Steamboat Springs 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."