'Team builder' wanted

School Board looks for interim superintendent to heal past differences


— Steamboat Springs School Board members are looking for an interim superintendent with "team-building" experience - a quality former Superintendent Donna Howell lacked, according to board-administered evaluations.

Howell's performance evaluations were made public by the district Friday. The Steamboat Pilot & Today filed a Freedom of Information Act request for access to the evaluations last week. The evaluations rate Howell for her performance during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years.

Howell's most recent evaluation came shortly after the June 2007 release of an investigative report that stated she could have done more to prevent the public release of e-mails sent by School Board member John DeVincentis while he was principal at Strawberry Park Elementary School.

"The justifications you gave for your actions leave us with many concerns regarding ethics and trustworthiness," the board stated in Howell's 2006-07 evaluation. "You operated on your own and did not communicate adequately with the board. As a board, we have experienced a loss of confidence in your leadership. As a district, we have suffered embarrassment."

In Howell's rebuttal to the evaluation statements, she said many of the conclusions or asserted violations of policy are not supported by either the investigation report or the transcripts obtained as a result of the investigation.

"There is absolutely no evidence that would suggest that my actions were motivated by anything other than what is in the best interest of the district and its students and staff," wrote Howell, who was not available for comment Friday.

She said her efforts to place a mill levy override and facilities bond issue on the November 2006 ballot, along with revising and extending the district's strategic plan to reflect board input and priorities, are two examples of her thinking "of the district as a whole."

On Aug. 10, the School Board voted to buy out the remaining two years of Howell's contract, paying her $307,000 in exchange for her resignation, which was effective immediately.

Board President Denise Connelly said the buyout was necessary because of differences that had developed between the board and Howell during the past year. She said those differences had distracted the board from other business.

Connelly said Friday that seven people have submitted resumes for the interim superintendent position, and she expects a candidate to be in place by Sept. 1.

"We are looking for someone with building and construction experience and someone who is used to dealing with change, such as crisis management," she said. "Basically, someone who will be able to bring people together and bring us forward as a district. Someone who is good at team-building and has experience working with people cooperatively."

The Colorado Association of School Boards, or CASB, developed a list of potential interim candidates for the district. Jessica Kingham, CASB's director of communications, said board members have not requested additional assistance in filling the position.

"We don't keep a database of people who could serve as interim superintendent," she said. "But Bob Cito, a special consultant with CASB, is so versed in superintendent searches. He knows who has expressed interest in these type of interim superintendent positions."

Cito was unavailable for comment Friday, but Kingham added that CASB is available for more in-depth conversations with board and administrators to identify an interim or full-time superintendent.

Connelly said the current applicants are a mix of CASB-recommended candidates as well as those who have contacted the district independently.

"We have a list of very qualified individuals, but we were originally concerned about how many people will we see interested," said Connelly, who noted she doesn't expect any adverse consequences in finding an interim or full-time superintendent due to the contentious relationship between the board and Howell.

"Now, it's like, 'Wow, how are we going to narrow it down among these qualified candidates?'" she said.

Connelly said the board intends to develop a system to collect resident input, and board members may include members of the community to join the interview process.

"So far, we have had a suggestion, but we have to talk with other members of the board, to make one committee, made up of community members, to interview, to ask questions and gather input," she said. "The board will then conduct their interviews and make a decision.

Connelly noted that three of the five School Board members are up for election in November, and it's the next School Board that will hire the full-time superintendent.

"It's the current board's job to hire the interim" superintendent, she said. "But it's better to take a little bit more time and pick someone that's right and who is the best person for job, as opposed to doing something in a hurry."


addlip2U 9 years, 8 months ago

Do I read this correctly?

Board President Dennise Connely said: "We are looking for someone with building and construction experience and someone who is used to dealing with change, such as crisis management," she said. "Basically, someone who will be able to bring people together and bring us forward as a district. Someone who is good at team-building and has experience working with people cooperatively."

Ohh, so to be a school superintendent is all you need is a Project Manager from the building/construction field. And as long it is not a women, you are all set. Right?

According to that statement Dr. Howell was over educated and in the wrong field of expertise....

Or is it the School Board members that lack the understanding of the role of a superintendent.


sarakg 9 years, 8 months ago

"As a district, we have suffered embarrassment." I'm not defending Howell, but she didn't write the emails. They "terminated" her contract (read: fired her at great taxpayer expense) based upon a board member's actions that were made public and "embarassed the district"!?! Wow....something's a little wrong here...

