Steamboat Springs Hayden School Board President Brian Hoza said the hiring of Mike Luppes last week as half-time superintendent for the 2010-11 school year “wasn’t handled properly” and needs to be corrected.
The School Board is scheduling a special meeting, tentatively set for 6 p.m. April 14, to discuss the action.
At its March 31 meeting, the School Board approved restructuring the district’s administration for next school year after emerging from a nearly three-hour executive session. Board members approved, by a 3-2 vote, a structure that will include a half-time superintendent and full-time secondary principal. Also by a 3-2 vote, the School Board approved Luppes as half-time superintendent. Board members unanimously approved Hayden High School Principal Troy Zabel as full-time secondary principal.
The legality of the executive session and the manner in which Luppes was hired as superintendent were called into question in an editorial in Sunday’s Steamboat Pilot & Today. According to Colorado’s open meetings law, a CEO position such as superintendent cannot be hired until after a finalist or finalists have been publicly named and a period of 14 days after that announcement has passed.
The open meetings law states, “The state or local public body shall make public the list of all finalists under consideration for the position of chief executive officer no later than fourteen days prior to appointing or employing one of the finalists to fill the position.”
School Board President Brian Hoza said Tuesday that board members have discussed Luppes’ hiring with the district’s lawyer.
“They have clarified with us that that process is null and void and we didn’t go about it correctly,” Hoza said. “We have to reinitiate the process and go through the proper steps.”
Hoza said the action wasn’t taken with any “ill intention.”
“It wasn’t handled properly,” he said. “We need to be sure we correct it.”
Asked whether the district’s legal counsel had any other concerns about the March 31 meeting, Hoza said the School Board’s conversations with its legal counsel are continuing.
The editorial, written by the newspaper’s Editorial Board, in Sunday’s Steamboat Pilot & Today questioned the purpose of the executive session, which Hoza has said was convened to discuss the district’s administrative structure, not personnel matters related to specific employees as required by law. The editorial also questioned whether decisions were made in executive session, which the state’s open meetings law prohibits.
Even though Kurt Frentress and Tim Frentress opposed the changing of the administrative structure and the hiring of Luppes, both motions were made and voted on within about five minutes of the conclusion of the hours-long executive session. There was little public discussion about either motion.
Hoza said next week’s special meeting has been tentatively scheduled because he still is trying to verify that all board members are available to meet at that time.
At the meeting, Hoza said, there will be an opportunity for the public to comment about the district’s recent personnel decisions.
On March 31, board members voted unanimously to relieve Superintendent Greg Rockhold of his duties for the rest of the school year. Rockhold’s contract was not renewed for 2010-11 at the March 17 School Board meeting. Hoza said members of the community have expressed their concern about not being able to provide feedback.
Also at next week’s meeting, Hoza said the district could consider a contract that defines what capacity Luppes would fill to help the district make decisions for the rest of the fiscal year, which runs through June 30. Had he not been relieved of his duties, Rockhold would have worked until that time.
Hoza said the district also would make a decision at the special meeting to name a finalist or finalists for half-time superintendent in 2010-11, or to announce that the district would be conducting a search to fill the position.
The School Board is working as quickly as it can to schedule the special meeting to give parents, district teachers and staff and community members enough notice should they want to attend, Hoza said.
He said the School Board is doing its best without a superintendent.
“The circumstance we’re in right now is reflective of trying to guide the district without a person in leadership, without a district leader helping us,” Hoza said. “When we don’t have a superintendent, we need to reach out to other third parties like our counsel to make sure we’re doing this correctly.”
— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 871-4203 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org