RFSD board hired Sirko over Stein in 2013
Controversy over Roaring Fork School District Superintendent Diana Sirko’s request for a three-year contract extension has prompted the board of education to move tonight’s meeting to Roaring Fork High School in order to accommodate what is expected to be a large community turnout.
Although critics have expressed surprise at the move, asserting that chief academic officer Rob Stein had been slated to take over, the board of education already made a deliberate move to retain Sirko when both she and Stein applied for the position in December 2012.
Sirko was originally presented with a one-year contract when she agreed to take over on an interim basis in August 2012. She was recommended to the board by the same firm as Stein, who stepped down after just a few weeks on the job when his wife suffered a serious injury in a bicycle accident.
At the end of that year, when the board began seeking candidates to lead the district after the interim contract expired, it came down to Sirko and Stein.
“Ultimately, the board unanimously chose to remove the interim title and make Dr. Sirko the superintendent,” recalled current board president Daniel Biggs.
The board offered Sirko $165,000 a year from January 2013 through spring 2015. Shortly thereafter, Sirko hired Stein as chief academic officer. Both of their contracts expire at the end of this school year.
According to Biggs, the board had no conditions or stipulations that prevent Sirko from applying for another extension, nor would the board have made a decision about her successor two and a half years in advance.
“You can’t predict the future. You never know exactly what might happen,” he said.
Then-board president Matt Hamilton said, “We obviously had some thought process around succession. There was no binding commitment, and we didn’t feel we could do that.”
Still, some in the community see a potential contract renewal as a change in direction.
“The public thinks Rob will be taking over this year,” asserts an anonymous document titled “Keep Rob Stein in RFSD — Talking Points,” which was included with the meeting’s packet and encourages community members to raise their voice and urge the board to deny the contract extension.
“Rob has been the one spearheading the visioning process — setting our district on an exciting path for the future,” it continues. “He is the one who has shown that he is capable of this kind of difficult, game-changing work.”
The document discourages letter writers from personal attacks on Sirko. The issue, it says, is that Stein was selected through “an extensive, in-depth process” while Sirko’s hiring was “a rushed process with no active solicitation from community members or staff members.”
Biggs thinks they’re missing the point.
“The matter before the district is Diana Sirko has formally requested an extension to the contract, and the board will consider that,” he said.
“It’s really unfortunate that the conversation has drifted toward individuals,” he said. “I believe the decision needs to be about the skill sets that are most suited to realizing our extremely ambitious and paradigm-shifting strategic plan.”
The meeting begins at 5 p.m. with public comment tentatively scheduled for 5:45 p.m.
The board may decide to deny the request, move ahead with contract negotiations or continue the conversation at a later date.
“There are really any number of options,” said Hamilton. “We need to continue to listen to the community and find a process that unites us.”
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