Knezevich's renewal uncertain

School Board to address principal's future employment Monday

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— The contract of Steamboat Springs High School Principal Mike Knezevich might not be renewed for the next school year.

Knezevich called a staff meeting Wednesday morning at the high school and, according to two teachers at the meeting, said Steamboat Springs School District officials had asked him to resign. Knezevich told staff he did not plan to resign and said he had been given an opportunity to remediate his performance in some areas. He read a memo to all high school staff from Sandra Smyser, interim superintendent of the Steamboat Springs School District.

"I know that you are hearing rumors and are concerned about the status of your principal's job for next year," the memo stated. "At Monday night's (School) Board meeting, the board will be taking action on all principals' contracts. In order to allow for your comments, they will be starting at 5:30 and listening to comments."

Smyser invited high school staff to contact her and said she "would be open to talk to anyone who wants to talks to me."

Smyser and School Board member Denise Connelly said the finalized School Board agenda for Monday's meeting will be released Friday. Both said that agenda will include the renewal of administrator contracts.

Smyser said she will recommend to the School Board that the deadline for a decision on Knezevich's contract renewal be extended to June. Smyser said she is recommending renewals Monday night for Soda Creek Elementary School Principal Judy Harris, Strawberry Park Elementary School Principal Brenda Barr and Steamboat Springs Middle School Principal Tim Bishop.

Smyser would not elaborate on reasons for extending a decision on Knezevich's contract, calling it a personnel matter. Knezevich could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

"We usually do accept the recommendations of the superintendent," Connelly said of the School Board's process for contract renewal decisions.

Several teachers at the high school acknowledged that many teachers and staff have different viewpoints about the issue, and they expressed concerns about divisiveness.

"Everybody on our staff comes from different perspectives - we're not all going to agree on all issues," said biology and physical science teacher Cindy Gay. "But for the sake of our students and the sake of their achievement, we have to behave honorably, ethically and professionally towards our colleagues and towards our kids."

Social studies teacher and girls basketball coach John Ameen said there is no collective plan among staff members for action such as a petition supporting Knezevich, although teacher Chad Bowdre - on a leave of absence this year - said such a petition already is circulating.

Career and technology teacher Kim Mayer said a petition could present an "uncomfortable" situation for staff, particularly probationary teachers in their first three years with the school district. Contracts of probationary teachers can be non-renewed with little to no cause, Mayer said.

"Over 50 percent of our staff is probationary, and my concern is just the uncomfortableness," she said. "Any staff member who has an opinion should meet with Dr. Smyser and the School Board to voice their opinion - and I certainly hope they've met with Mike (Knezevich), also."

Smyser accepted a job Wednesday as the new superintendent of the Eagle County School District. She starts that job July 1. Connelly said that announcement does not change the School Board's confidence in Smyser as interim superintendent. Smyser was a finalist for Steamboat's full-time job.

"I think just the fact that this is one of our top choices to interview for the full-time position says a lot right there," Connelly said.

School Board member John DeVincentis expressed concern about making a decision about a contract renewal in April - let alone June.

"I think it's, right now, very late notice. To me, if you're going to get a one-year contract, you should know in January," DeVincentis said. "If I was looking for a principal, I would have started looking a lot earlier. : It concerns me that we're making decisions this late."

Comments

hmmmm 6 years, 1 month ago

What a shame! Mike has always put the interests of the kids first even if the decision was not a popular one. This is a definite loss for the highschool and district. The highschool staff is very upset with this decision. Mike is very well respected by the staff except for those few who always find something to gripe about. We want him to stay.

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mominboat 6 years, 1 month ago

Another example of ultra micromanagement by the board. If Knezevich's performance was lackluster, then a plan for his improvement should be devised between Mr. Knezevich and Dr. Smyser as stated in the article. She is his supervisor, and though she is leaving (do you blame her?), I am certain she holds the best interest of the staff and students to heart. However, Mr. Knezevich may not want to stay in a district that scathes change, that allows decisions to be made by irrational parents and board members, and berates educators so frequently without looking at the big picture. How much is this going to cost? If the new board members want to represent the taxpayers so much, stop making irrational decisions based on your personal agendas and not sound common sense.

