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)
Steamboat Springs 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."