Our view: Investigation proper, but DeVincentis still should go

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The DeVincentis e-mails

— The Steamboat Springs School Board was right to investigate how e-mails sent by John DeVincentis in 2004-05 were made public.

Still, nothing in the resulting report changes the fact that, absent his resignation, DeVincentis should stand for election in November. The e-mails he sent in his final year as principal at Strawberry Park Elementary School were not only in violation of school policies, they were disturbingly vitriolic and unprofessional. They reveal character issues that, coupled with his behavior on the School Board, warrant letting voters reconsider whether he should continue in his public role.

The investigation report should be helpful in reviewing and updating school policies regarding employees' use of school e-mail, the expectation of privacy in such e-mails and the processes that will be used to ensure that privacy. Those policies have not been updated in a decade.

It also was right for the board to investigate whether any district policies were violated. An independent investigation was the only way to accomplish this.

Investigator Earl Rhodes' four findings in the report are instructive. In summary, they are:

n DeVincentis violated school policies by sending and receiving personal e-mails on his work computer and that he did not have a right of privacy when the e-mails were retrieved.

n Superintendent Donna Howell had a right to access DeVincentis' computer and that it was appropriate to share the e-mails with then School Board President Paula Stephenson.

n Howell could have done more to prevent the public release of the e-mails.

n Former board member Pat Gleason violated school policies by giving the e-mails to the newspaper.

The investigation also revealed Stephenson's role in the e-mails. Although she has not addressed the matter, it is evident Stephenson provided the e-mails to Gleason. Gleason has tried to take sole responsibility for the episode. But silence or not, Stephenson should share in that criticism.

We can only speculate as to the motivation for and timing of the e-mails' release. Would it have been better to have these e-mails prior to the November 2005 election? Absolutely. Was this done to discredit DeVincentis? Sure. Did Gleason and Stephenson hold onto the e-mails to use as a trump card to try to save the superintendent they hired? Perhaps. The politics involved are not pretty.

Gleason grasped from the outset that there was a consequence to his actions. He resigned his seat on the School Board and stated in his resignation that his actions were in conflict with board ethics. His resignation was appropriate.

DeVincentis' resignation would be equally so.

Perhaps it would be different if the e-mails DeVincentis sent had not been so vitriolic or if there had not been so many e-mails throughout such a long period of time, or if DeVincentis had not already, time and again, been the central figure in school district turmoil. But as it stands, no one else's actions - and nothing in the investigation report - can excuse DeVincentis' conduct.

The e-mail investigation was necessary and proper. Given DeVincentis' refusal to resign, so is the effort to force him onto the ballot in November.

Comments

beentheredonethat 6 years, 9 months ago

at this point it is far better for DeVincentis to be sacked through the recall effort, than to be afforded the "easy" way out and to resign. The opportunity to accept responsibility for his mistakes and quit has passed. It sends a clearer message to him and other elected officials, that unless they serve ethically and honestly, they can be shamed by being recalled.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 9 months ago

Beenthere- and it sends a message to the other side who violated those same ethics, but can no longer be held accountable, that you stand behind them and accept their transgressions. It's hypocritical.

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beagle 6 years, 9 months ago

Gee, Scott, did you think we didn't already know how you felt about John staying on the school board? Not due to any personal involvement on your part, of course.

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mom 6 years, 9 months ago

was this writen by the pilot or one of the old board members? Either way I think it was written in fear of people (that were clueless to what SOS was) wanting to remove their name from the list. It's funny because many people actually had know idea what they were signing and the members of SOS knew and took advantage of this. SOS sounded like save our schools but they really meant we are people that cannot move on and let the new board do their job...and we are spoiled brats that have nothing better to do than attempt a smear campaign surely to blow up in our own faces. Have a great day!

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steamboatkid 6 years, 9 months ago

I think that Dr.D is a very kind and as a kid I want him to stay. He helps us and our schools.

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blahblah 6 years, 9 months ago

Find something else about which to editorialize. The weekly bashing has run its course, and then some. You may as well change the name of the newspaper to The DeVincentis Journal. Sadly, the continued playing of this broken record casts a distortedly negative light on the school district, and Stanford, Gleason, and Stephenson must accept responsibility for carrying out this campaign that has, at this point, become abusive. It is a case once again of the Pilot creating the news rather than reporting the news. Perhaps we can broker a deal. Stanford resigns as editor, and DeVincentis follows with his resignation. It is time to end the harangue.