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weallnutz 6 years, 1 month ago

I don't get it, why are management discussions handled in public forums. Why do both board members and teachers feel they should be making statements to the press when it sounds to me like the discussions are still in the works? Knezevich was the only one not making comments, maybe the rest of you should try that. Good luck Mike, I think you do a heck of a job!

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Gadfly 6 years, 1 month ago

The way that the school district handles personnel decisions is simply disgraceful, regardless of the merits of any individual decision. What professional educator would want to work in such a demeaning environment?

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portagetheyampa 6 years, 1 month ago

It seems things just go from bad to worse with the SS schools. First we lose Dr. Symser because the Board couldn't make a decision to hire her without spending a bunch of money on some consultant, then making her one of four finalists when she should have outright been offered the job in January. The Board is just playing games with our tax money and our children's education.

I don't know much about the high school principal. I felt he did not handle the death of two students very well, lots of denial on his part in that situation based on the letter he put in the paper.

Our high school students need a solid person at the helm of principal. If this guy leaves, is there anyone within the district who could take his place? Now the Baord will spend thousands more for a "natiojnwide search" for a new principal that will be a complete unknown.

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BowWow1 6 years, 1 month ago

Blaming the BOE or the Superintendent on this non renewal issue is ridiculous. Just ask many of us that have had to deal with Mike Knezevich as parents of students at SSMS. This decision has been long overdue. Many parents, parent groups, students and teachers have had issues with Mike's inflexibility, inconsistencies, and control freak issues. I hope many of them will call or email the superintendent or BOE members before the Monday night BOE meeting. And then ask the students, both present and past how they were treated when bringing up issues or requests to him. Yes, Mike may be a "nice guy" but he is not a leader that many students or parents will be sad to see gone.

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housebound 6 years, 1 month ago

I know a lot about this principal and I think he does a good job. There will always be kids in trouble and parents who are made at the administration instead of dealing with their kids problems. I am not sure what the complaint is for the way deaths were handled...tough situation all the way around. The whole community was stunned, Mike included. This town does have a problem with getting rid of people without of clue as to who will replace them. It will be hard to replace Mike, especially in June!

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snoman 6 years, 1 month ago

"Over 50 percent of our staff is probationary" said a teacher. There is a reason that the staff at the High School choose not to stay. Reported turnover at the High School has been something like 16-20 staff per year under the leadership of this principal. And they are not leaving because of the cost of living in Steamboat. This is not a new problem that Dr. Smyser is dealing with, it has been ongoing and was unfortunately ignored in the past despite repeated complaints and comments over the last several years.
It is about the kids and if we can't keep the quality of the new staff that we are training because of an administrator, then any company would replace that administrator.

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MtnWarlock 6 years, 1 month ago

Ok, So my last post was deleted! That is a first for me! I think I stated my opinion only and I didn't portray anything as fact! But that's ok. I received my first shameful delete by staff! I hope that the editor of these blogs deletes without prejudice! Thanks.

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sunflowergirl9999 6 years, 1 month ago

Mike doesn't always make decisions best for kids. I know because I was on the losing end of that one. Have you seen the drama, choir, and band programs recently? The Performing Arts have suffered from Mike Knezzzz. Also, he started charging extra money for gym time in the summer to run sport camps for our own kids. Steamboat kids having to pay more money to use their gym.
Sometimes the almighty dollar is better than our kids.

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armchairqb 6 years, 1 month ago

You never know what you got till its gone!!!! I hope Mike stays. This town needs to wake up & smell the coffee. The kids & parents are running the schools. What ever happened to good old fashioned disipline? kids come to school dressed inappropriatly....Mama complains....then the kid gets to wear whatever they want. (and the lack of respect is unbelievable) Whos in charge?????? And the reason we have 50% turnover is that WE DON't pay well. Remember folks you GET what you pay for!!!!!

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armchairqb 6 years, 1 month ago

A perfect example of the inmates running the asylum

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MomFromSteamboat 6 years, 1 month ago

A decision on whether or not to remove MikeK as prinicipal of SSHS is a complex one. On the one hand, he is a highly dedicated education professional, who truly has what he considers to be the best interests of students at heart. He is a tireless supporter of students' academic and extra-curricular activities. Mike is an intelligent and likeable person. Like all principals, he is faced with making decisions that will inevitably please some, and anger others.

