Board, superintendent seek understanding

Five workshops dedicated to help define school district roles

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School board vacancy

The Steamboat Springs School Board still is looking for someone to fill the vacancy created by Pat Gleason's resignation.

Gleason represented District 4, and the new board member has to live within the District 4 boundaries. A map of the district's board boundaries is available at www.sssd.k12.co.us through the School Board link.

The deadline to fill the position was May 24, but the district has received no letters of interest. Extending the deadline is on the agenda for the School Board's June 4 study session. Letters of interest can be sent to the Steamboat Springs School District offices at 325 Seventh St.

The new board member's term will expire in November, when he or she would have to seek election by the voters.

— Recent workshops aimed at reviewing how the Steamboat Springs School District uses policy governance could help resolve instances of miscommunication and distrust, officials said.

Jim Weigel, a training consultant with the Colorado Association of School Boards, has led multiple workshops for the School Board and Superintendent Donna Howell reviewing policy governance and how to best implement it in the school district. The most recent workshop was May 23.

Policy governance is a model for administration that defines roles and responsibilities for the School Board, the superintendent and other stakeholders. The school district instituted policy governance nine years ago, but it never was fully implemented, Howell and School Board President Denise Connelly said.

The workshops have been "worthwhile, and it will clear up a lot of miscommunication and mistrust," Connelly said. "A lot of the mistrust has come from lack of communication - not being told what the concerns are and what's going on."

Missing within the previous policy governance process in the district were communication pieces for all stakeholders, including ways for parents and staff to communicate to Howell and the School Board, as well as monitoring methods for the School Board to evaluate the superintendent, Connelly said.

The School Board and Howell have had a rocky relationship during the past few months, and that relationship lies at the heart of the recent discussions.

"This has been very productive because it's leading to a real clarification," she said. "The first facilitation we had in the fall, basically, we were just expressing our frustrations with knowing our roles and responsibilities."

Now, Connelly said, those roles and responsibilities are more clearly defined. Essentially, she said, the School Board is more concerned with policy administration and district results. The School Board will focus less on how the district gets the results, leaving the "how" to Howell and district staff.

Revisions to policies have been board-directed.

"They are developed to reflect the desires of the board," Howell said. "They also provide clearer direction to the superintendent in terms of carrying out the policies."

The School Board has reviewed - and revised, when necessary - dozens of policies specifically related to the governance process, executive limitations and the board/superintendent relationship.

The School Board would like to outline what Howell and future superintendents cannot do within the realm of ethics and legalities.

"Anything beyond that - how she gets to those results without violating policies - is more open," Connelly said. "We are entrusting Donna with making a lot of decisions, but within limitations."

The School Board did add some important language to its policies, Connelly said. "We did want to add that 'the superintendent may not retaliate or discriminate for non-disruptive expression of dissent.'"

Connelly added that those rules applied to other administrators and should flow throughout the district. It was language not previously written into district policy.

The School Board plans to talk to, listen to and engage the community to see what its concerns are and what Steamboat residents feel the results of the school district should be.

"All the communication has to happen at all those levels," Connelly said.

Comments

another_local 7 years, 2 months ago

I will be ready to vote in some new board members when this election comes around. I hope we can replace Denise, Jeff and John. All these former education staff people have too much baggage with administration.

I heard they are trying to get a rule change that would allow current district employees to serve on the board. That would be a real mistake. Former employees are bad enough. Talk about fox in charge of the chicken coop!

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steamboatsconscience 7 years, 2 months ago

another what is your source for the rule change? or a link? Or just rumor mongering, as usual?

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another_local 7 years, 2 months ago

Stmbt-con... Just the usual, passing along something I heard. On the other hand, things I have heard from this person have turned out to be reliable in the past.

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beagle 7 years, 2 months ago

Well, that last rumor you had about the investigation lawyer was wrong because I checked it out. And speaking of rumors, I heard from a 'good source' that the recall group was at the Doak Walker old folks' home trying to get signatures for their petition! How perfect is that?

