Sandra Smyser is welcomed as the new Eagle County School District superintendent on Wednesday during a meeting at the school district's administration building in Eagle. Smyser currently is serving as interim superintendent of the Steamboat Springs School District and was a finalist for the full-time job.

Kristin Anderson/Vail Daily

Sandra Smyser is welcomed as the new Eagle County School District superintendent on Wednesday during a meeting at the school district's administration building in Eagle. Smyser currently is serving as interim superintendent of the Steamboat Springs School District and was a finalist for the full-time job.

Eagle County hires Smyser

Steamboat's interim superintendent to lead Vail-area district


— Two of Steamboat Springs' top rivals on high school athletic fields scooped the Sailors in the search for a superintendent.

Dr. Sandra Smyser, interim superintendent of the Steamboat Springs School District and a finalist for the full-time job, instead has accepted the position of superintendent of the Eagle County School District, home to Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley high schools. Smyser will start her new job July 1.

Smyser attended a special meeting of the Eagle County School District's Board of Education on Wednesday and was named the district's new head of schools. Scott Green, president of the board, confirmed Smyser accepted the position.

"She is very motivated, very people-oriented," Green said. "Our staff across the board on the (selection) committees fell in love with her right away. : She came very highly recommended from (Steamboat Springs school officials) when we did our background checks."

Smyser was hired in mid-September to replace Steamboat's former superintendent, Donna Howell, for the duration of the 2007-08 school year. She is making $102,353 as part of a prorated contract, which equates to about $140,000 if calculated for an entire school year. Steamboat's new superintendent is expected to receive a salary of about $150,000 a year, plus benefits.

Green said Eagle County schools publicly offered a base salary of $175,000 for the superintendent position. He said Smyser's salary is under negotiation.

"Everything above that (base) is based on bonus incentives, but I don't know what that's going to be yet," Green said of Smyser's compensation package.

The Eagle County School District serves the Vail, Beaver Creek, Minturn, Red Cliff, Edwards, Eagle and Gypsum communities. The district includes eight elementary schools, four middle schools, three high schools and a charter school.

"I think that we're not in the same market, financially," Steamboat Springs School Board member Denise Connelly said. "Vail has an operational budget close to $58 million, and ours is $20 million. They have 16 schools, and we have five, including the (North Routt) charter school. It's a very different situation."

Green confirmed the $58 million operating budget, but said the numbers are "a little skewed" given the 2007 passage of a $128 million bond issue that will fund projects including a new Battle Mountain High School, a new alternative high school and other renovations and technology upgrades.

Green said Smyser is "a very good fit" for Eagle County's teacher training efforts, merit pay system and socio-economically diverse community.

"We feel that Sandra can connect to all of our constituents," he said.

'Mixed feelings'

"I have mixed feelings about leaving, because I am truly enjoying working here," Smyser said of Steamboat in a statement issued Wednesday night. "I look forward to the remainder of the school year, finishing the tasks we are working on and continuing to move forward."

Connelly said she was aware that Smyser was looking at other positions and expressed confidence in Steamboat's remaining superintendent candidates.

"We feel that we have three other really good candidates that we've named as finalists, and we'll proceed with them," Connelly said.

The remaining finalists are Dr. Shalee Cunningham, Dr. Christian Cutter and Bret Miles.

Cunningham lives in Napa, Calif., and is president of Cunningham and Associates, an education consulting firm. She previously was superintendent of three California school districts for a total of more than 13 years.

Cutter is an executive director of school accountability and achievement for Colorado Springs School District 11. He has served as principal in the Adams County School District.

Miles has been superintendent of the Brush School District since 2003. He also was principal of Beaver Valley Elementary School in Brush and Cheyenne Wells Elementary and Middle School in Cheyenne Wells.

Interviews were scheduled for late next week, but Connelly said they may be pushed back an additional week because of family health issues involving one candidate.

"In the next few weeks, we will be selecting a new superintendent, and we are confident that the transition will go as smoothly as possible," School Board President Robin Crossan said in a statement released Wednesday.

Crossan and Connelly praised Smyser's work in Steamboat.

"I think she did a great job for us," Connelly said. "We were lucky to get her for the year. : Personally, I think she would have done a great job if the board had chosen her."

Smyser expressed excitement about her new position.

"I see so much potential here," she told the Vail Daily. "I'm looking forward to being here."


letomayo 9 years ago

Am I not understanding what each of you are saying because nothing makes sense to me. What am I missing? I didn't know her but I heard mixed opinions and that hasn't helped me get a feel for her most times I heard she was nice and a good change at the superintendants level in our schools.


portagetheyampa 9 years ago

Congratuations to Dr. Smyser and Eagle County Schools.

RE-2 Board should have hired her when they had the chance. She was a "known quantity and quality" and now the Board is faced with 3 candidates they know little about.

This seems like another bad move (ie: poor decision) on the part of our school board. Hopefully, they won't offer some ridiculous multiyear contract with a preposterous salary and then have another situaiton like the last multiyear hire.

Time wil tell.........


MtnWarlock 9 years ago

. Only time will tell! The big picture of public education in this country is getting scary! The teacher receives a salary of one of the lowest of all BA's from college. Most come into the field of teaching and realize they can make more money in another profession. They go back to school and cross educate to another profession. Only the teachers that have a strong desire to care take the seeds and garden of our youth, stay and try to make a difference. Administration positions have become political money pits because of competition as well! Why be a school Superintendent when CEO's of companies make a lot more! Why deal with kids and parents and school problems for only 150K a year! Finding people for public education is not easy and will be a ghost that will always haunt our school district in Steamboat! Staffing issues are country wide as well! It's too bad our schools are struggling so badly.


BowWow1 9 years ago

Take a look around MtWarlock. Our school district is not in that bad a shape. Look at some other districts in our state and you will see with our budget we are doing well with our caliber of teachers, academic standing and test scores, numerous programs, etc . And for all the naysayers who complained we wouldn't find anyone of Sandra's quality interviewing last Sept. I think we did pretty well. I believe that we will find another excellent superintendent to fill Sandra's shoes and an even better high school principal ... even if it is June before they are hired. Have faith!


MtnWarlock 9 years ago

BowWow1, I do have faith. I have been around Steamboat for 25+ years and have seen a lot of change in RE-2 and Steamboat as well! The pool of people that enter the education field are not maintaining longevity. Yes! We have a great staff in our schools as current. There are a lot of them that are retiring now. I'm just a little distraught about our countries educational direction as a whole! Thanks!


turtledove 9 years ago

The board blew it not hiring Smyser when they could. I never understood why there was such a big deal about doing a 'nationwide search' (wasn't that one of the ABC's campaign promises?) for a superintendent when we had a reportedly excellent one right here under our noses. It must have been slightly insulting to Smyser to have to hear all the talk about finding the perfect superintendent when she was here willing to take the job. I just hope one of the three remaining unknowns works out.

Another blunder was announcing all-day kindergarten before there's anywhere to put it. Should have waited a year until there are classrooms built. Right now we've got classes at Straw. Park in office space with no windows, classes at Soda in trailers. Where are they thinking all-day K is going to go?


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