That being said, MikeK has strong opinions about how his school should be run, and is generally rather inflexible in the exercise of those opinions. His inflexibility has created some resentment from teachers. Anecdotal evidence suggests that he is less supportive of academic and performing arts-related activities than he is of sports activities. He is philosophically opposed to programs that separate gifted, talented and high-ability academic learners from other students. All of these issues need to be taken into consideration when a decision is made on MikeK's continued tenure as SSHS principal.

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snoman 6 years, 1 month ago

Sometimes you don't know how bad it was until its gone. a-c-qb, we don't have 50% turnover in our schools, only in the high school. And, it might be even higher than that at the end of this year. Why is that I wonder? Hmmm... could it be...? I do agree that teachers aren't paid well but we still seem to attract very high quality teachers to our great community. As for parents running the district, didn't we just have an election where we voted for a group of parents to run our district? Seems like there was a group that didn't want a couple of well educated educators running the disttrict. Well you get what you pay for AND what you vote for!

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zzzz 6 years, 1 month ago

If you worked in the high school, you would know that staff has left for a variety of reasons: pregnancy, retirement, better pay, family relocation, more opportunities on the front range, and not wanting to work for a school district that is constantly involved in controversy. The turn over rate is exaggerated and not caused by Mike. Yes, Mike is passionate about issues involving students. Would you want a principal who could care less? He can't appease every parent group that wants to decide how the building should be run, but he is always willing to listen to viewpoints and consider varying opinions when deciding what is best for ALL students. The parents of gifted children should note how many more Advanced Placement classes Mike has added in the last few years. Mike should be allowed to stay and work WITH the board and new superintendent.

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handyman 6 years, 1 month ago

I've lived in a few communities in my life and read a few newspapers. The majority of this newspaper's articles about the SSSD are negative. The Pilot may report positive things about student related activities, ie, sports, drama performance, extra-curricular activities, etc, but most of the articles about the school district performance as a whole and the "political" end of it, are usually bad. Why is that? I can't believe that everyone feels this way. Is this the view of the entire community, or just a few reporters on The Pilot's staff?

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hmmmm 6 years, 1 month ago

Sunflowergirl, the band, drama, and choir teachers at the high school are excellent. You left because you wanted to be able to work part time but be paid for a full time position. The superintendent decided that you had to be split between the two schools. The principal doesn't get to decide how many teachers to have on staff. If you wanted full time, you should have built your program. Be happy where you are instead of saying negative things about the program you left behind. The only way to build the program is to have kids sign up for the classes. Parents, start encouraging you children in the arts along with sports.

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bikegirl 6 years, 1 month ago

I have to agree with John D. on this one,This is late in the year to be questioning our H.S. principals position -should have been done earlier in the year.Our kids and staff deserve some sense of continuity,not last minute decision making.

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myviewtoday 6 years, 1 month ago

hmmmm is misinformed: his/her quote, "...the high school staff is very upset with this decision..." is not accurate. A large number of current staff are unhappy with the principal's leadership (as well as a significant number of former staff). The reason no one hears about this is because teachers are professionals and meet the needs of their students under any situation, even a very oppressive workplace. Mike refuses to listen to his staff and adjust--maybe this is a wakeup call for him that everyone at the high school can benefit from.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 1 month ago

Having worked with the Drama Coach Mike Brumbaugh (in conjunction with Rusty DeLucia- worked with her many times) in outside projects, I can't see how the Drama program could ever be anything less than excellent.

During "Hell Week" for Steamboat Dance Theatre's dance concert at the High School, I got to watch a little of the rehearsals for "All Shook Up" and was overjoyed to see a bunch of talent that young. I've even worked with student Cody Poirot a few times and if he's indicative of the high school talent level, we should all be impressed.

As for the principal...can't say I know him, though.