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fish 7 years, 2 months ago

Oh, are you saying once you reach a certain age you are not eligible to sign a petition. Just because a person is in the Doak Walker center it does not mean that they are mentally infirmed.

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another_local 7 years, 2 months ago

Stmbt-con and Beagle, You could well be right. I do try to make it clear when it is something I have heard vs something I am more confident in. One story that I heard that I now know is not true was that board members went to DrD and asked him to resign before publshing the emails. So there are certainly things circulating that are false.

In the end, I think it is clear that DrD is unsuited for working in a public capacity because he is a distraction from the work that needs to be done. Aside from the lying and the personal attacks he has engaged in, he should resign for the good of the process.

Out of curiosity Beagle, how did you check out the lawyer thing?

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JQPUBLIC 7 years, 2 months ago

"Now, Connelly said, those roles and responsibilities are more clearly defined. the School Board is more concerned with policy administration and district results. The School Board will focus less on how the district gets the results, leaving the "how" to Howell and district staff."....

It's taken them long enough to figure out what they were elected to do but it sounds like Connelly is trying to pass the buck now that the crap has hit the fan. If the "roles and responsibilities" weren't clearly defined then that should have been one of the boards first priorities after election.

"how she gets to those results without violating policies - is more open,Connelly said. We are entrusting Donna with making a lot of decisions, but within limitations."....

Exactly what did this board think the supers job was anyway?

another_local... sounds like allowing current district employees to serve on the board would be a total conflict of interest that would be against state law.

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Hammurabi 7 years, 2 months ago

I do not think it is against the "law" for a current employee to serve on the board. It is currently against S.S. board policy. Yes it would be a conflict of interest, and if this policy were to change, this district would be the only one in the state to allow employees to serve on a school board. John pointed out that it currently isn't against the law for him to vote on salary negoations last fall. His wife is a teacher and he took his sweet timel deciding whether he had a conflict of not. He ultimately decided not to vote, but didn't formally step down. Splitting hairs, I know, but appearences do matter.

This does appear to be too little, too late. When elected they all declined to attend a state meeting on Policy Governance, so now they finally decide to have someone come in and teach them about it. I wonder what the cost of this was? Just what are the limitations that Howell will be under is the next question that needs more explaination. Will it just be the same with a new name to hid behind?

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beagle 7 years, 2 months ago

Sorry to repeat myself but: Regarding the recall, I've noticed a lot of people in town have no idea what is going on. Let's get it straight - the current elected board did not ask Devincentis to resign and do not want a recall. It's former board members who don't like the new direction of this board who had the e-mails for two years. They're the ones who, instead of talking to current board members and discussing the issues, took the e-mails to the Pilot to try to force Devincentis off the board. In his letter, Pat Gleason threatened Denise Connelly, board president, with a recall too if she didn't ask Devincentis to resign. These former board members are the same ones who are behind the recall and who are refusing to cooperate with the e-mail investigation. And that's why it's being called dirty politics.

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Hammurabi 7 years, 2 months ago

There are many former board members who seem to be in favor of giving the community the opportunity to decide this issue in November. Each of these individuals have very different personalities with differing views and perspectives. They served at different times over the past. They all appear to agree on one thing, that Devincentis is hijacking the district to fulfil his personal agenda. I look at who they are and wonder can all these very different people be wrong? What's dirty about following the democratic process and what are you apparently afraid of?

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beagle 7 years, 2 months ago

Hamm - Two things I'm afraid of: I'm afraid of living in a town where this kind of a slimy smear campaign passes for politics as usual. I'm afraid of going back to the days of the old, rude board who scoffed at anyone who tried to make a comment and let administration balloon way past what was needed. And yes I believe in the democratic process. The current board was elected. The has-beens are trying to hijack them and what they're trying to accomplish.

