‘Gladiator’ parents criticize elementary school principal
Steamboat Springs — Concerned parents and one Soda Creek Elementary teacher voiced concern over Principal Cherryl Sage to the school board Tuesday night.
Outspoken parents voiced their concerns regarding the relationship between the Soda Creek administration and staff as well as probationary teacher standings.
“The staff morale seems to be the lowest I’ve seen in years. I believe there’s a larger amount of staff at the school that are unhappy,” parent Char Rusk said. “(Certain) leadership skills seem to be lacking at Soda Creek.”
While a few more parents stood up to read letters and voice an opinion of the school, its administrators and district Superintendent Cyndy Simms, Soda Creek teacher Tom Keenan also expressed his concern.
“We have a serious problem on our hands. This situation is not new (and) is not trivial,” Keenan said. “Soda Creek Elementary is not making continuous progress.”
Simms said these points of disagreement are understandable, but better means of presenting these concerns could have been used for Sage’s sake.
“There are thoughtful ways to get together and work this out. That’s my hope for this situation,” Simms said. “I know those people and they’re good people.”
Rusk also said she was not satisfied with Simms’ work as superintendent.
“There seems to be a feeling that Dr. Simms is not a teacher advocate,” Rusk said. “We need to make sure we have the best of the best leading our staff. Now we’re seeing a major turnover of staff to fit Dr. Sage.”
As Sage sat quietly in the back row of the board room, Joanne Palmer, director of communications for the school district, addressed the audience and the board on Sage’s behalf.
“How many of you have seen the movie ‘Gladiator’?” Palmer asked the audience before comparing its behavior to common antics of the Roman era. “I’m appalled to see what happened to Dr. Sage,” she said.
“I would really like to ask the board never to put someone through that. Things should never have to get to that point,” Palmer said.
Palmer also asked the audience and the board to at least give Sage the chance to defend herself.
“It’s not the whole Soda Creek community, and change is hard,” Sage said. “We’re not always the best we can be when we’re going through change.”
Wednesday morning, school board president Dan Birch faxed a letter to staff members in the district regarding Tuesday night’s uproar.
“This unfortunate and completely unnecessary incident caused me to be deeply disturbed and concerned by the low level of discourse within our district,” Birch wrote.
Birch also pointed out four principle items to create a cohesive, functioning body: the board, the administrators and staff share the same view of providing compassion for children and their education; the problem within the district should be addressed without personal and public attacks; administrators need to recognize staff concerns and staff needs to respect decisions made by administrators; and achieving a high level of civility and discourse will raise that level with constituents.
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