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abcxyzsteamboat 6 years, 1 month ago

Mike Knezevich is a dedicated administrator who has the interests of all students at heart. The high school has followed a model of inclusion for the last several years and there is a small contingency of people who want the inclusion model to go away and return to tracked classes. This is extremely unfortunate. At conferences in Denver last year, Steamboat Springs School District was mentioned as a "model of inclusion" as other Western schools embrace this philosophy. It is a travesty to know that Mike was criticized because of his support and dedication to an inclusive learning environment for all astudents.

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localobserver 6 years, 1 month ago

Sunflower girl and others speaking to the arts.... I actually have been working with Mike and other school officials to help improve the arts within the district. Mike has put a lot of money into this and is trying to provide a level a funding to all programs. It would be a shame if all his work was lost because the district did not renew his contract. He has done many great things for the district from starting the boys lacrosse team to hiring consultants to address arts needs. Then of course there is his work in the classroom which I personally feel is outstanding as well as his connection with the students.

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MtnWarlock 6 years, 1 month ago

I was talking with a school district employee yesterday, about the current situations at the school district. He told me, in all his years of employment at the district recently, the district has received a lot of negative press and that he felt that the district was receiving a "bad rap" because of it! He also told me that everyone has dirty laundry and its a shame when that laundry is aired on the front pages of the town paper! I asked him if he ever read this forum. He said yes and he hoped that the postings here did not represent the sentiment of the whole community! He said, we have great staff and great kids and great parents! That's the formula that needs all those components to work in unison, to achieve school excellence! I agreed! This man was a support staff person. His statement said a lot about our community and how it values education. That's a good thing!

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sunflowergirl9999 6 years, 1 month ago

Hmmmmm - You have no clue what you are talking about. The program was built the highest it had ever been in my 10 years and Mike wouldn't put an extra class in the schedule. I have no clue what you are talking about working part-time for full time. I always worked full time all the time and gave my all. Mike made the decision that forced me to leave. Howell was all for the new class as far as I knew and was told. Ironically enough, three weeks after I resigned and found work elsewhere and parental pressure, a new class was available. So Sad. I do not know where you got your information, but you don't have it right. You are mistaken.

Rusty Delucia rocks!!

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letomayo 6 years, 1 month ago

Negative reporting sells in this town but can't this school district get through ONE year without a hullabalu? It is too late to nonrenew a principle and Dr. Syser is leaving us to go to Vail and she is going to leave us with another big problem and big negative reporting and horrible PR all over the state AGAIN.

This school board needs to make sure knezivich is back and on a plan to improve with whoever is the new superintendant making the decision next year based on Knezivich's plans and what he did to complete them successfully.

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snoman 6 years, 1 month ago

Knez does care about kids but it seems like too often in the past he cares more about himself and his way or no way method of administration. Anyone that has a different thought or approach has been intimidated and at times even suffered retribution from his leadership. While it is true that stated reasons for teachers leaving include (pregnancy, retirement, better pay, family relocation, more opportunities on the front range,) many of those staff also stated an underlying reason of conflict, intimidation and inflexbility on the part of the principal. Most would have preferred staying teachers in Steamboat but found the work situation untenable. So, they went looking for more positive environs. Sorry, but, how many more great staff are going to have to leave and new ones come in that need to be trained at the districts expense before we realize that a change in leadership needs to be made?

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BowWow1 6 years, 1 month ago

We need a high school principal who is a true leader, who respects and really listens to teachers, students and parents opinions and can be flexible to change. Mike always seems to use the same old reasoning, " this is what is best for the kids". However that has not always been the case. Teachers at the high school are now stuck between a rock and a hard place now that he went public at a staff meeting emotionally pleading his case against his non renewal. Some things are better left unsaid! Now a petition is circulating and if teachers don't sign it or voice their support of Mike, even if they have different feelings about him, they will be seen in the eyes of the principal and his supporters as traitors. I sure wouldn't want to come back to face the turmoil in that building next year if he is still there to stew about who supported him or didn't. Also notice the silence from the majority of students at SSHS. I don't see any walk outs planned on his behalf.

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hmmmm 6 years, 1 month ago

sunflowergirl, I agree you did an excellent job with the choir. I disagree with you making negative comments about the current choir, band, and drama teachers. And again principals can't decide to add teachers or sections only the superintendent can do that.

