DeVincentis issues apology for e-mails
Steamboat Springs School Board member says he will not resign from his seat
There are no words for the regret I feel about the comments I made in anger after what was, for me, a very traumatic year. In 2004-2005, when I wrote those e-mails, I felt that I had been treated unprofessionally for a stand I took in supporting parents concern regarding the issue of class size. Looking back at these e-mails now, I realize that I also acted in this regard, in an unprofessional manner. These e-mails were meant to be private, and I did not intend to make them public or to hurt anyone. But, I do now see how they are hurtful. I wish to apologize to Dr. Simms and her family for the way that they come across.
I used e-mails to vent my anger with a teacher who had emailed me stating he was facing similar problems with her on Mercer Island. Looking back, I wish that I had dealt with his situation differently and can honestly say that I have learned a great deal from this unfortunate disclosure of private communications.
I still believe that there are reasons for change in our district and that we are moving in a direction that will be more beneficial to the children of our district. I also recognize the harm and conflict that this has created in the district. I deeply regret that and that my friends and family have had to read this in the newspaper. I am very sorry to have acted so poorly, no matter the reasons of how I was feeling at the time.
I have not moved for the superintendent's removal. I will honor the board's wishes in that regard and will support any decision related to her tenure.
I will continue to serve the board and will reflect on my past actions and words. I will seek the advice and support from friends in the community and my family. I will work cooperatively with the Board and the superintendent. I know my actions will be under close scrutiny, as they should be.
Please accept my apology to all those involved. In the future, I will serve as the board member the public expects and deserves. There are several goals, as a Board that we still need to accomplish: the completion of our building projects, improvement of staff morale, a better communication system within our district, enhancing our ability to respond better to our staff, parents, children and community members, and continuing to attract and retain the best staff for our children, gifted and talented, and elementary school Spanish. In the future, I will work toward these goals, and I vow to leave the past behind. Is the time to serve the needs of our District and students. Everything else is secondary.
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs School Board Member John DeVincentis apologized Saturday morning for a series of e-mails he sent in 2004 and 2005.
But he stopped short of resigning even as a growing chorus of past and present community officials asked him to do so.
In the letter, DeVincentis writes, “In the future, I will serve as the board member the public expects and deserves.” Asked if he had any plans to resign, he said, “The letter stands for itself.”
“Everybody has an opinion,” DeVincentis said when told community leaders were calling for his resignation. “I’ve had others who say I shouldn’t resign.”
Some DeVincentis supporters accused the Pilot & Today of trying to assassinate DeVincentis’ character. They said the newspaper never should have printed private e-mails that are old news, and that news stories about DeVincentis have been unfair, biased and sensationalized.
Mike Johnson, a Strawberry Park teacher, said the newspaper’s decision to target DeVincentis’ clearly private e-mails sends a chilling message to the rest of the school district and community. He also defended his former principal as a leader who has been wrongly maligned for raising fair questions about the district.
“DeVincentis has always been a leader who invites and states his questions about the direction this school district has been and is headed,” Johnson wrote in a letter to the Pilot & Today. “His questioning of what constitutes best practices and trying to implement best practices in Strawberry Park Elementary School allowed our students and teachers to perform at high levels, scoring in the topmost levels on Colorado state standards tests year after year.”
But others said the e-mails show a dark side of DeVincentis that does not belong on the School Board.
Pat Gleason, who resigned from the School Board last week because of differences with the direction of the board, said DeVincentis will be the subject of a recall effort if he does not step down.
“Denise, you should know that a recall of board members as a course of action is already in place,” Gleason wrote in a letter sent to School Board President Denise Connelly and copied to the Pilot & Today. “The funding for the recall has been secured, and a committee has been formed. The only unknown at this point is the names that will be placed on the petition. I am convinced that in the absence of strong leadership from you, your name as well as John’s will be on that petition.”
Connelly issued a written response that said the School Board has not made any decisions regarding the DeVincentis e-mails.
