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E-mail reactions mixed

Some want DeVincentis to resign, others support him

DeVincentis, when reached at his home Friday, said, "I'm working on a response," adding that he is taking time to properly formulate what he wants to say.
Brian Ray

— John DeVincentis remains a member of the Steamboat Springs School Board, but for how long remains unclear.

On Friday, the Steamboat Pilot & Today printed excerpts of e-mails written by DeVincentis to Mercer Island, Wash., teacher Joby McGowan that were harshly critical of former Steamboat Springs Superintendent Cyndy Simms.

Simms now is the superintendent in Mercer Island.



On Friday, some Steamboat residents were calling for DeVincentis’ immediate resignation. School Board member Jerry Kozatch said he was not prepared to ask DeVincentis to step down.

DeVincentis, when reached at his home Friday, said, “I’m working on a response,” adding that he is taking time to properly formulate what he wants to say.



In the e-mails, DeVincentis admits to lying to Mercer Island School Board members about Simms and calls her an “idiot,” “crazy” and a “pathological liar.” He also predicts he will take on Simms’ replacement, current Steamboat Springs Superintendent Donna Howell. Former School Board members Tom Miller-Freutel and Pat Gleason said this week that DeVincentis is trying to oust Howell.

The e-mail exchange took place two years ago while DeVincentis was in his final year as principal at Strawberry Park Elementary School. Still, his behavior is unacceptable for a person in a leadership role, said Paula Stephenson, a former School Board president and member of a recently formed citizens group concerned about the direction of the district.

“John absolutely has to step down,” she said. “This is a person that is leading our district? It was incredibly vindictive what those e-mails showed. I think it showed that John really does have a personal agenda he has been trying to advance.”

Stephenson said many in Steamboat share her opinion.

“We have a long list of supporters who I think will become very vocal in the coming days, weeks and months, especially if no changes are made,” Stephenson said.

Kozatch, who was appointed to the School Board in November, said he was going to wait before casting “personal judgments.” He said the negative comments DeVincentis wrote about Simms were “not admirable behaviors,” but Kozatch questioned the necessity of making DeVincentis’ private e-mails public.

The e-mails were sent using DeVincentis’ work computer and school district e-mail account. All employees, including DeVincentis, sign a form warning them not to send confidential e-mails using school accounts.

“I personally don’t see there is a lot of value in the paper bringing forward this old information,” Kozatch said. “I would not be asking him to resign at this point. If I felt strong, I would say it.”

Efforts to contact Board President Denise Connelly and board member Jeff Troeger were unsuccessful.

Copies of the e-mails were brought to the Steamboat Pilot & Today office by an anonymous source last week. The newspaper spoke with multiple sources who verified the e-mails were taken from DeVincentis’ school computer after he retired in 2005. DeVincentis and McGowan each acknowledged the e-mail exchanges.

One person with a strong opinion was Steamboat Springs Middle School teacher Ben Barbier. He wanted parents and residents to know that the teachers and support staff are keeping all issues related to Howell and the School Board, including today’s revelations about DeVincentis, out of the classrooms.

“It’s all about going on in the classroom,” Barbier said. “You can’t stop and do anything differently. The kids need that leadership.”

-To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208

or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com


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