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Board narrowly approves principal contracts

Language and terms of agreements, not people, cause for concern; vote passes, 3-2

— The Steamboat Springs School Board scrutinized and challenged principals’ contract terms Monday night before voting narrowly to ask them back for another year.

Board members Pat Glea-son, Denise Connelly and Jerry Kozatch voted to renew the contracts of Strawberry Park Elementary School Principal Mark MacHale, Soda Creek Elementary School Principal Judy Harris, Steamboat Springs Middle School Principal Tim Bishop, middle school Assistant Principal Jerry Buelter, Steamboat Springs High School Principal Mike Knezevich and high school Assistant Principal Kevin Taulman.

John DeVincentis and Jeff Troeger voted against renewing the contracts. DeVincentis and Troeger said it wasn’t the people they questioned, but the language and terms of their contracts.



Troeger’s primary issue is the availability of health care, if applicable, to principals’ families. District staff, whose benefits and salaries are negotiated annually through the Collaborative Bargaining Team, traditionally have not received health care for families.

“I have a problem for the fifth year,” Troeger said. “I don’t think administrators’ kids are more important than anyone else’s kids. I don’t like the message we are sending to everyone else. I don’t want to take $10,000 from an administrator. I just want to build the cost into the contracts.”



DeVincentis raised a number of concerns, particularly with the inequity between administrators’ benefits when compared with other district staff benefits. For example, administrators receive travel expenses plus a $1,250 automobile reimbursement, which is factored into the minimum salary.

“I have too many questions related to the way the contract is right now,” said DeVincentis, who was on a similar contract while he was Strawberry Park’s principal.

Gleason, Connelly and Koz-atch also had concerns with the language of several contract items, which was why Gleason made a motion to approve the contracts pending the changing of language of several items.

For example, board members did not believe it was appropriate for principals to be paid by the district on days when the principals were being paid for consultation work out-of-district.

But Gleason, Connelly and Kozatch voted to approve the contracts because, among several reasons, the principals may have sought employment elsewhere had the board not renewed the contracts by April 1.

“We would not only be operating without a contract, we would be operating without the knowledge that our employment would continue,” MacHale said.

Board members also voted unanimously to freeze administrators’ salaries and benefits pending the review of compensation packages from other Colorado districts.

Superintendent Donna Howell said she has had trouble gathering accurate comparative information because districts are reluctant to share it. Gleason said it’s public record, so there should be no trouble accommodating the board’s request.

MacHale said Monday was difficult, but he was pleased that he and his colleagues’ contracts were renewed.

“Certainly anytime someone is discussing whether you are going to have a job is uneasy to say the least,” MacHale said. “The irony is we are being singled out in an open meeting at the same time we are asked to perhaps give up some of our benefits as we sit there at 10:30 at night.”

DeVincentis said, in the future, he wants to see principal contracts before March 19 if the School Board is to act before April 1.

– To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com


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