Divided School Board votes to not renew principal's contract
June 10, 2008
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs High School Principal Mike Knezevich was ousted Monday night when the School Board voted 3-2 to not renew his contract.
The vote now may face a series of legal challenges raised during Monday’s lengthy meeting.
The decision was made more than six hours into the meeting, and the final outcome brought groans and a few yells from the audience, composed largely of Knezevich’s supporters.
Chief among the concerns raised by the board was Knezevich’s conflicts with his staff regarding his openness to new ideas and the fear of retribution for violating his wishes.
In the final comments before the vote, School Board President Robin Crossan said she did not expect to be in this position but that she thought this was a good time for the district to head in a new direction with its high school principal.
The vote followed a recommendation made by interim Superintendent Sandra Smyser, who recommended the board not renew Knezevich’s contract.
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Knezevich had been under a remediation program since April, when Smyser first noted four areas of concern. Since that time, she said he has improved in all but one of the areas – professional behavior.
During his address to the board, Knezevich emphasized his “dedication to treat staff fairly and with respect” and cited examples of how he mediated problems.
In Smyser’s review of Knezevich, which she characterized as “quite soft,” the superintendent said Knezevich had not accepted responsibility for many of the problems at his school, which raised concerns about his ability to solve them.
Several legal concerns were raised in the meeting and not immediately resolved. Knezevich and public commenter Jim Bronner accused Smyser of not holding the required certifications of a Colorado superintendent. Richard Lyons, the School Board’s attorney, said Smyser’s certification was expected to arrive any day and would be retroactive to March.
Board member John DeVincentis, who voted to retain Knezevich, said he had filed a letter to the Colorado Department of Education’s Ethics Committee about the actions of fellow board member Laura Anderson. DeVincentis accused her of meeting with critics of Knezevich, a charge she called untrue.
Anderson, Crossan and School Board Vice President Denise Connelly voted to not renew, while DeVincentis and Lisa Brown voted to keep Knezevich on.
Issues with Knezevich’s employment status first came to light in March, when he called a staff meeting and told his faculty that he had been given the option of resigning or possibly having his contract not renewed. Knezevich said he also was given a chance to remediate his performance in certain areas.
At a School Board meeting several days later, the board voted to postpone action on Knezevich’s contract until June. As was the case Monday, many teachers and others attended the meeting to support Knezevich.
Knezevich was hired as the school’s principal in March 2005 to replace Dave Schmid. Knezevich had served as assistant principal under Schmid for the previous six years. Before that, he was an assistant principal in Aurora.