Board narrowly approves principal contracts

Language and terms of agreements, not people, cause for concern; vote passes, 3-2


— The Steamboat Springs School Board scrutinized and challenged principals' contract terms Monday night before voting narrowly to ask them back for another year.

Board members Pat Glea-son, Denise Connelly and Jerry Kozatch voted to renew the contracts of Strawberry Park Elementary School Principal Mark MacHale, Soda Creek Elementary School Principal Judy Harris, Steamboat Springs Middle School Principal Tim Bishop, middle school Assistant Principal Jerry Buelter, Steamboat Springs High School Principal Mike Knezevich and high school Assistant Principal Kevin Taulman.

John DeVincentis and Jeff Troeger voted against renewing the contracts. DeVincentis and Troeger said it wasn't the people they questioned, but the language and terms of their contracts.

Troeger's primary issue is the availability of health care, if applicable, to principals' families. District staff, whose benefits and salaries are negotiated annually through the Collaborative Bargaining Team, traditionally have not received health care for families.

"I have a problem for the fifth year," Troeger said. "I don't think administrators' kids are more important than anyone else's kids. I don't like the message we are sending to everyone else. I don't want to take $10,000 from an administrator. I just want to build the cost into the contracts."

DeVincentis raised a number of concerns, particularly with the inequity between administrators' benefits when compared with other district staff benefits. For example, administrators receive travel expenses plus a $1,250 automobile reimbursement, which is factored into the minimum salary.

"I have too many questions related to the way the contract is right now," said DeVincentis, who was on a similar contract while he was Strawberry Park's principal.

Gleason, Connelly and Koz-atch also had concerns with the language of several contract items, which was why Gleason made a motion to approve the contracts pending the changing of language of several items.

For example, board members did not believe it was appropriate for principals to be paid by the district on days when the principals were being paid for consultation work out-of-district.

But Gleason, Connelly and Kozatch voted to approve the contracts because, among several reasons, the principals may have sought employment elsewhere had the board not renewed the contracts by April 1.

"We would not only be operating without a contract, we would be operating without the knowledge that our employment would continue," MacHale said.

Board members also voted unanimously to freeze administrators' salaries and benefits pending the review of compensation packages from other Colorado districts.

Superintendent Donna Howell said she has had trouble gathering accurate comparative information because districts are reluctant to share it. Gleason said it's public record, so there should be no trouble accommodating the board's request.

MacHale said Monday was difficult, but he was pleased that he and his colleagues' contracts were renewed.

"Certainly anytime someone is discussing whether you are going to have a job is uneasy to say the least," MacHale said. "The irony is we are being singled out in an open meeting at the same time we are asked to perhaps give up some of our benefits as we sit there at 10:30 at night."

DeVincentis said, in the future, he wants to see principal contracts before March 19 if the School Board is to act before April 1.

- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail


Magpie 10 years, 1 month ago

"I have a problem for the fifth year," Troeger said.

Then don't wait until the last minute and the night you have to vote on these contracts to bring up these issues.

You now have a year before you need to vote on the 2008-09 principals' contracts. Put it on your agendas to discuss it. Create a subcommittee to recommend what changes should be made and get new contracts drafted well before March of next year.

I will be highly disappointed if Mr. Troeger has a problem for the sixth year becuase nothing is discussed or done until next March.


JustSomeJoe 10 years, 1 month ago

I've seen the board in action a couple of times and it's my impression that Jeff Troeger and Dr. D provide different opinions (aka negative comments) when it's time for a vote and rarely provide a solution or a reasonable alternative.


reallocal 10 years, 1 month ago

And yet it's basically the same contract the DeVincentis was on when he was the principle. Interesting that he has problems with it now that he's not the one signing it. This is yet another ploy to cause disruption and dissention among school board members to force the agenda of a few members and a minority of citizens. Namely, firing Donna Howell. Congrats Troeger and DeVincentis. If you don't fire her first, I wouldn't blame her for walking away. I certainly wouldn't work for a boss that criticized and micro-managed my every move the way you have consistently hounded Howell.