Mike didn't plead his case but he did tell the staff what was occuring so that they wouldn't find out about it by reading the paper.

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playa46 6 years, 1 month ago

hey, as a kid in the school right now, i think that the parents who feel as if he should be kicked out should think about what they are saying. And i mean i personally think the chior and band are doing just fine. I am in the band and our instructior has said things against reviews, but not our principle. And the people here that are saying "These things are not respected enough" well, have you gone to even one of these concerts. I think we should all give Knez a bit more time and see how this plays out. If not, we can kick him out.

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playa46 6 years, 1 month ago

(cont.) And as for sunshinegirl, it is you that has no idea what you are talking about. Leaving just because you didn't agree with him on a few things doesn't mean that he is the most horrible person that has ever run this school. And although most kids (like me) don't really care if he leaves or not, changing the school (if a new principle does) can make a huge impact on us. Don't think about your problems, think about ours. After all "Kids are the Future".

P.S. Rusty Delucia does rule. :)

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sunflowergirl9999 6 years, 1 month ago

Hmmm I apologize for the assumption I was "making negative comments about the current choir, band, and drama teachers. " I mean to only comment on the year after my resignation when the choir went from 120 total to 11. And drama number went down after the previous teacher took over. (Info from ex-students and the counselors at the HS) I have heard nothing but great things recently and I am happy for that.

I do have to say you are mistaken by this comment. "And again principals can't decide to add teachers or sections only the superintendent can do that." The principal at the end of the year sits down with each department, looks at the numbers and divides the kids into classes of 30 or so. Give or take depending on what you teach. They them tell the super what the school needs, based on the students choices. It is a great system so kids get the classes they want.

Playa46 - First of all I didn't "[Leave] just because you [I] didn't agree with him on a few things." He made a decision to not support the arts program at the school and the kids who wanted it. To me that is a large philosophical issue. I always tried to do what is best for kids and you can ask anyone who knew me.

And your comment that it "doesn't mean that he is the most horrible person that has ever run this school." I never said he was. I actually think he is a nice man. I think he makes decisions that are not always what's best for kids.

I kind of feel like I have beat this to death. People seem to be putting words in my mouth that I didn't say.
Enjoy!

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MtnWarlock 6 years ago

Sunflowergirl, It is good to hear from you again! We miss you! You taught our daughter well! I hope all is going well for you in your life. As you can see, not much has changed at RE-2! This forum gives people a place to vent their feelings as well as their opinions. Sometimes, the combination of feelings and opinion, can make wreckage like drinking and driving. Your opinion is accurate. Rusty is a great lady and I will miss her dearly after this year, she's retiring. I believe the school district could do more for the fine arts, however I believe that sports programs rule more! As for Mr. Knezevich, "HE" alone needs to deal with any shortcomings with his position! It is a very political position and I'm sure the politics will work there course. This forum, also has a way of being judge and jury on issues! Take care.

Playa46, Your teacher for band is a first year teacher. His position and contract renewal would be in jeopardy if he said anything! Besides, it would not be proper for a teacher to comment on a personnel issues to students, especially his bosses! This is Mr. Knezevichs issue. I also think you have a good grasp on things here. You are right about change! A new principal may not change the status of the arts programs. But optimistically, maybe it would! I guess time will tell! Keep up with your dreams!

Everyone, Would you like your employment issues judged and juried by this forum? I would say; no way to that! There has been enough things said in this forum on this issue. Lets stop beating the subject. Anyone in favor? Have a good day!

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playa46 6 years ago

Sunshine girl,

You are right, I am sorry for saying things that never really came out. I was in a bad mood yesterday, but looking over theses posts I still think we all need to see how this plays out with Knez, if he continues to make bad decisions, then we can kick him out.

MtnWarlock,

Thank you for the kind words. Although I would say that our new band teacher is older than our first one, as he didn't even challenge us. When we got one of the last places in the band tournament, I wasn't so surprised.

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iopinion 6 years ago

Perhaps if the Athletic / "Activities" Director at the high school was more effective in his role of supporting athletics and other activities (fine arts), students and school spirit, parents, coaches, teachers, administrators; there would be more opportunity for the principal and asst principal to focus on other matters and concerns at the school.

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