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titsikama 7 years, 2 months ago

Hamm- I can tell you that no Board is perfect. Perhaps you recall the board (comprised of many SOS members) that called an executive session, sent everyone home and then came out of executive session and voted on the issue that the public was there to speak on - whose agenda were they in support of? What about the battles over the Spanish Program funded by parents (again previous Board). I have witnessed the rudeness of other Board members who frightened kids so much they refused to speak on the programs they wanted. If the former Board members really cared what we thought they would have given us facts (i.e how someone voted on issues, what the "personal agenda" of each Board member is, what the concerns are of that Board member, what specificllly is disruptive to functioning of the Board), that is the democratic process Hamm! Instead they give us smut and treat us like we are stupid by letting us think our schools need "saving". There are some things worthy of our vote provided we are giving fair and accurate information in which to make our decisions-this scenorio of slimy, dirty Nixon era politics is not.

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Books 7 years, 2 months ago

Hammurabi

Is a smear campaign part of the democratic process? Yes, we do have elections every November. People campaign on issues and ideas. That's not what is happening here. The old board has presented no ideas or issues, just a smear job on a sitting school board member. They came from the grave to perform a character assassination. They threatened the current school board president. They released sensitive information from school district computers, without permission. They succeeded in dividing our community.

Maybe this sort of thing was business as usual back in their day. It makes me really glad they are no longer a part of the school board. It also motivates many of us to make sure they don't succeed in rising to power again.

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Hammurabi 7 years, 2 months ago

From everything I've read, it seems to me that Devincentis shot himself first in the foot and now appears to be aiming higher. Explain to me how others are trying to assassinate him? I hardly think the recall group wants to take any of the board members places. As for "smut", the only place I've seen any is not with the recall group, but with Devincentis.

As a tax payer I appreciate when the board looks beyond an initial request to the long term financial consequencesof that request. It seems that the fund board is requested to fund a program and then either the district must take over that expense or the fund board must continue to fund it. Long term, what will happen if the sales tax goes away?

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 2 months ago

Okay Hamm-

1- D shot himself in the foot first as Principal. He violated nothing, but was ignorant for sending personal emails from a public computer. Stupid, but not illegal and certainly not alone in doing it.

2- Depending on what actual date the Pilot received these email copies, Gleason was still on the Board and resigned 4APR07, the day before they were printed on this site.

www.steamboatpilot.com/news/2007/apr/18/email_source_revealed/

Since Scott Stanford even said they investigated thru numerous sources the validity of the emails before printing the story. Can we figure that took more than 1 day? That would mean that Gleason had violated Board policy about being derogatory toward another sitting board member. He did that anonymously, of course, until he revealed himself.

3- Gleason basically admits in his statement that he had those emails for 2 years, and I've already noted how his reasoning doesn't add up in a timeline. That means to me, at least, that he waited until he felt politically motivated to release them. See that in my response to Sara Gleason.

www.steamboatpilot.com/news/2007/may/22/group_claims_600_signatures/

4- As for the SOS group not wanting to take D's place after the recall...I guess we'll see on that point, won't we. The fact is, it's members consist of some of the Board members that D took on along with Simms. Sounds like some sour grapes ended up in whine.

Somebody else noted that the SOS group was started up before the emails were released. Can anyone verify that? If so, (MIGHTY BIG "IF") there's the conspiracy theory working itself out.

Can you dispute any of that? It's not all facts, but evidently, old Board members aren't talking, lengthening this process. I find that odd when they say they have nothing to hide about this whole thing. I personally don't care about the recall; I can't sign it anyway. What I do care about is all this back and forth shows that something about the way all people that are involved in this just isn't kosher...and I do mean everyone.

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linus 7 years, 2 months ago

This is a letter to the editor that a friend of mine wrote a couple of weeks ago but the Pilot did not print it:

If you are considering signing the recall for Dr. D., please do not do it. Why: Because we need to protect some level of a decent political process in our School Board and our town in general. What has occurred was not an open process in which SOS or Mr. Gleason give us facts about the voting patterns of Dr. D. or what he stands for, but rather a carefully orchestrated smear campaign that is highly questionable in its legality. I worry that we will set precedence for how we handle our political opposition in the future. Don't like your political opponent or some one you disagree with, no need to give your public any real information, just find some private smut and send it along to the paper.

