March 6, 2014 Updated: March 6, 2014 at 6:50 pm
The top three employees in Cripple Creek-Victor School District RE-1 will vacate their positions in a few months, which is concerning to some in the small mountain community in Teller County, west of Colorado Springs.
"You need at least one to stay for continuity," said Timothy Braun, president of the school board. "I think it's bad to have all three gone at once."
The district's board - for which all five seats were open in the November 2013 election - voted 3-2 at its Feb. 24 meeting to not renew the annual contract for Superintendent Sue Holmes.
Trudy Vader, principal of Cripple Creek-Victor Jr./Sr. High School resigned the following day.
Vader said on Thursday she wanted to "respectfully decline" to comment on the issue.
And the district's business manager, Jean Olmsted, has announced that she will retire at the end of this school year. She's also the secretary to the board of education.
Holmes and Vader have said they will stay in their posts until school ends on May 22.
Holmes has led the district for eight years. In that time, enrollment has dropped by 185 students to this school year's official count of 379. Among her accomplishments, Holmes orchestrated the opening of a school-based health center for students and siblings ages newborn to 21, and launched after school and summer programs for the junior and senior high school students.
The issue of her contract drew mass public support in favor of her leadership. Teachers, community leaders and former board members spoke positively about Holmes' skills and abilities.
Braun said citizens who wanted to address the board before members voted were each given three minutes to speak.
"It took about one-and-a-half hours," he said. "We had a room full."
Braun voted to extend Holmes' contract, along with the newest board member Lourdes Monger, who was appointed Jan. 27 to fill a vacant seat that drew no candidates in the November election.
"I think she did a very good job," Braun said of Holmes. Braun was elected to the board eight years ago, then resigned five years ago for medical reasons and was re-elected in November.
Board member Dennis Jones joined Don Daniel and Tana Rice in opposing the contract renewal.
Jones said he could not divulge why because the matter was discussed in the privacy of executive sessions.
"I did not want to renew her contract for a variety of reasons," he said.
But, "It's not because of her personality or what she's done for the district in terms of accomplishments - those are admirable," Jones said. "There were other things - I was very frustrated and disappointed in some of her decisions."
Holmes' contract was to expire in June. Jones said when there were indications that the contract extension would be a point of debate for the board, he suggested the board vote early to give Holmes time to plan her future.
"This was a difficult decision," Jones said. "But it's best for the whole district because we have a great staff, and there's no doubt in my mind they'll take it to the next level. I feel positive about the direction we're going."
The district likely will work with the Colorado Association of School Boards to find Holmes' successor, Braun said. Once seated, the new superintendent will be in charge of hiring a new secondary school principal. The business manager job has been posted as an opening to fill.