Hanover School District 28’s Board of Education has ousted Superintendent Grant Schmidt, saying his continued employment as superintendent and principal of Prairie Heights Elementary School is “no longer in the best interests of the district.”
His removal was effective July 1, as Schmidt waived a contractually required 30-day notice, which would have ended his positions on July 31.
The five-member board unanimously voted at a special meeting last week to let go of Schmidt, without giving a specific reason.
Board President Randy Underwood said in a statement sent to The Gazette Tuesday that the course of action was not due to the district’s expected budget shortfall of $350,000, a result of COVID-19-related decreased state funding. The district cut expenses for the 2020-2021 school year through layoffs, staff reductions through attrition and lesser activities funding and purchased services.
The decision about Schmidt’s leadership was made “unilaterally” and not “for cause,” Underwood said.
Lawyers representing the district and Schmidt negotiated a separation agreement, he said, which does not allow for further comment as to the reason for his dismissal.
Schmidt reiterated Tuesday that he was not terminated for cause and that the deicsion was "a mutual agreement," but said he could not provide further explanation.
"I enjoyed being able to serve as superintendent and work with the staff and the community," he said. "We accomplished a lot of things for a small rural district, and I hope it continues to succeed."
On a 2-3 vote, board members rejected in January a motion to extend Schmidt’s contract for one year. His current contract established two years ago was in effect through June 2021.
Schmidt was paid about $105,000 for the school year that ended June 30, according to the Colorado Department of Education.
Board members have named as interim superintendent Tim McNerney, principal of the Hanover Junior-Senior High School and the district's online school program.
An interview committee will lead the search for a new superintendent, Underwood said. The committee will include two board members chosen by Underwood, one administrator, one classified staff member and one community member selected by McNerney.
Schmidt had worked for Hanover D-28 since 2012. He was initially hired as principal of Prairie Heights Elementary School, which is southeast of Fountain. He became superintendent in 2015 and also retained his position as principal.
Enrollment has remained flat over the past five years, with 258 students last school year, making D-28 El Paso County’s second-smallest school district.
In 2016, Hanover made national news in becoming the first district in the Pikes Peak region to agree to allow trained teachers and other staff to be armed at school. The decision came after several community meetings and concern that the district’s remote location prevented law enforcement from a timely response in the event of an active shooter.
D-28 also weathered several natural disasters during Schmidt’s tenure. The 117 fire in April of 2018 brought flames within 50 feet of the Junior-Senior High School and burned 280 acres on one side of the building.
A few months later, in August 2018, severe flooding stranded students and adults at their schools.
Following an off-site party last fall, one board member was accused of engaging in alleged inappropriate behavior, which was not publicly addressed.
Improving academic performance, communicating better with parents and decreasing bullying were among the issues five candidates for the school board raised in competing for three open seats in the November 2019 election.