E-mails on the school computer are not public information. If so, we should have the right as a public to review e-mails written by all teachers, former and present board members, superintendents and every other employee to be sure that they have not said something (especially in a private conversation) that could reflect poorly on our district. There are procedures in place so that this does not happen. We should have the right to find out how this leak occurred and the intent or I have no doubt that this issue will surface again.

Since when do private words speak louder then public action? Have we gotten to the point where we make our decisions on who directs our policies based not on what they stand for, or how they vote, but whether or not they have clean, unbiased thoughts and conversations or say the right words?

The SOS Committee is now trying to back pedal by saying they are going to "be ethical and honest". Releasing those e-mails before coming to the public with facts about Dr. D's performance and voting record was not ethical. It was not ethical to threaten Denise with a potential recall if she did not force Dr. D. to resign, or to show the e-mails to the Board prior to release so they could try to resolve this issue internally. It was not honest to by-pass systems in place to protect district employee information to be used to defame someone. Again words versus actions. Which should matter more?

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linus 7 years, 2 months ago

letter (cont.):

I encourage everyone to really learn the facts first and both sides of the story, then and only then should you consider signing a recall petition. But by signing the petition you are saying that as a community we no longer support open, honest, legal discussion regarding our political officials, but carefully orchestrated smear campaigns where the ends supposedly justify the means; Where it only matters what you say, not what you do.

As a father of two children at Strawberry Park Elementary and as a member of a family which includes school administrators, principals and teachers I can't compliment Dr. D. enough for his leadership while principal at Strawberry Park. Our kids adore Dr. D. and they strive to achieve the excellence he instilled in them. His 25 years as a well loved administrator by almost all of the parents and teachers did not deserve to be destroyed by this vindictive act, regardless of how you feel about him personally. The problem is some old Board members don't like the changes taking place and they are trying to throw a community leader under the bus to keep it from happening, rather then wait for the public to decide.
Please do not sign the sign the petition for all the reasons mentioned above.

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jeannie berger 7 years, 2 months ago

linus, I seem to remember reading this letter. Are you sure it was not printed on one of these forums. Either it was or some of it has been written before in other posts. Are you accusing the SP&T of not publishing it because they have an agenda?

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mom 7 years, 2 months ago

The paper only prints one side. The smear stuff. There are many letters in support of the current board and Dr. D the paper won't print.

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Books 7 years, 2 months ago

Ham

You said, "I hardly think the recall group wants to take any of the board members places". Well, you were wrong. The recall group is trying to take over the board. Darcy Trask is trying for Gleason's position.

Darcy Trask has been running around town with a recall petition in her hand, trying to sign people up. She also wrote a letter to the editor, saying bad things about Dr. D. and stated "I also implore Denise Connelly to immediately ask for and receive John DeVincentis' resignation".

The last thing we need now is another Gleason on the board. What would she do anyway? Sit next to D and again ask Connelly for D's resignation? She sounds like another backstabber. I can't believe the nerve of this woman.

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Hammurabi 7 years, 2 months ago

So she a petition carrier. So far I've seen many other people carring petitions. I haven't seen her name on any of the list of core recall group. If you misunderstood my comments, I should have been clearer. Does that mean that anyone who carries a petition is no longer eligble to run for the school board? She has every right to apply, and if appointed to serve. I believe that you perceive anyone who thinks that putting the recall to the voters is a backstabber and therefore unfit to either apply for the position or run for the office. On the other hand do you also feel that anyone who has written a letter to the editor or become a member of the group "Citizens for Fair Politics" is also unfit for the office? Or is this a one way street? So far, if I remember correctly, now on this blog, some have suggested that if a citizen is of a certain age or thinks the recall has merit, they are automatically disqualified from expressing their opinions.

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Books 7 years, 2 months ago

Darcy might be really good, I don't know. However, birds of a feather flock together. The fact that she has chosen to join a bunch of bums who have endlessly low standards, makes me question her judgment. I really don't want to see the old board tactics at play in our schools ever again.

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