forsteamboatkids 10 years, 1 month ago

Our totally ineffective school board is going to force us into a situation where we get what we pay for. You don't think other schools in the state are clamoring for administrators that can lead their schools to excellency. If you cut benefits from our administrators and continue to freeze cost of living increases, we will be stuck settling for mediocre leaders in our schools. Is that the vision of this board? With the lack of a competitive employement package, our district will not be able to retain current or attract superior future administrative prospects. This board is not focused on raising the level of success in our schools. Instead, they are tearing it down with their inability to appreciate what is right in front of them.


reallocal 10 years, 1 month ago

gwendolyn, why don't you form a committee of concerned parents who can help to educate these individuals? I agree, there have been too many children leaving our school systems too early, which we all agree is not in their best interests. If any such group exists, I have yet to hear about it. Actions speak louder than words. While you personally may not make much of a change, I'm sure that there are other parents who feel the same way and can help to influence positive change. The reason these contracts were voted upon was that if they weren't passed, none of these administrators would have a job next week. While you may have problems with the current leadership, no leadership would probably be a worse proposition. Poor leadership (DeVincentis) and the inability of the board to effectively govern due to constant squabbling over personal vendettas trickles down. While I may not agree with your opinions on these individuals, I would encourage you to take action. What our school system needs most of all are involved parents who are willing to contribute to positive solutions rather than constantly criticizing the few people who do actively contribute. I'm not saying that you don't, just that I wish more parents would.

Secondly, I would venture an explanation about those test scores. Our school systems have long had a reputation as a district with excellent special needs programs compared to other districts. Every parent wants the best education for their child, so I do not blame them for taking advantage of these programs, but the numbers of special needs and challenged children has steadily grown over the past few years. In addition, the demographics of our community are changing. We have many more ESL children and I could not imagine that hurdle would help to improve test scores.

Finally, our schools systems have never been able to effectively educate children that fall to either end of the proverbial bellcurve. Our district has moved to implement programs for those students with special needs, but never for the gifted students. Meetings about possible programs have been being held since 1993, and still no headway. I know how frustrating it can be to make the one-size-fits-all education the best thing for any child that falls outside of the norm, but that is exactly why we need parents dedicated to supporting and assisting the district and providing viable solutions rather than blind criticism. Please people, ACT don't talk.


gwendolyn 10 years, 1 month ago

"excellent special needs programs"

No. this is NOT true. The special needs program in this town is extremely inadequate. In fact, I know teachers who have learning disabled kids of their own and who have vowed to NEVER allow their child into the hands of the likes of BOCES or under the "review" of school admin.

However, if only supporters of the school system are told when review meetings are held or when CDE reps are coming to town then all you ever read about is the so-called "excellent" side.

If you read the BOCES review report from last year, then you would know that the individuals who analyzed the info and wrote the report are clueless. They clearly pointed out the higher than average numbers (for CO school districts) of students with learning disabilities in Steamboat and then indicated they were, possibly, allowing too many students to identify as learning disabled. Hello? Are these people really this dense? This is a community that thrives on outdoor activity and physical participation in learning opportunities. A town filled with Olympian hopefuls and more sports teams at the high school than just about any other high school in the state. Kids with hyperactivity and difficulties focusing on traditional learning styles. Just the sort of kids who typically DO have a greater propensity for learning disabilities and difficulties with traditional classroom settings. Um, Vail was another little town in CO with similar high numbers re: learning disabilities. Duh.


gwendolyn 10 years, 1 month ago


It's become the directive to cut back the numbers on those who are "selected" for supportive educational assistance. Besides, the schools here have a hard enough time recruiting special resources teachers and more students identified as "learning disabled" means that more special teachers will have to be hired.....and they are in short supply, too... Of course, paying them a janitor's salary doesn't help any...

As for ESL....ESL issues did not lower the scores for the HIGH SCHOOL. Each school is rated individually. While ESL may have been a greater issue for elementary schools, it was NOT much of an issue for the high school.

