Our View: DeVincentis strikes again
June 18, 2008
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs School Board member John DeVincentis has penned yet another chapter in his unfortunate history of unprofessional and unethical behavior. At the minimum, he once again owes the public and his fellow School Board members an apology.
DeVincentis’ latest regrettable act came at the end of last week’s controversial School Board meeting, during which the board voted 3-2 to not renew the contract of high school Principal Mike Knezevich. DeVincentis and Lisa Brown were the two dissenting votes.
According to some district officials and members of the public who remained in Centennial Hall after the meeting adjourned late Monday evening, DeVincentis confronted School Board member Laura Anderson and others and yelled profanities at them before leaving the building.
DeVincentis apparently was upset with the board’s decision to remove Knezevich, and he previously had accused Anderson of unethical behavior. He said she had inappropriately met with some of Knezevich’s critics.
Of course, DeVincentis accusing anyone of unethical behavior is laughable. The former principal of Strawberry Park Elementary School has been the subject of unprofessional and unethical behavior for years.
He had a well-documented feud with then-superintendent Cyndy Simms that led to taxpayer-funded mediation between the two. Simms eventually left for Mercer Island, Wash., but DeVincentis’ dislike for her didn’t end with her departure. DeVincentis penned many e-mails from his work computer to a Mercer Island teacher that made disparaging remarks about Simms. DeVincentis also wrote about lying to the Mercer Island School Board so it would hire Simms away from Steamboat, and he gave the teacher tips about how to undermine Simms’ authority.
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The e-mails were made public last year. DeVincentis apologized for the e-mails but refused calls to resign. A recall effort to remove DeVincentis from office failed because of a lack of valid signatures.
In a public letter of apology after the release of the e-mails, DeVincentis acknowledged that his future actions “would be under close scrutiny, as they should be.” He also wrote, “In the future, I will serve as the board member the public expects and deserves. : It is the time to serve the needs of our district and students. Everything else is secondary.”
During a public forum about the e-mail issue, DeVincentis said he would seek professional help for what he described as “fixating anger.”
“I believe the purpose in life is to always improve,” DeVincentis told community members in April 2007. “You’re always improving emotionally and mentally to really understand yourself, to be the best person you can on the last day of your life. In a short time I have learned a lot about me. I have really, really focused on myself. Myself alone. And I didn’t like what I saw. I can honestly say I am not that person I was three years ago.”
At a board meeting in May 2006, DeVincentis had elementary school teacher and longtime friend Mike Johnson read a scathing letter – in public session – about then-superintendent Donna Howell. DeVincentis was out of town and not able to attend the meeting.
He apologized for the letter several weeks later. During a board meeting in June 2006, he said, “My comments were totally inappropriate, and I will never allow that breach of my responsibility to happen again.”
Which brings us back to last week’s meeting, when DeVincentis once again proved his actions speak louder than his words. His accusations against Anderson and subsequent yelling of obscenities appear to have violated several School Board policies, including “Board Member Covenants,” “Board Member’s Code of Conduct,” and “Process for Addressing Board Member Violations.”
The bottom line is that if DeVincentis truly had the best interests of the community and its children in mind, his most recent actions never would have taken place. But like a schoolyard bully unable to control his anger, DeVincentis lashed out at those with whom he disagreed.
Urging him to clean up his act almost seems pointless, because with history as our guide, last week’s outburst from DeVincentis won’t be his last.