Our View: Unite behind school leader


Editorial Board, May 2008 to August 2008

  • Bryna Larsen, publisher
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Eric Morris, community representative
  • Paul Draper, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— The hiring of a new Steamboat Springs School District superintendent is no time for a split decision.

Given the tumultuous recent history of the school district and the weight of numerous current and upcoming issues - such as completion of a new elementary school, the transition to all-day kindergarten and the undecided contract status of high school principal Mike Knezevich - unified support for a superintendent is imperative for the district to move forward and continue its standard of outstanding academic achievement.

That's why we were concerned to see the Steamboat Springs School Board vote 3-2 on Monday when deciding to negotiate a contract with Dr. Shalee Cunningham of Napa, Calif.

Board members Lisa Brown and John DeVincentis voted against the motion selecting Cunningham and praised the other top finalist for the position, Brush School District Superintendent Bret Miles. All School Board members said each finalist was a worthy candidate who would contribute to the school district.

We understand that quality candidates create a difficult choice and can lead to disagreement. But in conducting arguably its most important task - hiring a superintendent - the School Board's split public vote sent a message of further discord rather than unity.

Discord with the superintendent has been too prevalent in recent years.

The previous School Board bought out the contract of former superintendent Donna Howell in August 2007, citing a rocky working relationship that could not be mediated by outside professionals. Howell led the school district for about four years after replacing former superintendent Cyndy Simms, who in 2002 gave DeVincentis a poor performance evaluation that led to mediation between the two. DeVincentis was then principal at Strawberry Park Elementary School.

Should negotiations with Cunningham prove successful, she will replace interim Superintendent Sandra Smyser, who was a finalist for the position but instead accepted a job as superintendent of the Eagle County School District. She starts there July 1.

Steamboat's new head of schools will be the fourth person to hold that position since 2003.

It's time for the carousel to stop.

The School Board met Friday to review a draft contract for Cunningham. School Board President Robin Crossan expressed hope that an agreement would be reached this week. Our hope is that the School Board not only get behind its candidate and present a unified message to the school district and public but also work to build a strong relationship with the new hire to avoid a repeat of past mediations.

Such a relationship would place the focus of the School Board, school staff and the public squarely where it should be - on education, the students and the schools.

It also would make the recent history exactly that.



Bog 9 years ago

I completely agree that the district needs stability. I can't believe the Pilot hasn't investigated why Cunningham did an about face after accepting the Durango job, following a site visit to California by Durango officials to investigate concerns brought up by the Durango Teachers Union. Is something going to come out that is a surprise, or were there issues that created conflict in her past Supernintendent jobs? Would be nice to know this now, so we are not hiring a new or interim person yet again next year.

By the way, our interim Superintendent has said she will make the final decision on the high school principal June 9, even though she leaves 3 weeks later. That makes a lot of sense, letting someone who is half out the door make a crucial decision for our district. Why not let the new Super make her own decision next year?


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