North Routt Community Charter School executive director resigns
The executive director of the North Routt Community Charter School, Brandon LaChance, resigned Tuesday, according to the school’s Board President Kim Smith.
At the end of September, the school’s board initiated a third-party investigation into complaints “of a school personnel matter,” according to emails obtained by Steamboat Pilot & Today.
The latest email, sent from Smith to all school staff and parents Wednesday morning, informed them of LaChance’s decision to leave the school.
“The board has spoken with our executive director about the school’s ongoing needs, and ultimately, Brandon (LaChance) has decided to resign from the school and his role as executive director,” Smith wrote.
LaChance has been the school’s executive director since 2013 after starting as a sixth- through eighth-grade teacher in 2008.
“We want to take a moment to celebrate all of the work and good that he has done for the school over the past years and wish him the best of luck in all of his future endeavors,” Smith wrote in Wednesday’s email. “As with all organizations, we remember that growth sometimes requires change.”
When reached for comment Thursday, LaChance said he believes now is the time for the school to start its next chapter, but he would not be the one to lead it.
“Right now is the appropriate time to start another chapter of the storied history of North Routt Community Charter School, and I just knew that, at this moment, it was not me to continue to lead the school,” LaChance said. “I look forward to continuing to be witness to the amazing things that happen at the school.”
Smith and the rest of the school’s board did not respond to detailed questions from Pilot & Today about the resignation, complaints made or the third-party investigation.
Questions from the newspaper included how many and what the nature of the complaints were, what the status of the third-party investigation is, if it produced any recommendations and who is in charge at the charter school following LaChance’s resignation.
“Because this is a confidential employment matter, I’m not able to give you more details,” Smith said in her response.
Wednesday’s email from Smith to staff and parents said the board will take “time to determine what our organizational structure will look like going forward,” and the change would not have an impact on students at the school.
LaChance declined to discuss complaints made or any findings of the investigation.
Also Thursday, Pilot & Today submitted a Colorado Open Records Act request with the charter school seeking any and all documents related to the resignation, including but not limited to a resignation letter, the findings of an investigation or any recommendations that were made.
The request legally requires a response within three business days.
Jeff Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, wrote in an email that these documents generally shouldn’t be subject to CORA’s personnel file exemption.
“Courts have interpreted that to narrowly mean a public employee’s personal information (home address, etc.) not records related to job performance,” Roberts said.
Pilot & Today used a CORA request to obtain resignation letters from the Hayden School District in April.
The school’s charter is held by the Steamboat Springs School District, but Superintendent Brad Meeks said in an email that the charter does not consider employees in North Routt to be employees of the district, and any complaints the district may have received would have been forwarded to the school’s administration or board.
Meeks said he was aware of the investigation, but the district was not involved, and if any staff were, it was simply for background information.
Steamboat Board of Education President Kelly Latterman said the first she had heard of the investigation was when approached by Pilot & Today on Thursday, and the charter school’s board has oversight over the school, not the Steamboat school board.
On Sept. 29, Smith emailed school staff to inform them of the board’s intention to conduct a third-party investigation into complaints of a “school personnel matter,” noting that complaints did not impact the health or safety of students but were employment related, according to the emails.
“The NRCCS Board is not suggesting that any wrongdoing has occurred but believes it to be in the best interest of the school and all involved to have an independent, outside consultant review the issues identified and, if appropriate, investigate any specific matters raised,” Smith wrote.
None of the emails obtained by Pilot & Today indicate wrongdoing by LaChance or any other charter school personnel.
In an email the following week, on Oct. 4, Smith informed staff the board had hired Karin Ranta-Curran, an attorney, investigator and director of Title IX services with the Denver-based firm Employment Matters, which specializes in workplace investigations. Smith said in the email Ranta-Curran was recommended to the board by the Colorado League of Charter Schools.
Ranta-Curran did not respond to a request for comment about the investigation.
“A third-party consultant will be reaching out to you this week to arrange a confidential meeting, or you can contact her directly to arrange a short call or zoom,” Smith’s Oct. 4 email says. “These meetings will be highly confidential, and no names will be shared with the board.”
In the emails, especially the one sent Oct. 4, Smith said she is grateful to staff for their work, especially during the “ever-changing challenge of educating, particularly in this time of the pandemic.”
“The board would like to extend deep gratitude to you, the NRCCS staff, who are committed to the well-being of our students,” Smith said. “We are grateful for your commitment to uphold the high standard of education and values that make NRCCS a wonderful school.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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