Steamboat Springs 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.
"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."