Our View: Knezevich creates unfortunate situation

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Editorial Board, May 2008 to August 2008

  • Bryna Larsen, publisher
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Eric Morris, community representative
  • Paul Draper, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

Steamboat Springs High School Principal Mike Knezevich's attempt last week to rally his staff to save his job certainly was unprofessional. Even more concerning is how his actions have divided the school's faculty and potentially jeopardized the employment of probationary teachers and support staff members who have no desire or need to be involved in such a matter.

Knezevich, like all Steamboat Springs School District administrators other than the superintendent, is employed by a one-year contract subject to review and renewal each spring. All administrators understand they are at-will employees of the school district.

The Steamboat Springs School Board is scheduled to review and subsequently renew or non-renew all administrator contacts at its meeting Monday. Knowing that his job is in jeopardy, Knezevich called a staff meeting at 7:45 a.m. Wednesday to inform school faculty that he had been given two options by the district: resign his position or face the likelihood that his contract would not be renewed for the 2008-09 school year. He also said he had been told he could remediate his performance in several areas, including, ironically, treatment of staff.

Knezevich then encouraged his teachers and staff to show up at the board meeting Monday to support him.

We don't know and therefore cannot comment on how Knezevich has performed as a principal. But Knezevich's decision to air his contract status is troubling.

While he told staff members he didn't want his employment to affect the school or its students, it certainly will do both. About half of the school's faculty are probationary teachers with less than three years experience, meaning their employment is at the discretion of the principal. We have heard from numerous teachers expressing their discomfort with being confronted with a petition effort to back Knezevich. If they don't sign it, they risk the scorn of the principal and his supporters. Worse yet, their jobs could be at risk if they don't back their leader. The fear of retaliation is real and understandable. By his own actions, Knezevich has put his school's staff in an extremely awkward, no-win situation.

Politicizing his employment also is detrimental to the school district and the community. Once again, we find ourselves dealing with school administrators in a very public setting, and at a time when the district is in the final stages of its search for a full-time superintendent as well as nearing a push for renewal of the city's half-cent sales tax for education.

Of course, this is exactly what Knezevich wanted - to make his job status public and incite reaction from his allies. No doubt they'll show up to Monday's School Board meeting and plead their cases in his defense. The School Board, unable to discuss a personnel issue in public without the employee's permission, won't have the opportunity to respond.

Perhaps Knezevich should request that his contract review discussion be held in public, and open up his recent evaluations to the scrutiny of the community. If he wants the community to believe the fate apparently assigned to him is unjust, then he should prove why we should stand in his defense.

Until that happens, we're left with just another unfortunate personnel chapter for an otherwise spectacular school district.

Comments

portagetheyampa 6 years, 6 months ago

And where is Harlan Lear when we really need him again?

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 6 months ago

Retired, bless him! Used to be my landlord, too. He was a great Vice Principal and Principal, when I was in school!

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MtnWarlock 6 years, 6 months ago

Like I said before, Knezevich is not Schmidt and Schmidt was not Lear! There have been many changes in leadership at the high school! I would like to thank the Pilot for clearing the smoke in the air about this topic! Like I said before, I would not want my job judged by this forum or in public! Too much political bias to deal with that way! And that my dear bloggers, can spell out disaster for anyone! I think the board will let anyone who wants to speak their opinion about Mr. Knezevich at the board meeting however, they will probably go into executive session to discuss and make final any decisions about employment status. I believe it's a school district policy to follow that protocol! I'm not sure it would be legal to discuss it in a public quorum, even with permission. I guess we will see! Oh, I believe your ending statement is most certainly true;

                     we're left with just another unfortunate personnel chapter for an otherwise spectacular school district.
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abcxyzsteamboat 6 years, 6 months ago

Shame on the newspaper for saying "Knezevich then encouraged his teachers and staff to show up at the board meeting Monday to support him." Was anyone from your staff there? I was.

Mr. Knezevich called the meeting to quell the rumors that had been spreading in the high school. Unfortunately, some of the school board members acted in an unprofessional manner when they approached a former resource teacher at the district building on March 14. When the board and the above-mentioned teacher were all outside for a fire drill, the previous BOE president asked the former teacher if she'd be interested in coming back because "there will be lots of big changes very soon." Talk about getting rumors started! How is Knezevich supposed to keep a school running smoothly when there are rumors flying everyhwere? Of course he had to address his staff.