"taking advantage of these programs" is a bit of a farcical statement. Particularly when you have no idea how many students with learning disabilities are actually turned down from appropriate support in this school district. And, those who do "take advantage" aren't TAKING ADVANTAGE. They are using resources that are critical to their very survival within the school system. good grief.

There are parent groups in this community who do not agree with how their children have been handled in the Steamboat school district. At least 1 group has it's own legal representation... with several parents here in town who have retained independent counsel, as well. Do you ever read about them in the Pilot? No. Wonder why..... Oh, I's that "privacy" issue. Doubtful that "privacy" is a concern of the parents....more a protective measure used by the School District to hide what's REALLY going on than anything else.


gwendolyn 10 years, 1 month ago

One final note:

If the school district is not in support of parents with negative opinions or who would like to express much needed changes...then how does "the word" get out to parents to even have a meeting? So far, the meetings I've seen are always shared with the public AFTER THE FACT and the meetings were attended by supporters with only good things to say... Any potential naysayers were, somehow, simply not informed of the meeting in a timely fashion that actually allowed them to attend. I routinely receive my mail from the school district AFTER THE FACT of meetings. Routinely.


  • The school board has already indicated that public comments at board meetings that reference individuals may NOT be given publicly.
  • If a parent and/or student has something they feel a need to communicate to the board, it too is squashed.
  • Donna Howell is so busy fighting communication issues between the schools and the board that she's unavailable a great deal of the time.
  • And the admin staff? They don't want to hear your whiny little voice -- or, they do take the time to "listen" and then do squat. Dead end. The round file of nothingness. The void of all voids.
  • BOCES? The business entity that takes money from the school district and won't give a parent the time of day with a REAL 2-way conversation? Yeah, right. Talk about dead end...

It's taken me several years to identify other kids/parents who have "issues" with the schools here that are similar to mine. And, given the conversations I've had with CMC students in this town...I know there's more of us "out there" but cynicism has taken the strong-hold.

After all, it's a small town. Small minds. Big egos. Retribution against your child a REAL possibility. Who wants that for their child? It's bad enough in school for them...what parent wants to make it even worse for their kid?


jezilu 10 years, 1 month ago

Gwen Those of us that know who you are, know the real problem...and it is not the schools.


gwendolyn 10 years, 1 month ago

I'm so scared! Someone who works for the school district thinks he knows who I am!

(I was supposed to be scared, right?)

Can you also identify which pieces and parts of information I shared with this forum came from which of the other parents, students (former and current), and staff (past and present)?

If you can, then you are who I think YOU are!


BTW, I never wrote that the problem was with the schools. It's with a few select staff...

You have no clue how many student/parent/teacher bridges you have burned over the years, do you?


gwendolyn 10 years, 1 month ago


why were my posts removed? Are dissenting opinions re: the school district and key PUBLIC leaders not allowed on this forum?



reallocal 10 years ago

Gwen, I insist, please pick on only elected officials. (I think that may be the reason for the removal of your comments). You may not agree with them, but they pick the other people you are trying to pick on. BTW, K never did anything but help the challenged children when I worked with him. Everyone interested in the state of this district should look at and learn a lot. If you have any further questions, please let me know. I have TONS of info that anyone with a child in this district should be privy to. And also, anyone who has questions regarding a recall election. I am not personally available to run, but let me know. I have been doing research...also, I am sorry that my comments were edited in the Sunday Pilot. If they hadn't been, and if everyone could have read them as were, I wouldn't have sounded half as clueless. Alas, there is a word limit on these things people....


gwendolyn 10 years ago


reads to me like you are the one with a vendetta against John D. Are you certain you aren't really Mike K or someone close to him?

If you have so much info that you believe children should be privy to here, make yourself known and by all means share it. Nothing stopping you, is there?

The only person who I know for sure has personal vendettas is Knezevich. I don't personally know any of the school board but do believe they have good reasons for their opinions.

My comments were removed because they were "unverifiable".

Soon. Only a couple of months left to this school year and I'll be happy to verify when it's all said and done.


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