RFSD gets outside help with Sirko, Stein contract talks | PostIndependent.com

RFSD gets outside help with Sirko, Stein contract talks

Superintendent Diana Sirko and Assistant Superintendent Rob Stein at a December school board meeting.
Christopher Mullen / Post Independent |

Roaring Fork School District is bringing in a third party to help with ongoing contract negotiations for its top administrators.

In a meeting in Basalt on Wednesday, the board of education unanimously elected to hire Pamela Britton of The Knowledge Environment to facilitate.

“She’s exceptionally competent and she knows the district,” observed board president Daniel Biggs.

The process began in December after a three-year renewal request from Superintendent Diana Sirko drew concerns that the extension would cause chief academic officer and superintendent heir apparent Rob Stein to leave the district. At a meeting attended by a host of concerned parents and teachers, board member Karl Hanlon proposed a solution: two-year contracts for Sirko, Stein, and Chief Financial Officer Shannon Pelland in their current positions followed by an additional three-year contract for Stein as superintendent.

The plan seemed to reassure many in the community, but when nothing was finalized a month later, concerns began to resurface.

“It’s not as much the slowness as communication,” explained Ellen Freedman, one of several parents who attended Wednesday’s meeting. “I think we’re all in limbo, and it’s hard for everyone. When you don’t know what’s going on, you get worried.”

Some feared the delays indicated that negotiations weren’t going well.

“It would truly be a crime to lose Rob,” Freedman said. “Whatever it’s going to take, we want to see him stay.”

Biggs doesn’t think that’s in jeopardy.

“We’re all 100 percent committed to seeing this through,” he said. “We’re committed to getting it done right as opposed to right now.”

The goal, according to Biggs, is to properly define roles, responsibilities, and organizational dynamics before moving ahead.

“This is a little bit of a different process than we’ve had in the past. We’re talking about not just a couple of individuals but the greater team,” he said. “This is an opportunity to do something great. We have the talent to be the premier school district in the state and well recognized nationally. I think we’d be fools not to take advantage of this moment.”

Freedman agreed that she’d rather see things done well rather than quickly, and applauded the decision to bring in Britton.

“I think it’s a good sign. It shows that they’re taking it seriously and realize that there are issues that need to be worked through,” she said.

Biggs declined to estimate how long the process could take, but said the board will provide periodic updates at its twice-monthly meetings.

In addition to contracts for Sirko and Stein, Pelland’s role is being redefined as the district creates a chief operating officer position, carving transportation and facilities away from her increasingly busy role. Technology director Jeff Gatlin will be the new COO, with Pelland continuing to oversee finance, accounting, payroll and food services.

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