And, Matt, I was never really avoiding you. Just thought your question was dumb. (Yeah, there actually is such a thing.) The way that I know that my dad didn't have the emails at the time of DeVincentis' election is...drumroll please...I asked him without threatening to sue him. Sorry to disappoint you. I'm sure that you wanted to implicate me or anyone else in your timeline. As for hardball? What is this, the Larry King Show? I sincerely respect your involvement in commenting on local issues, but you seem pretty hung up on condemning people that you claim to have no issues with, and taking sides on things you claim you don't have an opinion on. And if I were you, I would reread the revised statutes. They are available on the Colorado Secretary of State's website. I'm not sure which 20% of voters you were refering to in your post in the "Question of the Week" section, but 40% of voters have to sign a recall petition in order to place that question on the ballot in the case of a school board member, not the 25% that applies to every other elected position. This means that the three COUNTY DA recall needed roughly as many signatures as did the DeVincentis recall. And the comment:

"Hey Sara-

I've got 12,358 people who disagree with you. Of course, I can't get them to properly fill out forms such as with recalls, but that's not the point, is it?"

Doesn't really make sense after that clarification, does it? With all your hospitality experience, Matt, you of all people should know that people rarely know what information to put on any sort of paperwork.


steamvent 9 years, 8 months ago

So, our highly educated and judgemental school board president uses her polished skills to start her comment "Now, it's like, wow ... " Sounds more like Valley Girl gutter jargon than competent leadership talking ... and she is screening for a new Superintendent of Schools? Oh boy.


another_local 9 years, 8 months ago

Our school board has no style or grace what-so-ever.

Board evaluations written when they had already started rolling on an agenda have no value at all.


SteamboatJoe 9 years, 8 months ago

I personally enjoy how Denise blends her last comment on the board's decision (the August 14th article) with John's last comment about crisis management (14th article as well) to create one for today. Beautiful. Who is running this show? It's not Denise.

Also, I cannot wait to see which community members get a shot at being on the interview committee. Don't waste your time since they are going to make the decision without you. It is all for show.


Matthew Stoddard 9 years, 8 months ago

Sara- Let's start with yes: you were avoiding my questions, especially since you are rebutting (barely) in a thread that I hadn't posted on yet. You could just have easily gone to the older thread (at least 3 different threads that I challenged you on over 2 1/2 months) to keep it in one thread. This has nothing to do with implicating you; you just seem to have more knowledge of this than your father, interestingly enough, since you keep speaking for him without him actually stepping up.

Point 1- You asked your father...funny! First, your father issued a statement alluding to having those emails by saying he had access to them "at that time, along with other Board members." What does that mean except to skirt the truth of having them? An investigator asked him, maybe not just like you did considering he's your father, but that person was avoided just like you avoided me. Apple, tree; you didn't fall far. As an upstanding citizen with nothing to hide, why didn't he offer any help with the investigation to clear up what he meant?

Point 2- In his statement, he didn't even give the public (his constituents at the time) the decency of telling them where/how he ended up with the emails. He skirted that issue. Just to show the guilty conscience behind it, just as all politicos do, he started his statement outlining what "good" he's done before the mea culpa.

Point 3- Now comes the good part: he goes into why he didn't come forward with the emails sooner, saying D had just entered private life. So that statement would lead one to believe he DID have them at that time, or knew about them since from the investigation we know that Howell had them during that time period and gave them to Stephenson. How did none of the new Board know about this then? Did your father hide it from them, his fellow Board members? Nothing suspicious there, eh?

Point 4- If your father then didn't not have the emails, as he alluded to having, he then released them in a manner contrary to the Arapahoe County ruling, since that ruling was also 2 years ago. He skirted the law.

Point 5- 2300 people is approximately 20% of the registered voters in Steamboat Springs, not based on the percentage of people who actually voted in the last election: maybe you should read those statutes (and what I actually write) over again. Since not all 2300 people were not diligent enough to sign the recall properly, 2300 people doesn't mean crap. Only the 1800 that did it correct count. My statement about 12,000 people disagreeing with you was to push that point home. It doesn't matter how many people agree with you if they can't vote on it.



Matthew Stoddard 9 years, 8 months ago


Point 6- I don't have to go thru this process with D since he admitted to sending the emails. He came clean with everything! He just didn't resign as you and others wanted him to. Your father did just the opposite: he resigned but didn't come clean. I don't have to go after D supporters since all his crap is out in the open for all to see. You should notice that I call them out when they put the same blinders on, though. The same cannot be said about your father, whose role in this is still concealed. Howell gave the emails to Stephenson. How did your father end up with them, especially after they should have been destroyed by law per the Arapahoe County decision? Plus, the "Question of the Week" has already been set-up to fail by being able to vote multiple times on it. I've already said I know for a fact this happens and not just because I do it. It's not a scientific poll and the questions are usually skewed to illicit only 1 answer or the other. Not everything is one or the other.

