Knezevich: Many inaccuracies in editorial
The purpose of this letter is to provide clarification of the Editorial Board's view stated in the March 23, 2008, issue of the newspaper. There were many inaccurate statements and assumptions made about the meeting, its purpose and what was stated. I do not want this to become another controversy for the district and that is why I did not respond to the paper's past phone calls or requests for interviews regarding this matter. The primary focus at the high school now and always has been to provide the best education for our students.
The paper did correctly report that a staff meeting was held Wednesday, March 19. The purpose of the meeting was to provide an accurate and factual statement of the existing situation. I began the meeting explaining, "I respect this staff too much for you to hear this information via rumor, through the newspaper, or to read it through the SSSD board minutes."
I informed the staff that I had been provided with three options regarding my employment:
3. The extension of the renewal deadline for the Board of Education to take action in the renewal or non-renewal of my contract no later than June 23, 2008.
Given the option of the extension, I would have the opportunity to improve in the areas addressed in my evaluation. I relayed to the staff that I would not be resigning and I would be talking with them and asking for feedback and suggestions on how they felt I could improve in these areas.
I did not ask people to rally behind me. I shared information from a letter that Dr. Smyser wrote to the staff: "I know that you are hearing rumors and are concerned about the status of your principal's job for next year. At Monday night's Board meeting the Board will be taking action on all principal's contracts. In order to allow for your comments, they will be starting at 5:30 and listening to comments in executive session (because this is a personnel matter). Please feel free to come if you would like to speak with them..."
I closed the meeting stating, "One of the things that I have always been very proud of our building is that through the many issues that the district has faced over the years, the high school has stayed out of the politics and have gone about our business of educating the students." I concluded by saying, "I know that this will not become a distraction and that our focus will remain what is best for our students." At that time I left the meeting.
I want to reiterate that my purpose for the meeting was to provide a factual basis to the situation from me first rather than through rumor, board minutes and the newspaper.
Since that time, I have heard of a petition that is being circulated. I have never supported the circulation of the petition or even referenced the petition, let alone rallied people to sign it. There would be no negative consequences for people who do not sign the petition. I am concerned with the education of the students at the high school, not who did or did not sign a petition that I have not endorsed.
The education of the high school students will always be the priority of the staff at Steamboat Springs High School.
Principal, Steamboat Springs
Steamboat Springs In a tense meeting Monday night, the Steamboat Springs School Board postponed a decision on the fate of Steamboat Springs High School Principal Mike Knezevich.
The board voted, 3-2, to wait until June 9 to vote on renewal or non-renewal of Knezevich's contract for the 2008-09 school year. The vote came after board member Lisa Brown moved to approve Knezevich's contract. The board rejected that motion, 3-2.
More than 50 people attended the meeting. Several rose to speak, including a few teachers, and nearly all expressed full support for Knezevich.
School Athletics and Activities Director Richard Lee spoke in favor of keeping the principal. Lee said he worked in administrative roles in Alaska schools for 16 years.
"I know a good administrator when I see one," Lee said. "Mike Knezevich is a good one."
Lee and several others said they thought Knezevich should be given time to make changes and solve whatever issues had arisen. Because the contract discussion was a personnel issue, the board did not explain why it was considering not renewing Knezevich's contract.
When the board asked those who supported the principal to raise their hands, nearly everyone did so. When the board asked for those unhappy with Knezevich to raise their hands, none went up.
Board member John DeVincentis spoke at length. He said that opting not to renew Knezevich's contract would be unfair in part because the principal was not notified about problems and given time to rectify them.
"These remarks are not to say that someone did something wrong," DeVincentis said. "This is just not right."
Board members acknowledged that delaying the contract decision - and thus leaving Knezevich's fate up in the air - could cause turmoil and divisiveness at the high school.
"It also puts the employee in a difficult situation, not knowing what's going on," interim Superintendent Sandra Smyser said. "But it does allow us to put an action plan in place."
Brown said she moved to approve Knezevich's contract because of that concern. When the motion failed, the board approved the delay. Brown, DeVincentis and Denise Connelly voted in favor of the delay. Board member Laura Anderson and board President Robin Crossan voted against it.
The board is required to act on administrators' contracts by April 1.
Members were allowed to move back the date of renewal because Knezevich agreed to it, Smyser said.
The decision sent up unhappy murmurs in the crowd, and most left the room at Centennial Hall in anger. Many stayed to discuss the decision in the foyer, though few were willing to speak on the record.
Parent Luke Tellier expressed some hope for a resolution.
"Mike Knezevich and the board ought to be able to work this out," he said.
After the meeting, Knezevich expressed thanks to those who backed him.
"I appreciate everyone who came and showed support," he said. "I plan to do everything I can to meet the desires of the School Board, and I hope I get a fair shot."
Break moved back
The board voted on another contentious issue Monday: the school calendar.
Spring break in 2009 had been set to begin April 13, a day after the Steamboat Ski Area plans to close. Some parents have complained that they will be busy with end-of-season work that week and would not have time to vacation with their families.
The district typically goes on break a week after the ski area shuts down.
Several parents attended Monday's meeting to express their frustration with the proposed date, saying the community did not have enough of a chance to provide feedback and that many parents who work in hospitality probably would take their children out later in April anyway.
Kristin Wilson represented the District Accountability Committee, which set the dates. She said spring break was set for April 13 because Steamboat juniors, who are required by state law to take the ACT as a measurement of school quality, miss the first testing date with the late spring break. Then all juniors must take it on the makeup date, she said.
The board determined that the number of students who still miss the test - three last year, DeVincentis said - had little effect on the school's ratings. Members voted, 3-2, to move the break back a week to April 20 and to then approve the calendar. Brown and Crossan opposed the change.
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