BOCES retains Toothaker as executive director | SteamboatToday.com

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BOCES retains Toothaker as executive director

Several speak in support of director, despite financial woes

— The BOCES board voted to retain Jane Toothaker as executive director at a special meeting Monday night in Steamboat Springs.

After more than three and a half hours in an executive session to evaluate the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Education Services administration, the board voted, 4-2, in support of continuing with Toothaker.

Board President Brian Hoza, who represents Hayden, and Steamboat representative Laura Anderson, voted against the motion to retain Toothaker.

"I have grave concerns and a lack of confidence with Jane continuing as executive director," Anderson said during a discussion before the vote.

Anderson noted last year's budget overspending and BOCES spending all its reserves without board approval, and communication issues between Toothaker and the board, as reasons for her vote.

Hoza said it would be "negligent" for the board to overlook BOCES' current financial situation and the reasons Anderson mentioned, which have made it difficult for the board to make good decisions.

He said for those reasons and a loss of faith from the Colorado Department of Education, it would be appropriate for the board to change direction and move forward with a new executive director.

Hoza added, however, that he thought Toothaker was doing everything within her power to fix the current financial situation — a sentiment shared by the rest of the board.

In September, the BOCES board learned that BOCES had overspent its 2008-09 budget by nearly $317,000. It also told its six member districts it would increase assessments for services this year by more than $481,000. At the time, BOCES asked the districts to pick up the tab.

Since then, BOCES has received $273,000 in federal stimulus funding to help make up for last year's overspending. The Steamboat, Hayden and South Routt school districts would pay the remainder for the Day Treatment program.

The BOCES board earlier this month approved the 2009-10 budget with cuts and assessments at or near what was first presented to the districts in May, when they were drafting their budgets for this school year.

Also earlier this month, during a draft report of the 2008-09 audit, it was revealed BOCES will carry a more than $34,000 deficit into this year. BOCES, which is subject to the School District Budget Law in the Colorado Revised Statutes, isn't allowed to carry a deficit from one year to another. BOCES officials have said they will address the deficit in this year's budget.

Districts also raised concerns, beginning in the spring, because they had not received $777,000 in federal title program funding from BOCES, which was using the funding to pay operational costs.

BOCES has issued each district a check for its share of the federal title program funding. But the state Department of Education revoked BOCES' responsibility to distribute that funding this year. The districts will receive that money directly from the state, which receives it from the federal government. The state Department of Education will evaluate whether to return that responsibility to BOCES in April.

Although the rest of the board voted to retain Toothaker, she will be placed under a yet-undetermined probationary period.

During that time, the board will work with Toothaker on financial issues, performance factors, correcting areas of non-compliance, clarifying a system of oversight, improving communication and clarifying expectations.

Monday's meeting began at 6 p.m.

About 35 people, all but 10 of which were BOCES employees, showed up for the public comment portion. About 10 people spoke, all but one in support of Toothaker.

They spoke of Toothaker's passion, dedication, professionalism and leadership.

And they said it would be unwise for the board to punish Toothaker for the current financial situation, which many share blame for.

"I'm pleased to have the majority of the board's support," Toothaker said after the meeting. "And it's my intention to earn the support of the rest of the board back."

The BOCES board meets next at 9 a.m. Dec. 9 in Steamboat. The final 2008-09 audit will be presented at that time.

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 871-4203 or e-mail jweinstein@steamboatpilot.com