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Cripple Creek-Victor public school superintendent suspended pending internal investigation

May 31, 2018 Updated: June 1, 2018 at 6:26 am
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Superintendent Les Lindauer pictured at last year's graduation ceremony. Photo by Debbie Kelley.

Les Lindauer, superintendent of Cripple Creek-Victor School District RE-1 since July 2014, has been suspended pending the outcome of an internal investigation, said board President Tim Braun.

The board voted 3-0 last week to suspend Lindauer with pay, Braun said.

Member Tonya Martin abstained because she works for the school district, and another seat on the five-member board is vacant, since Tana Rice resigned after recently moving out of the district.

Braun said he could not divulge reasons for the suspension. Under Colorado law, elected officials can discuss personnel matters in closed-door sessions.

No criminal investigation is being conducted, Braun said, adding that he has completed one part of the investigation.

"We're working with our attorney for the rest of it," he said.

Braun said he did not know how long the process would take.

Tory Richey, principal of the Cripple Creek-Victor Junior/Senior High School, is acting superintendent.

An emergency board meeting likely will be convened next week, Braun said, as Richey is on vacation this week.

Lindauer has several years left on his contract, Braun said. It pays an average of $94,000 a year, according to the Colorado Department of Education.

The board hired Lindauer in 2014 to stabilize upheaval in the small mountain district after the contract of eight-year Superintendent Sue Holmes was not renewed.

The principal of the Junior/Senior High School resigned the following day, and the business manager announced she would retire.

Lindauer worked in Denver Public Schools for 17 years and was executive director of the Emily Griffith Opportunity School.

RE-1 has had successes and challenges under his leadership.

At the March board meeting came the announcement that for the third year, the district will not have to borrow money from the state, as revenues are in line with expenses.

Enrollment has fluctuated in recent years, with this year's count of 367 students representing a 2 percent decrease since the 2016-17 school year.

Employee turnover has been among the highest of the 17 public school districts in the Pikes Peak region, according to state statistics.

The teacher turnover rate in the 2016-17 school year was 28.57 percent; total staff turover was 27.78 percent.

The district's average teacher salary is $38,595, the fourth lowest in the region.

Some parents criticized Lindauer last year for what they saw as preferential treatment on awarded contracts. A few parents complained to The Gazette about the district's handling of special needs students, which Lindauer said was conducted in accordance with all regulations.

Voters rejected a bid for a mill levy override on the November 2016 ballot, which would have stabilized district revenue shortfalls, improved teacher compensation, expanded voc-tech training for students and improved curriculum.

The voters approved a board redistricting plan in November to add at-large representation.

In March, Lindauer secured $275,000 from Newmont Mining Corp., owner of the Cripple Creek-Victor Gold Mine, to help build a vocational training center for students to learn automotive, welding, woods manufacturing and design skills.

Lindauer was seeking more grant money for the estimated $1.8 million project. A new grant writer is coming on board to help.

Lindauer also led the reopening of the school-based health center, which closed for months due to a lack of a health-care provider but reopened with expanded ability to serve the community.

District officials also have been working to improve security, since a hard drive was stolen from the district's Head Start office last year. It never was recovered.

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