Re-2, superintendent Birdsey reach separation agreement
RIFLE — The Garfield Re-2 board of education announced Tuesday that it has reached a final separation agreement with outgoing superintendent Susan Birdsey and appointed Assistant Superintendent Dave Lindenberg as interim superintendent.
Birdsey has seven days to retract her agreement to the deal. Specifics of the deal were not available Tuesday night, but board Vice President Anne Guettler said they were within the parameters approved in a resolution last week. Those included a total compensation package worth no more than $220,000.
Director of Districtwide Services Theresa Hamilton said she needed attorney Brent Case, who the board hired specifically to handle this situation, to send her the agreement before it could be released in response to a request from The Citizen Telegram made under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA).
Guettler, who spoke on behalf of the board due to President Chris Pearson’s absence at the meeting, declined to elaborate on the fallout between the board and Birdsey, saying the issue was a personnel matter and private. She did say the decision to part ways was mutual, but would not say which party initiated the conversation.
Birdsey did not respond to an email asking her to confirm the agreement and comment on the issue. She did not reply to an email sent July 28 seeking comment after the board approved the resolution on the separation agreement.
Prior to the July 28 meeting, the board met to discuss Birdsey and her future with the district in an executive session July 21. At that meeting, Pearson could be overheard from outside the meeting room saying that a majority of the board felt that Birdsey had not fulfilled her duties as superintendent.
Scott Doherty, treasurer and director of Re-2 District B, questioned whether the board had worked hard enough with Birdsey to address displeasure with her performance. Doherty later called the decision to publish parts of that executive session discussion “offensive.”
As of Friday, July 31, the board had yet to complete a 2015 superintendent evaluation, according to an email from Case.
The most recent extension of Birdsey’s contract states that the board was instructed to evaluate her performance, pursuant to board policies, annually by June 1. Upon completion of the evaluation, the two parties were to mutually determine whether the contract should be extended another year.
The Telegram has requested Birdsey’s past evaluations.
In her original contract approved in 2010, Birdsey received an annual salary of $135,000, as well as cellular phone service, 20 days of vacation time and health and personal benefits. Her duties as superintendent included serving as CEO of the board; directing and assigning staff; and suggesting rules and regulations — among others. The contract also included language instructing the board to communicate with Birdsey regarding any problems that the board learned of.
“The board, individually and collectively, shall promptly refer all criticisms, complaints and suggestions called to its attention to the superintendent for study and recommendation,” the original contract reads.
Since the original contract signed in 2010, Birdsey received four contract extensions bringing her annual salary to $144,742. She was named superintendent of the district, which runs from Rifle to New Castle, after serving as assistant superintendent for nearly two years. Prior to that, she served as principal at Rifle Middle School.
The board approved Lindenberg’s appointment to the interim superintendent position after an approximately 90-minute executive session. He will serve in that capacity for a minimum of two months, as the board works to evaluate policies and review procedures for finding a new superintendent.
“We don’t want to move too quickly,” Doherty said. The board wants to work with various stakeholders in the district and be transparent, he added.
While Lindenberg is more than capable, the board wants to keep options available, Guettler said. With three board seats up for election this fall, establishing continuity will be imperative, she added.
Lindenberg has served as assistant superintendent for a little more than a year. He was the principal at Kathryn Senor Elementary School for nine years before being appointed assistant superintendent, according to his profile on the district’s website.
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