Steamboat School Board hopes to finalize contract for Meeks

Steamboat’s top pick for superintendent could be offered job Monday

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Bradley Meeks

— The Steamboat Springs School Board will meet Monday night to vote on whether to approve a contract that would make Dr. Bradley Meeks the district’s next superintendent.

Board President Robin Crossan and Meeks, the superintendent for the 6,400-student Farmington Area Public School District in Minnesota, said last week they were making significant progress with contract negotiations.

Meeks hopes to relocate to the Yampa Valley after leaving a seven-year impression on the district near Minneapolis that he resigned from earlier this year.

During his tenure in Farmington, Meeks oversaw the implementation of an $111.8 million bond package approved by voters in 2005 that funded the construction of a new high school and elementary school. He resigned suddenly in February, citing differences of opinion with members of his school board.

“I felt pretty comfortable with the direction of the district and with my decision to leave,” Meeks said. “We had a new board come on in January, and they were looking at taking the district in a different direction.”

His board voted to accept his resignation in February, and Meeks is continuing to serve as his district’s superintendent until Aug. 31, or until he starts in Steamboat. Crossan said that Meeks’ resignation was not mentioned or discussed during the public interview process that led to Meeks’ selection as their finalist.

Meeks said that his previous board’s decision to censure a fellow board member in December was a factor that ultimately contributed to his resignation.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that the board voted to censure Tim Burke because members said Burke “made false accusations against district administrators, burdened them with unnecessary data requests” and “had been so rude that he (put the board) at risk of a lawsuit from employees.”

The board commissioned an investigation into Burke earlier in the year, and the board’s attorney told the Tribune that the probe confirmed that since Burke joined the board in early 2009, he violated both the board’s code of conduct and state law. The attorney said Burke disclosed private data on employees and information obtained in closed board meetings.

Burke, a critic of Meeks' leadership, said after the vote that the district lacked transparency. He is currently serving as the board’s treasurer and could not be reached for comment.

Brian Treakle, a board member in Farmington, said last week that Burke’s public disagreements with Meeks, which he said stemmed from a disagreement over whether to fund and build a $24 million sportsplex facility at the district’s new high school in 2007, contributed to Meeks’ resignation.

“Meeks did the best he could to work with a board member that was highly critical of him,” Treakle said. “It had nothing to do with Meeks’ performance; it had to do with major philosophical differences between Burke and Meeks. When the new board came on, it was perceived we would be supportive of Burke. There was a lot of tension, and it came down to a decision that it was better for (Meeks) to leave than to stay here and potentially face more issues.”

Treakle, who is serving his first term on the board, said Meeks arrived in Farmington when the district was underperforming and in turmoil and brought its schools through a period of growth.

“He built a team here in Farmington and brought our school district to a whole new level,” he said.

Board president Tera Lee, who also is serving her first term on the board, said Burke’s opposition to Meeks divided some members of the community.

“Brad and Tim’s opposition to each other had members of the community taking sides in the trenches,” she said. “Meeks did a lot to try and bridge (the relationship), but I just think it was time for a fresh start here. I’m very happy for Dr. Meeks and excited about his new opportunity.”

Julie McKnight, a board member in Farmington since 2000, said she was disappointed to see Meeks leave Farmington. She praised Meeks for his data-driven approach to education as well as his familiarity with school finance.

“I have a hard time putting it in words what it was like to work with him because it was so wonderful to have someone running the ship to make sure everything got done,” she said last week after learning that Meeks was Steamboat’s top choice for the superintendent position. “He was such a visionary. He just got the job done. You’ll be thrilled to have him in Steamboat.”

She said board elections in Farmington last year resulted in new members being seated who wanted a “new philosophy and new direction.”

“There was a new and an old, and it was a difficult transition for all of us,” she said.

-To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email ScottFranz@SteamboatToday.com

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