Point 7- I, "of all people, know that people rarely know what information to put on any sort of paperwork." That must be the youth in you speaking. I know nothing of the sort. I fill out my paperwork just fine. Most people I know actually read stuff they fill out. I sorry if you and people you know don't do that, but that's a life lesson, I guess. My hospitality industry background has nothing to do with that.

So Sara, when your father is willing to come clean, maybe he'll answer these questions so you don't have feel your guilt for not being able to answer them for him properly. If not, then your father will still be revered by the choir and reviled by the rest.


bikegirl 9 years, 8 months ago

stmbt joe-you are right ,The board,or rather the one member with all the power will decide who the next super is .Any community member's input will not be respected.It's the John D. show,at everyone else's expense.


Matthew Stoddard 9 years, 8 months ago

Bikegirl- you should then run against the other members so you can stand up to D and have your own input on picking the Superintendent.

Then again, since we're going on suppositions here, why did the old Board give Howell that hefty pay or play contract? Was that so NOBODY could have input as to whether she could be fired or not? Sounds like they didn't respect the opinions of future Board members when they did that. Sound about right?


SteamboatJoe 9 years, 8 months ago

I think you are absolutely right Matthew.

They knew John all to well. You are not a district employee and you have no idea what he has done year after year nor do you care to listen to those who have experienced his behavior repeatedly. Enjoy the fog while the rest of us watch what we have seen so many time before.


Matthew Stoddard 9 years, 8 months ago

That's what you say, SteamboatJoe, but plenty of other people say the opposite. So, since I already know about what D has done, I'm trying to get to the truth that you and others continue to be fogged under. D may have done wrong, but so did the others against him. They just won't come clean. Since D was retiring and was not on the Board at that time, the old Board did not do this because of D- he was retiring at the time, so Gleason told us, right? To me, your statement made it sound like they purposely did this to spite D...just like D emailed bad thoughts to a Mercer teacher just to spite Simms. I see no difference in tactics there; just wording.

Why does your final sentence indicate just giving up, also? "Enjoy the fog WHILE THE REST OF US WATCH WHAT WE HAVE SEEN SO MANY TIME BEFORE."

That sounds like a defeatist statement to me. Instead of watching what you've seen so many times before, why aren't you running for the Board and going head to head with what you disagree with?


untamedShrewd 9 years, 8 months ago

hey matt,

still suffering from septic woes today...seems you continue to have logorrhea.


Matthew Stoddard 9 years, 8 months ago

Untamed- Maybe so, but at least I have something to actually say. Speaking of septic, does that mean you're "running" for the Board to make it all better? At least I'm not the one disparaging the Board and then not doing anything about it. If you think this Board is so bad, where are all the candidates flocking to oust them? Where's that "80%" that needs to be represented?


HighlandClover 9 years, 8 months ago

Matt. Sara didn't need to reply to any direct post of yours. You're just that predictable.


bikegirl 9 years, 8 months ago

matt- I am employed by the district,so I couldn't run.


Matthew Stoddard 9 years, 8 months ago

Bikegirl- That, I can understand. Still, not everyone who's up in arms works for the district. I just wonder why there's no rush to run against the 3 seats up for grabs. To me, that shows people are more willing to sit back and just complain instead of actually doing something to rectify the situation. That's why I answered StmbtJoe's post the way I did. People need to be more proactive instead of bitching. Otherwise, the non-represented "80%" can stay home and enjoy not being represented.

There's a classic "Married...with Children" line that I remember from a politician answering Peggy Bundy when she asked him about fixing something. He said, "Are you a registered voter?" Peggy said, "No!" He said, "Then why am I talking to you?"

That means, if you only sit back and bitch, that's all you'll ever be good for if you don't actually do something about it.


Hammurabi 9 years, 8 months ago

This board created the "crisis", only they can "manage" the situation via a change in attitude. I have heard, admittedly street rumor, that the interm is a buddy of JDV's, which wouldn't surprise me one bit. Matt, you deserve only to be ignored, you're trying and tiring and have now joined SBVOR and ID whose posts we skip.


Matthew Stoddard 9 years, 8 months ago

Why is that Hammurabi; because you know I'm right? Thank you. Now if only the other questions would be answered truthfully. Unfortunately, the "we" Hammurabi states only listens to themselves. They can't believe someone they'd follow blindly might have done something wrong, themselves. Until you get someone from "your team" to run for the Board and qwicherbitchin', you also, Hammurabi, deserve to be ignored. (Funny how the old board that stuck everyone, not just the new board, with a screwed up contract is this board's fault for exercising the terms of the contract. Flippin' hypocrites!)


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