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letomayo 6 years, 6 months ago

Pilot, I have a friend who works at the HS and she told me that your editorial is inaccurate in many ways and in some ways alot and she said that noone is putting pressure on anyone to sign and she wasn't going to sign and was going to the meeting tomorrow night to say what she thinks personally to the board. She said that everone can improve and Knezivich said he was going to do everything he was asked as fast as he could. She didn't think two months was not long enough to tell though and she thought it would be more fair to give him another year with another superintedant. I don't know him either way but she thought he was ok.

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Bog 6 years, 6 months ago

Amazing, the one-sidedness and inaccuracies in this article. Almost like the board was able to get "their side of the story" directly into an editorial.

This is either a board using personal feelings, or an interim Superintendent who is leaving, deciding to fire a principal, which is causing the staff to be "divided."

Whether one supports Knezevich or not, there are bigger issues at play here. If he doesn't call a meeting, where he gave the facts and then left (not "encouraging" people to show up at the board meeting on Monday), staff shows up next Tuesday and is stunned to find out their principal was fired Monday night. Funny how there was a memo in staff's mailboxes Wednesday morning from the Superintendent asking for input, only after a staff meeting was called.

He wanted people to hear it from him and not the paper. Yet the paper says he was politicizing the issue.

An interim Superintendent who has been here for six months and is leaving. A school board where three new members have been in place for five months, and has stressed improved communication with staff, setting policy direction and not getting involved in personnel issues. They decide to fire the HS Principal without talking to hardly any HS staff, and Knezevich is accused of being political? The board is creating another PR disaster, just as the previous board with the previous Superintendent.

If Knezevich did something horrible, they would fire him immediately and not give him until June to correct weaknesses. This smells of a setup for the board to use an interim Superintendent to get rid of a Principal who a few board members have past personal issues with and want gone.

As for the petition issue, there was no pressure, and ALL probationary teachers were advised, if they even wanted to sign it, should just write "probationary", so they also wouldn't have to fear retaliation from the board or Superintendent as well.

Unfortunately, each school board member seems to put their personal agendas and power above their role of setting goals and direction for the school district. Firing a Superintendent and Principal in the middle of a school year will really help the district get quality applicants under its "attract and retain quality employees" goal.

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letomayo 6 years, 6 months ago

Bog you said it well and maybe there are board members pressing there opinions on the superintendant and I know a board member who had students in the district and he was so predjudice about teachers and everything and would always complain to the superintendant about a teacher or a principle. Parents are the worst board members because they have a kid in the district and there opinions are based on what happens to there kid. I think someone to ask each board member if they complained to the superintendant about knezivich. See what each says. I wonder if she would be truthful. The Pilot plays the role of the superintdant's mouth in the past and I know some board members are friends of the Pilot editorial staff and there is one prevous board member on the editorial board now that wrote this editorial and I know what he thought of the HS principle.

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newboater 6 years, 6 months ago

Thanks Bog! Being one of those teachers that everyone is writing about but not actually approaching for current information - I will say that I am not afraid to sign/avoid signing the petition. I support Knezevich for putting it out there because, as he knew, there were plenty of rumors going around. It is fair for his staff to realize the complaints that are out there and to defend him if we so choose. Very little was asked of the teachers that are working with him now compared to the comments of a NEW superintendent and half of the board being new. Even the newest teachers have been employed longer than these deciding parties. Give the teachers a chance to speak!!

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weallnutz 6 years, 6 months ago

Can anybody tell me why the most political organization in town is the one in charge of the education of children? Backstabbing nasty politics year after year after year, hey school board and principles, some of us are sick of your petty B.S. Year after year its a lesson in how not to manage given to us by the school board and its superintendants. You know if any of them ever had to make a living in the real non-government world first, they may learn something about in house management!

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BowWow1 6 years, 6 months ago

letomayo: you sound just like a present BOE member who has a bone to pick with the Pilot. Maybe because you feel you were treated unfairly and dragged through the mud yourself. Please don't let your cloudy emotional judgement towards your buddy Mike Knez keep you from seeing and hearing others opinions about him. Staff have experienced some big problems with Mike and have been talking to your present and past superintendents for quite a while, but as a BOE member I am sure you know that already.

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diplodocus 6 years, 6 months ago

If this BOE expects the taxpayers to support a renewal of the half-cent sales tax, they may be sadly mistaken.

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Brent Boyer 6 years, 6 months ago

All: Below you will find a link to a letter to the editor from Mike Knezevich disputing some of the information in Sunday's editorial.

Brent Boyer Editor, Steamboat Pilot & Today

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