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SchoolsSupporter 6 years, 9 months ago

As Steamboat goes about making some of the very most important decisions for its schools, I implore the best and brightest of you to do some online searching-and delve into what such acrimony and division has done to lesser districts.

The ripples emanating from each and every action will have lasting effects on your schools and on your community.

Steamboat is one of the finest districts, not only in Colorado, but nationally. It is painful to watch the possibilities for harm accumulate. Good luck to you all.

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bikegirl 6 years, 9 months ago

Great piece- to cyborgdreams-Pretty nasty to comment on Kelly.Although we could make comments about John's wife,Allyson we have more class than that,They are not the people in question and you are straying from the issues.

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bikegirl 6 years, 9 months ago

I also think that John D's position on the board,and his wife being a teacher,could be considered a conflict of interest.

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SteamboatJoe 6 years, 9 months ago

bikegirl - you must learn the rules only apply to those holding D accountable. The parents who stood up for him back with Cyndy are not "good compassionate people who were had" they are simply "evil, self appointed community leaders/old board members" in the eyes of all who scream compassion today. Isn't that ironic?

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beagle 6 years, 9 months ago

Poor Joe. You're not looking like one of the good guys anymore.

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bikegirl 6 years, 9 months ago

Joe- Yes,sure is ironic- I wonder if the Pilot offered a different view,how people would react.I also find it interesting that the so called "compassionate people"are doing alot of name calling and insulting when I have a different opinion than theirs.Very narrow minded EH?Oh Yeah,good guys don't always win,but they know the truth in their hearts,and so do their kids,who Are paying attention.

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mom 6 years, 9 months ago

Pay attention to the interviews on the district web site.

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bikegirl 6 years, 9 months ago

I have read the interviews ,I still defend the recall.TRUST is totally broken at this point,Remember John is still the person in the center of this.

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Sunnydays 6 years, 9 months ago

Jim Gill was on the school board and then headed the fund board while his wife was employed by the school district. This seemed to work fine.

How many other people employed by the district did the Superintendent request to have computer files taken from their computers after hours?

Were D's files on the server or were they on his laptop?

What is the policy of the school board and the district regarding confidential information? I would think that when a member of the board or the school district leaves the board or the district they would have to return employee records they have in their possession confidential or not. Failure to do so violates employee trust and the publics trust.

Did Donna Howell ask for these records to be returned? Did she tell the people she gave them to they were confidential.

What is going on in this school district? This is nuts, employee records can walk out with a departing superintendent, a departing board president, a departing board member and then be shared with whomever. Not a place I would want to work if I was a teacher looking for a job.

Was Paula Stephenson equally unethical when she was on the board? Is that why it struggled for so many years, favoritism is more important than results??

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sarakg 6 years, 9 months ago

I know my dad wrote a statement to Rhodes. Was that not important enough to include? What view are we really getting from the school board?

Sara Gleason

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Sunnydays 6 years, 9 months ago

Trust is totally broken. Trust of a superintendent with her former board president, Paula Stephenson. Trust of an employee in the school district with their superintendent. Trust of an employee in the school district with former school board members. Many fingers point at what John did two years ago, Paula and Pat did their dirty tricks two months ago. It is clear they received information in confidence and then violated the trust of their positions. They should not be leading a recall, they should be thrown out of town.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 9 months ago

Sara- Nice to see you back for another hit & run. According to the report, your father didn't give an additional statement. Did he just copy the same statement he gave to the Pilot? That one is evidently scattered with untruths to his timeline.

Is that that same as him saying he had access to the emails "at that time" when he was actually not the one who received the emails per Howell's statement...at least not from her? How do I trust what you say is true when it conflicts (again) from written statements that we can all see? Sorry- you and your father's credence is slipping more and more, every day. You seem intent on making sure everyone knows what your father is doing/saying. Is he funneling everything through you? Why isn't he coming forward on his own?

bikegirl- I thought we already established that this goes way beyond D now? Whether or not we agree on the recall, we've already agreed that this goes higher than just the emails. Are you forgetting our posts just the other day?

