Shalee Cunningham

Photo by Brian Ray

Shalee Cunningham

Cunningham hired

New superintendent to make $150,000 a year plus benefits in two-year contract


Steamboat's new superintendent

Dr. Shalee Cunningham

Current job: Educational consultant with Cunningham and Associates, helping school districts as an interim superintendent and with needs including strategic planning and curriculum audits

Previous posts: Superintendent, Orinda Union School District, Orinda, Calif., 1997 to 2000; superintendent, Mammoth Unified School District, Mammoth Lakes, Calif., 1991 to 1997; superintendent, Hermosa Beach City School District, Los Angeles County, 1988 to 1991

In her words: "I've worked in school districts between 0 and 5,000 (enrollment) - it's where I do best." (late March)

"I have been the superintendent in a ski resort, very much the same size," she said. "And our family are very much outdoors people." (April 4)

— Dr. Shalee Cunningham, an educational consultant from Napa, Calif., is the new superintendent of the Steamboat Springs School District.

Cunningham will make $150,000 a yearplus benefits in a two-year contract approved unanimously by the Steamboat Springs School Board on Monday night in Centennial Hall. The contract begins July 1 and ends June 30, 2010, with a renewal option for a third year.

"I am very excited about this new assignment in Steamboat Springs and will be there next week to visit with community, staff, students and school board," Cunningham wrote in a Monday e-mail from Idaho, where she was visiting family and unavailable for further comment.

Anne Muhme, the district's assistant to the superintendent, confirmed that Cunningham will visit Steamboat Springs from May 7 to 9 and again in June for an administrative retreat.

Cunningham has been an educator since at least 1975. She has been an interim superintendent for three California school districts in the past seven years, through her Cunningham and Associates consulting business. Before the interim posts, Cunningham served as superintendent of three other California school districts for a total of 12 years.

Monday night's approval of her contract ends a process that began in August 2007, when the previous School Board bought out the contract of former Superintendent Donna Howell. That board hired interim Superintendent Sandra Smyser in September 2007 to lead the district while a long-term hire was sought. The current School Board, with three new members elected in November 2007, hired the Colorado Association of School Boards in January to assist in the superintendent search.

The board voted 3-2 on April 7 to negotiate a contract with Cunningham. Other finalists included Brush School District Superintendent Bret Miles, Colorado Springs School District 11 administrator Christian Cutter and Smyser, who on March 19 accepted a job as superintendent of the Eagle County School District.

Board members John DeVincentis and Lisa Brown favored Miles over Cunningham in the April 7 vote. DeVincentis said Monday that vote was in support of Miles and not at all in opposition of Cunningham.

"I have no concerns about Shalee," DeVincentis said. "I had a good impression of her from the beginning. : I don't foresee any problems working with her."

School Board President Robin Crossan said the length of Cunningham's contract is the result of a board decision made early in the search process.

"Even before we interviewed candidates, we all wanted a shorter contract," Crossan said. Howell had a four-year contract, the length of which proved controversial as her contract was bought out for more than $340,000 including taxes, fees and benefits.

Crossan said many Colorado school districts and Steamboat's compensation history factored into Cunningham's base salary. Howell's base salary was $145,229 in the last year of her contract. Smyser is being paid $102,353 under a prorated contract. If stretched out over a year, her salary would be about $140,000.

Crossan said the school district will owe the Colorado Association of School Boards less than $6,000 for its guidance in the superintendent search. The bill has yet to be finalized, Crossan said.

Smyser starts in Eagle County on July 1, the same day Cunningham begins work in Steamboat.

Muhme said she is looking forward to working with Cunningham on a long-term basis.

"Sandra was excellent, but switching superintendents three times in less than a year is rough," Muhme said. "So we're looking for some stability."


MtnWarlock 8 years, 12 months ago

Good luck to Ms Cunningham. She is going to have he hands full! The thing that gets me is that they hire all these administrators for more money than the previous one! There is no base scale for them to start at like teachers or support staff! The board hires superintendents like corporations hire CEO's. And, to top a high wage, these supers, principals and directors receive free family benefit packages that everyone else has to pay for! I hope she is worth the money! I also hope things settle down but, I doubt it.


summerbird 8 years, 12 months ago

Does the benefits package come with a back stabber proof vest? I hope someone clued her in before she signed the contract!


beentheredonethat 8 years, 12 months ago

DeVincentis.....start sharpening your have a new sacrificial lamb to slaughter to your altar of ego


consultp 8 years, 12 months ago

Just curious, does anyone know why Dr Cunningham did not take the superintendent position in Durango for the 9-R school district? She was the top candidate, was offered the position and turned it down-


id04sp 8 years, 12 months ago

In my job, I have to fill out a "weekly highlights" report to tell my boss what I've been doing.

How about requiring this lady to do the same, and publish it in the Pilot, so we'll know what we're getting for $13,000 to $14,000 PER MONTH!


coriolis85 8 years, 12 months ago

Consultp: I wondered the same about Dr. Cunningham, then I looked into the Durango Herald online ( and their search feature to list past news items.

Articles this year and last describe an interesting history of the district down there, of the school board, and especially one "colorful" member.

Perhaps this is at the root cause of her decision with Durango. Regardless, she is acting professionally by keeping those dealings confidential.

Her school leadership experience in the Sierra Nevada mountain town of Mammoth Lakes (resort makes her an excellent fit for us, I think.


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