Steamboat Springs Sandra Smyser said her first task as the Steamboat Springs School District's interim superintendent is to facilitate communication within the district, particularly among groups with differing viewpoints.
"I understand that there is some healing to do in the district," said Smyser, 49, who fills the position vacated Aug. 10 when the School Board voted to buy out the remaining years of former superintendent Donna Howell's contract.
"I really think the most important thing to do is meeting people fast and getting to know the different people who are in the district," she said Wednesday. "It's all part of building a team and supporting the points of view people have. I think, especially when there is disagreement, people stop listening to each other."
Smyser led the Las Virgenes Unified School District in California for two years before resigning in June. She previously was superintendent of the Carpinteria Unified School District near Summerland, Calif., for five years.
"I think the biggest change for me is that I have never been an interim before," she said.
"That will be an adjustment for me. The difficulty would be I have a tendency to think long term : that doesn't mean I can't do long-term projects. I just have to know that the board is completely in agreement with me and the staff is in agreement so I know it lives beyond me."
Smyser's base salary will be $102,353, which is prorated for 174 days of a 238-day work year. Smyser's contract ends June 30, 2008.
She indicated she would use her interim year as a way to gauge whether she would apply for the permanent position. School Board President Denise Connelly said the board would begin looking for a permanent superintendent in the near future - likely after November's School Board election.
"I have just been interested in relocating, and I was obviously attracted to Colorado," said Smyser, who was a finalist in March for the superintendent position in Boulder.
"In regards to Steamboat, I thought the one-year position would be great, with the possibility it could turn into a long-term one."
Smyser takes over a district in the midst of major construction projects and booming student enrollment.
"This is an issue that I have to address regardless of the interim position," she said. "We can't sit around for a year and not talk about (building projects). I will be very involved with board and district management because those are things that need to be adjusted every year."
The district also remains divided about the controversial e-mails sent by board member John DeVincentis and a failed July recall attempt of him, as well as the dismissal of Howell.
"I'm aware there are some hurt feelings, and I think being an interim helps in healing that," said Smyser, who noted that her experience as a superintendent has shown that there is always a hot-button issue in school districts.
"The interim period gives people time to kind of work though the emotions of all the things that happened," she said. "They don't have to come loyal to me immediately because they don't know if I'll stay around. Whenever there are high emotions, it always needs time. I'm a warm person, and I think it will be easier to help move past some of the bad feelings."
Smyser added that she looks forward to engaging parents in the district's decision-making process.
"It's about respect with the parent community just as much with principals, teachers and administrators," she said.
"With good, detailed information going out to the community, they are going to know the complexities of what's going on. People will still disagree with the district at times, but they will have more trust in the decisions that are made if they understand why."