Facilitator hired to ease tensions at high school will start talking to staff this week

Much of the facilitation will have to wait until August

The Steamboat Springs High School in Steamboat Springs. The Steamboat Springs School District has hired a facilitator to engage school staff in an attempt to ease tensions between staff and administration.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Steamboat Springs School District will hire Diane Groves to act as a facilitator between administration and school staff at Steamboat Springs High School in an attempt to ease ongoing tensions.

Groves is expected to speak with a handful of school staff this week before talking more with district leaders to lay out a plan for the facilitation, which is expected to take place before school starts this fall.

“This week, what’s going on is (Groves) is doing phone interviews with about six people,” said Superintendent Brad Meeks on Monday, June 13. “We’re looking at scheduling some more in-depth work that first week back in August.”

Groves owns Whole Systems Performance and has been working for more than two decades with organizations “interested in creating collaborative solutions,” according to her LinkedIn page. Meeks said she was highly recommended.

In a proposal to the district, Groves laid out a three-step process for the facilitation, though that differs from details of the plan presented on Monday. In the proposal, she said she wanted to speak with 65% to 70% of staff at the high school to hear different perspectives about what’s happening.

Jay Hamric, the district’s director of teaching and learning has been made the point person for the district in regard to facilitation. He said these initial interviews are to get insights from various staff about their experiences, which will be used to guide how the rest of the process may look.

“It’s so she has a better understanding of what the situation is, what the challenges are, what the successes may be, just to ground her in that work and help her better design the training that she’s got to provide,” Hamric said.

In her proposal, Groves says there would be a three-day module for staff and leadership in August that will likely require more than one facilitator. After that, building administrators would have a long session with Groves to design a plan for “moving ahead together to support each other and their staff.”

Hamric said Groves’ process isn’t set in stone and will continue to develop through conversations with teachers and administration.

“I am really excited about the method that she uses,” said Steamboat Springs Board of Education President Katy Lee. “I think that it will be very effective at getting good conversations going forward.”

Board member Lara Craig expressed some frustration with the lack of any specified timeline and asked that Meeks have a defined timeline by the next board meeting on June 27. Craig said the board has received a letter from teachers requesting that the facilitation be done on contract hours, and not during the summer.

“Will the staff and administration have input on the final plan and does the board have say in the final plan? How’s that going to work?” Craig asked. “I really would like more specific answers to those questions.”

Meeks said he would “possibly” have a more detailed timeline by the next meeting, but he stressed that everyone has more questions about the process.

Parent John Agosta spoke during public comment to thank Craig for pushing for a defined schedule, and said he believes the negative public perception of the high school will complicate efforts to hire teachers.

“Right now the communication that is out there in the public is that this is not the place to be,” Agosta said. “We need to change that and coming out with the facilitator, executing on that and giving feedback on that is just going to help us.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.