Smyser: No Knezevich renewal | SteamboatToday.com

Smyser: No Knezevich renewal

School Board to vote Monday on high school principal's contract

Zach Fridell

— Interim Superintendent Sandra Smyser is recommending that the Steamboat Springs School Board not renew the contract of high school principal Mike Knezevich, according to documents released Friday.

Contracts for each Steamboat Springs School District principal and assistant principal are up for review every year, but Knezevich’s renewal is particularly contentious. More than 50 people attended the board meeting March 24 when his contract renewal was first discussed, but the board voted to delay action at that time.

The recommendation, credited to Smyser in the agenda packet for Monday’s School Board meeting, states, “I believe it is in the best interest of the Steamboat Springs School District to nonrenew the 2008-09 school year contract for Michael Knezevich, however, given the unique timing of this decision, I defer to the Board’s discretion.”

Smyser could not be reached for comment after the agenda packet was distributed late Friday afternoon and declined to discuss any personnel matters earlier this week.

Reached at Steamboat Springs High School on Friday, Knezevich said he was not surprised by Smyser’s decision.

“The recommendation is as it is, and it will be my responsibility to have the discussions with the board about the recommendation. It will be up to the board to make the final and hopefully fair and reasonable decision in the matter,” he said.

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Public and private

The schedule for Monday’s board meeting includes one hour of public comment and three separate executive sessions. During those times, the board will meet with district attorneys and Knezevich to discuss his contract.

Because of personnel laws, the board cannot discuss Knezevich’s renewal in the open meeting, Smyser said. While members of the public can express their views in the open meeting, the board will be unable to fully explain its decision, regardless of the outcome.

“That’s the hard part – how do they talk about it when it’s all personnel?” Smyser said.

“It is a big decision, and it needs to be done (outside of executive session), but once they’re out, they can’t say very much in the public ear. It’s really a catch-22.”

Smyser said she has received many opinions from the public regarding Knezevich’s status. She will present a summary of those comments to the board during executive session Monday.

“I had a lot of feedback before the first meeting in March, and then I’ve made it very clear I’ll listen to anyone. I have had parents and teachers come in and talk to me. Some have left voicemails, some have left e-mails, all kinds of different ways of just letting me know what they think,” she said.

Knezevich also said he will speak to the board during the executive sessions, but he does not expect to make any public comments.

“I certainly appreciate the overwhelming support that I’ve gotten from parents and community members and staff and students. I feel very blessed for all of the people who have come forward, both at the last board meeting and who have talked to me individually or in groups over the past couple of months,” he said.

Many of the people who spoke at the March board meeting supported Knezevich.

Also on Monday’s agenda is the budget for next year, characterized as unremarkable by district officials. There are few new items on the budget, which will primarily be a roll-over from previous budgets, said Dale Mellor, district finance director.

The budget for the 2009 fiscal year is expected to total more than $20.8 million, an increase of less than 1 percent from the previous year.