Wow, once, at science camp, I thought this way too. Matt, I have never thought of you as anything other than dedicated to your family. So nothing I have to say has anything to do with them. I would like to make that clear. Sadly, you have an agenda that makes it impossible for you to trust the fact that the paper and many citizens (in an individual capacity regardless of recent media) have often been ignored as DeVincentis' constituants.'

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