Steamboat school district prepares for loss |

Steamboat school district prepares for loss

School Board meets to discuss plan should superintendent leave

— A conversation among Steamboat Springs School Board members Monday night set the table for how they will proceed in May if they need to replace Superintendent Shalee Cunningham.

Cunningham is the finalist for the superintendent position of the Novato Unified School District in Marin County, Calif. She has said Novato officials could decide whether to offer her a job as early as this week. Cunningham has cited her desire to be closer to three of her four adult children who live in Napa, Calif.

School Board members met for less than a hour during a workshop Monday night and decided, without taking action, how to proceed at their May 2 meeting. Cunningham didn’t attend the workshop.

“The goal tonight is to flesh things out so when we come back in May, we’ll know what the decision is from Shalee and we can hit the ground running,” President Robin Crossan said.

In May, the School Board will discuss a timeline for finding her replacement, review a draft of a request for proposals from search firms to hire a permanent superintendent or a candidate to work on an interim basis, and review the request for applications the district sent out when Cunningham was hired before the 2008-09 school year.

Board members acknowledged that a lot of the work they did then, such as the district’s priorities and the type of candidate they prefer, were discussed extensively in forums with the public and staff.

The School Board didn’t seem to come to a consensus about whether to immediately search for a permanent replacement or hire an interim superintendent.

Crossan said in her discussions recently with Colorado Association of School Boards officials, the best time to hire a superintendent is fall. Crossan said she was told that the talent pool is not strong right now for permanent superintendent candidates.

She suggested the School Board consider candidates already in the community or promoting from within on an interim basis. By waiting to hire a permanent replacement, Crossan said it’s possible there could be turnover on the School Board — Crossan and board members Laura Anderson and Lisa Brown would be up for re-election next November — and it might be better for the new board to make the hire.

School Board members Anderson and Denise Connelly suggested they start a national search for a full-time replacement right away and to encourage local candidates and district employees to also apply for a permanent or interim position.

“We need to encourage everyone and pick the best candidate,” Connelly said. “That’s what we owe our community, our district, our kids.”

School Board members didn’t discuss a contract length for a possible permanent replacement. They also didn’t discuss salary for a permanent or interim position.

Cunningham is in Year 1 of a three-year contract that pays her $150,000 plus benefits. It’s her second contract with the district. The contract, which was approved in May 2010, allows her or the district to give 30 days’ notice to terminate the agreement.

Less than 10 members of the public, including some teachers, attended Monday’s workshop. The School Board didn’t allow any public comment. School Board members said there would be a chance for that at the May meeting.

“We still have a superintendent right now,” Crossan said. “The whole point is in May we’ll know one way or another whether this is a non-issue or we’ll have to move forward.”

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email

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