Steamboat Springs At least two former superintendents live in Steamboat, and that might be good news for a Steamboat Springs School District that will soon find itself with a leadership void after Superintendent Shalee Cunningham leaves to take the same position with the Novato Unified School District in Marin County, Calif. The Novato School Board is scheduled to appoint Cunningham and approve her contract tonight.
The Steamboat Springs School Board, which met at a workshop last week to begin discussing how to replace Cunningham, expressed its willingness to consider local candidates on an interim and possibly permanent basis.
“I think we underestimate our local talent base all the time,” School Board member Brian Kelly said.
Resident Bill Kennedy, who retired to Steamboat in 2005 after nearly 40 years as an educator in New York, including the last six as a superintendent, said he always has interest in schools. He was a finalist for the interim position eventually given to Sandra Smyser in 2007 and also ran unsuccessfully for the School Board last year.
Kennedy said he might be interested in an interim position as Steamboat’s superintendent should the School Board choose to go that direction.
“My interest in that would depend greatly on what their interest is and what their plan is. Never say never,” he said. “I might be interested in something short term. I just don’t know what they’re thinking.”
Donna Howell, who served as Steamboat’s superintendent from 2003 to 2007 and still lives here, declined to say whether she had any interest in the superintendent position, on an interim or permanent basis.
“I think everything is very, very premature,” she said. “I wouldn’t even begin to want to comment until the board made some decisions in terms of what it wants to do.”
The School Board bought out the remaining two years of Howell’s contract in 2007 when differences between her and board members couldn’t be mediated by outside professionals. Howell served as the interim superintendent for the Brush School District from July 2009 to June 2010. She currently is consulting for the Colorado Department of Education and in the private sector.
Neither Kennedy nor Howell said they’ve been contacted by the School Board about the pending superintendent opening.
In addition to former superintendents living in Steamboat, School Board President Robin Crossan said the district should consider promoting from within.
“We have a very talented staff, and I don’t think we should disregard them,” she said.
Human Resources Director Anne Muhme said at the workshop that the district has about 10 employees working toward their administrative license, which is required of educators who want to be superintendents.
When reached by phone Monday afternoon from California, Cunningham said she accepted the Novato superintendent position, pending contract approval tonight from the School Board.
“This is a golden opportunity for me in my career,” she said. “Novato Unified is a great school district. I look forward to working there.”
Cunningham said it was a difficult decision.
“It’s absolutely bittersweet,” she said “I’ve loved working in Steamboat. I loved the people there. The best professionals I’ve worked with were the last three years in Steamboat Springs.”
To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com