South Routt School District superintendent resigns | SteamboatToday.com

South Routt School District superintendent resigns

— South Routt School District Superintendent Darci Mohr has resigned her position with the district, effective at the end of her contract June 30.

Mohr, who will have led the district for three years, said in a letter to staff and the Board of Education that she plans to return to the Front Range to be closer to family, including three adult daughters and two grandchildren who live in the area.

"Thank you for allowing us to be a part of this unique and special school district and community. We wish you all the best," Mohr wrote in her resignation letter.

Board President Jules Palyo said he was aware of Mohr's desire to be closer to her family.

"I'd say it's not a huge surprise, and family is first,” Palyo said Tuesday. “I definitely understand that."

Palyo said he believes the district's recent work on its academic strategic plan will provide a strong foundation to move forward, even with a new leader.

Recommended Stories For You

"I really feel good about where our district is heading, and I think we have some phenomenal leadership in place. I think we'll move forward without skipping a beat," Palyo said.

Rocky road

Mohr, who came to the district in summer 2014 from a position in human resources at the Boulder Valley School District, has managed to push the South Routt School District forward despite numerous setbacks.

In spring 2015, Mohr was tasked with leading searches for new principals for both district schools, after the high school/middle school principal resigned and the elementary principal accepted a new position within the district.

An extensive hiring process led to the selection of Randy Foster as elementary principal and Lynda McCarty as high school/middle school principal.

But a few months after McCarty began her tenure, she abruptly resigned in February 2016, leaving Mohr to fill in as "superincipal" for five months until new principal George Purnell was hired.

Soon after, in June, Mohr faced another challenge when the district learned it would not be receiving a crucial property tax payment from the bankrupt Peabody Energy.

Mohr worked to pursue every avenue of emergency funding available to help the district through the crisis, acquiring the district's state funding allocation early and ultimately securing a $1 million loan from the State Board of Education to help keep the district afloat.

Former school board member Tim Corrigan said he was impressed with Mohr's accomplishments as superintendent and acknowledged the many challenges that face new superintendents for small, rural districts such as South Routt.

"I believe Darci did the best possible job that could be done under the circumstances," Corrigan said.

Through her tenure, Mohr has faced criticism for her leadership from a faction of vocal and passionate South Routt residents, including in late 2015 when Mohr was quoted in a series of articles in the Steamboat Today about the district. Though Mohr did not advocate for consolidating South Routt with the Steamboat Springs School District, one article discussed the idea, leaving community members upset with Mohr.

“There’s definitely been some challenges,” Mohr said. “You don’t win a popularity contest when you’re making changes.”

In spring 2016, Mohr considered leaving the district and was named a finalist for two superintendent positions in other communities. She wasn't offered the positions and then said she had chosen to stay in South Routt.

Focusing on growth

Despite the difficulties she sometimes faced with community members, Mohr focused on encouraging district staff to review curriculum and take a closer look at test scores and student academic growth.

"Like many small districts, there are a number of high-needs students, and educationally, it's always going to be a challenge for a district like that to be able to perform at the highest levels," Corrigan said. "I give Darci credit for understanding that and trying to lead the school district toward growth and achievement."

Among her accomplishments as district leader, Mohr pointed to the opening of the district’s Soroco Preschool at Yampa in June 2015 and the district’s ability to leverage new grants to bring additional services to the district, which has struggled financially due to decreasing enrollment.

Mohr said she also was proud of district staff’s work on defining grade level standards during Fridays this year, after the school moved to a four-day week calendar.

Palyo said the board was expected to accept Mohr's resignation during its meeting Tuesday night, but it was premature to guess what the hiring process for Mohr's replacement might look like.

Mohr and her husband own a home and Kate's Café in Oak Creek, and Mohr said she'd return to the community in the future.

"As property owners and taxpayers, we'll continue to support the school district, town and community," Mohr said. "We'll be back from time to time, so this is not goodbye."

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow