A cold night in paradise: Sleeping atop all of Colorado's 14ers

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The Falcon School District 49 board is expected to appoint an interim chief education officer at its special board meeting next week, district officials said Thursday.

The temporary administrator would work with current Superintendent Bradley Schoeppey until he leaves the district on June 30. It’s unclear when the interim job would end.

“We just want to try and move forward with someone with a history with the district,” said board President David Martin.

The roughly 14,500-student district on the eastern edge of Colorado Springs is pursuing innovation status with the Colorado Department of Education, which would allow it to seek exemption from some state and local rules to try new things.

The massive restructuring in the district has led to the elimination of top positions, including the buyout of contracts with Schoeppey and three administrators for a tab of more than $1 million.

The leadership plan calls for a chief education officer to work with a deputy superintendent (also called special projects in some paperwork) and the three high school principals who have been named innovation leaders/assistant superintendents.

Martin had said earlier that a search for a chief education officer would be focused internally.

The position has no job description or established salary and has not been advertised. It’s unclear when the board decided to move forward with filling the job on an interim basis because no vote has been taken to do so.

Still, candidates’ names have surfaced and board Secretary Tammy Harold said board members have gotten suggestions from staff and community members.

District 49 Charter School Liaison Becky Carter has been mentioned as one possible candidate for the temporary position, several board members said.

Carter started working in District 49 as a teacher in 1982, and was a principal for 13 years. She held both positions at Stetson Elementary School. Carter also served as the president of the Falcon Teachers Education Association in the early 1990s.

She was executive director of elementary education for four years and this school year became charter school liaison.

“A lot of people trust her and are excited to see her in a leadership role,” said board Vice President Chris Wright, noting her experience and community connections.

Earlier in the month, there were rumors that Deputy Superintendent Mary Guinn might shift to chief education officer. Martin said that wasn’t likely, but he would not rule it out.

Board members said Guinn sought more money than the district wanted to pay.

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The school district’s attorney, Brad Miller, said the board and the superintendent are redefining Guinn’s role within the new structure. Guinn’s multi-year contract was not renewed by the board, but there is some confusion over the expiration of the contract, which is under review, Miller said.

Martin said he didn’t know how many candidates for chief education officer might be considered at Wednesday’s special board meeting, but he doesn’t know of anyone more capable than Carter.

Wright called Carter perfect for the job, but he said he wanted more time to look at candidates and to seek input from district employees and the community before a decision is made.

Harold and Martin said the decision to move forward with an interim chief education officer wasn’t sudden, and could not be postponed. However, next week’s meeting was scheduled as a work session, during which the board cannot take action. On Thursday, a district release said there would be a special meeting next week to vote on the position.

Harold said the recent budget news from Denver was a game-changer,  requiring the appointment of someone to keep the innovation plans moving forward.

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s 2011-2012 budget would mean a loss of about $7 million for District 49, officials said.

Harold said Schoeppey will focus on budget issues, including transportation, while the interim chief education officer focuses on the district’s overhaul.

“Both are time-consuming,” she said, adding that new position will not cost the district additional money since the person will come from within the district.The chief education officer will have a year-to-year contract similar to the contracts for the innovation leaders/assistant superintendents finalized Feb. 11, Martin said, and will include protection for the district to avoid a buyout.

While the salary has not been set, he suggested it would be about $5,000 more than the three assistant superintendents, he said. The three make $132,000 plus benefits.

Schoeppey’s annual salary was $180,000 plus benefits and potential performance bonuses, according to his contract. Guinn is paid $150,000 a year.

—Contact the writer at 636-0162.





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