Steamboat Springs I am not a personal friend of Dr. John Devincentis, but I can no longer be quiet while the group calling itself "Save Our Schools" does everything in its power to discredit him. I worked as a high school counselor in Steamboat Springs from 1986 to 2001, time that afforded me a chance to closely observe some of the motivation for the anger and bitterness in the private e-mail conversations that are behind the current recall effort.
During her term as Superintendent of Steamboat Springs School District, Ms. Simms behaved as if "the end justified the means," bullying if "making nice" didn't work to achieve her goals. I can give numerous examples of her bullying students, faculty members and administrators. When DeVincentis reminded Ms. Simms that she was lying, she was furious. In retaliation, she attacked the area about which he was most passionate : his job performance. She did not, however, count on the backing that Dr. D enjoyed from parents and teachers at his school, so her efforts actually backfired. Finally, after significant community pressure, she announced that she had accepted a similar position in Mercer Island, Wash.
I wish I had known that she would be leaving. I left the school district five years before retirement eligibility out of disgust for Ms. Simm's leadership behavior. I respect Dr. D for refusing to go quietly as I did, for he was the only principal left who was not hired by her. She was quick to remind administrators "who buttered their bread," as she put it.
In recent newspaper stories, the same former school board members who supported Ms. Simms without question now complain that Dr. Devincentis kept them from efficiently functioning as a board with his frequent questioning and calls for accountability. Considering what is at stake, the education of our most valuable assets, our children, I appreciate questioning. I do not know Superintendent Howell, but if she shares the same attitudes and behaviors as her predecessor, our community should be worried.
Since Pat Gleason has resigned, the current board is not asking for Dr. D's resignation. I absolutely applaud this board for asking hard questions and stepping up to the position that I think all boards should take: holding people accountable, requesting appropriate details and, overall, taking an active role in shaping the district. It's a much different approach than any other board has taken, and I think the "old guard" resents anyone sticking his or her nose where no nose has gone before! As the complexion of our community and education changes, so must the board move from a "yes man" position to a mature, working group that will help this district be fully functional in the times to come. This is not the '50s, and no one should expect that outdated model for school boards to work in this century! The current school board, instead, is working diligently to get on with the work for which they were elected.
My plea to the community is that it does not allow the S.O.S. group to draw it into supporting their agenda. Let John Devincentis finish out this board term and work with the other board members for quality education as he has done for years. I respect him as a human being who, like all of us, is capable of both mistakes and excellence. Please let's put an end to the meanness and pettiness. Continuance of this issue (the recall) will only detract from the quality of education our students receive.