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mom 6 years, 9 months ago

I am sorry for the people that still think John is the bad guy here. Many people in the community should be ashamed of themselves for being so quick to "follow" and be so cruel. I think the Pilot, along with many other individuals, owe John a HUGE APOLOGY. I also think many people in the community were mislead by the very people in question here. It's okay to feel remorse. You can easily remove your name from the misleading recall list. MANY WERE MISLEAD!

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JQPUBLIC 6 years, 9 months ago

Some don't feel like they are "quick to follow", they feel others are blindly following... so we shall now let democracy take it course. Right or wrong, win or lose, that's the best we have.

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bikegirl 6 years, 9 months ago

matt -agreed-what I meant was trust is broken by all,and the interviews do not exonerate John's part in this.Some folks are twisting things around to excuse John.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 9 months ago

bikegirl- Got it! Thanks. That's will hold true on both sides, though.

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Sunnydays 6 years, 9 months ago

I don't forgive John for what he wrote. That was stupid, but it was personal. He did violate a policy that almost everyone in the district violates. He used his work e-mail to send personal e-mails. I think Donna Howell should look at everyone's e-mails instead of just one persons. Maybe she would find more violations of this policy, she could probably check her own e-mails and find violations.

What Paula and Pat did is unconscionable. They were elected officials and violated strict policies. They took confidential district information and disseminated it. This violates the public trust in the very institution they claim to be protecting. If the members of the board cannot be trusted with employee confidential information, then maybe they should not be entitled to see it. Any trust that people and employees have in that institution has been shattered by their actions. Any confidential information they had when they quit, resigned, decided not to run again, should have been returned or destroyed. In not doing this and using it in the manner they did, they destroyed the last semblance of credibility the school board has. If I was a teacher, I would not work in this district.

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bikegirl 6 years, 9 months ago

matt -Yes.we need sweeping changes all around if our district is ever to move forward in a positve direction-

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Sunnydays 6 years, 9 months ago

Bikegirl,

I disagree, I think Denise has done a fine job handling this situation and has stayed above the fray. She has maintained a high ethical standard, unlike her predecessors. She did not give into the recall and demand John's resignations, she took the prudent step of getting the facts first, and right now is most likely equally disappointed with John, Donna, and many members of the the old board. What a mess she has to deal with, yet she seems up to the task. Giver her credit, it is due.

As to John, Donna, Pat Gleason, Paula Stephenson, and the band of others. They should not be allowed anywhere near the school system, again... Steamboat is a respected school district but it is quickly losing its luster because of the actions of these fools. They all need to be dealt with. At this point John should resign, Donna should resign, and Gleason and Stephenson should be put to pasture. Scott Stanford should lose his position as editor of the Hate Devincentis Pilot and the school district should move forward. But this cannot happen unless the above happens.

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bikegirl 6 years, 9 months ago

I do give Denise credit ,I think she is an honest and ethical person.I also agree,she has quite a mess to deal with, Yes,she was prudent and thoughtful in waiting for the investigaton findings.I wish John would resign on his own,but we all know he won't,so we will vote this fall and move on .

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another_local 6 years, 9 months ago

Sundays, the problem people have with Dr D is NOT that he sent personal emails on a school computer. The problem is what he said in those emails; it was innapropriate, unethical, and mean. He acknowledged lying in an official capacity and he demonstrated a level of unprofessional behavior that we can not tolorate in a leader. He exposed himself as unsuitable for any position of public responsibility.

I couldn't care less what the school policy on private emails is as to whether they are allowed or not but it was completely clear to all that what was written in them was subject to district review.

The investigation the board conducted found that Dr H was well within her rights and responsibilties to review the contects of that computer AND to share what was found with the president of the Board of Education.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 9 months ago

anotherlocal- It also showed that Howell used bad judgement for the multiple reasons (they kept changing as the questions went along, remember?) and none of them stood up to procedure. She lied about the reasons for even checking D's computer.

D lied to get Simms hired by Mercer Country; Howell lied about why she was accessing D's computer. Sounds pretty even.

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another_local 6 years, 9 months ago

Even or not, it does not argue for keeping Dr D.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 9 months ago

You are right, but you held up Howell as being within her rights. D was within his rights and got caught being unethical. Howell did the same. They are equivalent. This means if you support getting rid of D, you should have no problem supporting the notion of getting rid of Howell.

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jack legrice 6 years, 9 months ago

Something good came out of this. Simms had to go. I do not agree with the the way it happened,but at least she is gone.

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