More superintendent contract questions coming before Roaring Fork School District board for Wednesday meeting
The Roaring Fork School District Board of Education is set for its twice-monthly meeting Wednesday night in Carbondale, during which several questions related to the superintendent’s contract are expected to be addressed.
According to the board’s agenda, among the topics is an update from a task force that’s working to address housing assistance for the superintendent’s role. The board has been criticized recently for a proposal to provide the superintendent up to $500,000 in housing assistance, at a time when many teachers and staff struggle to find affordable housing in the district.
At the same time, some are questioning whether additional criticism leveled against Superintendent Jesús Rodríguez about his delay in getting certification as required by his contract is fair.
In a recent post on its website, the Latino advocacy organization Voces Unidas wondered if some of the district’s educational disparities between white and Latino students were being overlooked because of the certification issue.
“There seem to be a lot of distractions these days keeping the Roaring Fork School District from focusing on what really matters, like student achievement, for example,” the blog post reads. “Too many adults are acting as if Latino students are not, on average, academically 2.8 grades behind their white peers or if Latinos did not face an achievement gap as high as 40%.”
Voces Unidas’ search of a public Colorado Department of Education database shows that former superintendent Rob Stein never had an administrator license, as required by his contract. He did have a principal license but was subject to “immediate termination” if he did not acquire his administrator license — similar to the requirement in Rodriguez’s contract.
“And why the selective outrage now from specific groups and personalities? Where was this urgency for accountability between 2016 and 2021?” Voces Unidas asks. “Or has this never been about the contract and are other agendas at work here?”
For others, however, it is the question of housing assistance up to $500,000 as proposed by the board for the superintendent that is the key issue. One question being asked in light of the Colorado Open Records Act request being made available relates to a “letter of intent” regarding relocation assistance for Superintendent Jesús Rodríguez — some are referring to the document as a “secondary contract” — offered during the summer of 2022. The document, which contains a $35,000 moving reimbursement for Rodríguez, has frustrated some critics in recent weeks for not being made public when offered to the superintendent.
“The moving reimbursement was pulled and put in a separate document because we were told by the previous administration that it was the practice of the district that any moving expenses were not held in contracts,” School Board President Kathryn Kuhlenberg said. “They’re held in offer letters because they’re not contractual, which is what we were told. It has always been available if anyone asks for it, but it was never posted publicly to the agenda because it wasn’t part of the contract.”
She said she knows how important it is to reimburse those making a change and moving elsewhere.
“People aren’t just going to pick up and move without having anything covered,” she said. “It’s been standard practice within our district to provide moving expenses – not just to the superintendent, but to other employees that make the move here, as well.”
While the need to ensure housing for the superintendent is one that has been viewed by many to be an important factor for now and the future, the lack of transparency regarding the moving reimbursement offer has gotten under the skin of some.
“I’m not opposed to seeking solutions for Dr. Rodríguez and other employees throughout the district at all,” said Carbondale resident and Roaring Fork High School Student Registrar Lorri Knaus, who filed the CORA request. “What I’m opposed to is the lack of transparency and the seeming dishonesty around how this school board has chosen to handle this. They could have come to their constituents and informed us of this letter of intent and invited us to participate.”
The letter of intent emerges in the midst of the board’s conceptual plan to grant up to $500,000 in housing assistance for the superintendent’s position specifically. Rodríguez has said he may decline that offer for his own benefit, as it has become so political.
The earlier letter regarding moving expenses states, “RFSD will reimburse up to $35,000 in reasonable relocation expenses.”
The amount Rodríguez has claimed for those expenses was not immediately available.
Other agenda items Wednesday include a report on data from a recent student survey, a quarterly financial review and information about the three school board seats up for election in November.
Several members of the public are also signed up to address the school board regarding concerns about having a U.S. Border Patrol representative on-hand to give out information about job opportunities during a recent career expo held at Glenwood Springs High School. Superintendent Rodríguez, members of the school board and the organizers of the event, Youthentity, all issued apologies after some immigrant students indicated they felt uncomfortable with the Border Patrol’s presence.
Voces Unidas has also issued a list of demands for accountability around that issue.
The board meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday at the Carbondale District Office, located behind the library on Sopris Avenue.
Post Independent reporter Taylor Cramer can be reached at 970-384-9108 or email@example.com.
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