“The board has been consulting with our legal counsel and knowledgeable colleagues, as well as listening to all community input and feedback,” Connelly wrote. “We are considering all options, but at this time we are still trying to ascertain all pertinent facts. As a board, we do not believe that a rash decision without accurate information is beneficial to the district or our students.”
Connelly would not comment further.
In addition to Gleason, a number of community members said Saturday that DeVincentis should leave the School Board.
“Many of us worked hard to bring a level of professionalism and high ethics to this board and John DeVincentis is compromising that position,” said Jim Gill, a former School Board member and past president of the Education Fund Board. “What he is doing is counter to the board’s mission. He is following an agenda of petty vindictiveness that has no business on our School Board.”
Gill and three other former School Board members – Paula Stephenson, Tom Sharp and Tom Miller-Freutel – wrote a letter calling on DeVincentis to resign.
“I found the e-mails disgusting,” Gill said. “He admits to dishonesty, and he uses words that most of us would wash our kids’ mouths out for. Why should a person like that be a leader in our district?”
Also seeking DeVincentis’ resignation are past members of “Parents for Dr. D,” a group that formed to support him in 2002 when, as principal at Strawberry Park, he got into a public battle with then-Superintendent Cyndy Simms.
Jim Swiggart, who chaired the group, has called on DeVincentis to leave the School Board. So has former member Greg Dixson.
“It’s irrelevant how and why the e-mails were disclosed,” Dixson wrote to the Pilot & Today. “For me, the content is the only issue to address today. Given the vindictive nature of what these e-mails contained coupled with my involvement in supporting John a few years ago, I am compelled to speak out publicly and ask him to resign his position as School Board member.”
Former City Council member Paula Cooper Black has called on DeVincentis to resign. So has current council member Towny Anderson, who said DeVincentis’ anger is unhealthy for the school district and for himself.
“Given the acknowledgement of the e-mails, I fully expected of him not only an apology but a recognition that he has to step down,” Anderson said. “There is a pattern to his behavior that has become painfully clear. To allow him to let his anger overtake him, damage people and then apologize again is not acceptable.”
On Friday, the Steamboat Pilot & Today published excerpts from the e-mails, which were between DeVincentis and Mercer Island, Wash., teacher Joby McGowan. The e-mails began in August 2004 and continued through May 2005. DeVincentis used his school computer and school e-mail account to send the messages. They were discovered after he retired from the district at the end of the 2004-05 school year.
Last week, printed copies of the e-mails were left at the newspaper for Suzanne Schlicht, the newspaper’s general manager, by a source who has asked not to be identified. To validate the e-mails, the newspaper spoke with and showed the e-mails to multiple sources who worked for the school district when the e-mails were retrieved from DeVincentis’ computer.
In the e-mails, DeVincentis has harsh criticism for Simms, now the superintendent in Mercer Island. He calls her an idiot, says she is not a good mother and says he would be arrested for “battering and abuse” if he were married to her. He jokes about spitting on her and brags about lying to Mercer Island officials to get them to hire her away from Steamboat. He gives McGowan tips on how to undermine her, including suggesting that he go after her personal life.
“These e-mails were meant to be private, and I did not intend to make them public or to hurt anyone,” DeVincentis said in his apology. “But, I do now see how they are hurtful. I wish to apologize to Dr. Simms and her family for the way that they come across.”
Gill said the apology is inadequate.
“He is expecting the community to extend him the compassion he could not bring himself to extend to Cyndy Simms and others,” Gill said. “This did not start with these e-mails in 2004-05. This goes back many, many years.”
Like Connelly, School Board member Jerry Kozatch said he is reserving judgment in the e-mail episode. “I don’t think because this particular article was in the newspaper that that should be a reason for him to resign,” Kozatch said. “I don’t see anything particularly productive in me making any other statements.”
School Board member Jeff Troeger could not be reached for comment.
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