Meeting kicks off recall effort
Save Our Schools group hopes to gather 2,300 signatures
Steamboat Springs — A group hoping to lead a successful recall of Steamboat Springs School Board member John DeVincentis began collecting petition signatures Thursday night after a meeting at Olympian Hall.
About 40 people attended the meeting, during which Save Our Schools RE-2 committee members gave their reasoning for the recall effort.
The group hopes to obtain 2,300 signatures from eligible Steamboat Springs School District voters before the petition is due July 2. That total would be about 360 more votes than what is needed, but committee members said they wanted to account for the “one or two signatures” that inevitably will be discounted.
Jim Swiggart, who was a member of the pro-DeVincentis group Parents for Dr. D when DeVincentis was a principal at Strawberry Park Elementary School, told Thursday’s audience the recall is necessary because of DeVincentis’ actions as a School Board member.
“(DeVincentis) has admitted to and accepted responsibility for sending alarmingly vindictive, derogatory and destructive e-mails concerning (former) Superintendent (Cyndy) Simms while still a principal in the RE-2 district,” he said. “Although John commanded much of the community’s respect and appreciation while principal of Strawberry Park Elementary School, as a board member, it is our committee’s opinion that he has demonstrated a continued history of being destructive to the continuity and function of our school district and board.”
DeVincentis apologized for the series of e-mails he exchanged with a Mercer Island, Wash., teacher about Simms, but said he would not resign from the board, prompting the recall. Simms left Steamboat to become superintendent of the Mercer Island district.
Thursday’s meeting was calm and respectful, standards former City Council member and current SOS RE-2 member Paula Cooper-Black said she intends to maintain in the coming months as community members sign and circulate the recall petitions.
“As passionate as we are about the recall, there are people as equally passionate on the other side,” she said. “We’re trying to be as ethical and honest in everything we do. It’s very important to us that we set very high standards for ourselves.”
The group focused the meeting on moving forward with the first part of the two-part recall process, which is to gather enough signatures to place the recall issue on the November ballot.
SOS RE-2 members said they chose not to pursue a special election because of the excessive cost to the school district. A special election could have cost the district between $12,000 and $18,000, group members said.
Petitioning the recall issue onto the November ballot will not cost the district any money, committee members said.
SOS RE-2 committee member and former School Board President Paula Stephenson said the committee is an “issues committee” only and that the group will not “endorse, propose or financially support” any person seeking a spot on the November ballot to replace DeVincentis on the School Board.
“Who will be (DeVincentis’) successor if we are successful in getting the issue on the ballot? I can’t answer that,” she said. “I can’t tell you who may or may not rise to the occasion.”
The group said it is waiting until after Mother’s Day to begin circulating petitions en masse. Residents who want to sign or circulate petitions are encouraged to contact the group. Group members said they may use City Market, Safeway and Third Street as centers for regular petition-signing events. They will advertise such events when more information becomes available.
Former School Board president Jim Gill said he is optimistic the group will continue its momentum in the coming months, and it plans to hold additional informational meetings to keep the public informed.
“We want to try to keep the excitement up, keep the momentum going and get the signatures early on rather than trying to get them in the 11th hour,” he said.
Other SOS RE-2 committee members include former School Board and Education Fund Board members Tom Miller-Fruetel, Pat Gleason and Brian Kelly.
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