Roaring Fork school board amending superintendent’s contract to fix missed certification deadline; HR chief’s dismissal addressed
A question over Superintendent Jesús Rodríguez’s contract that apparently led in part to the dismissal of the Roaring Fork School District’s chief of human resources last week has been on the school board’s radar for some time, the board’s president said Thursday.
Kathryn Kuhlenberg, who chairs the five-member school board, said the May 2022 contract signed with the first-year superintendent did not automatically terminate at the end of the year, despite a clause in the contract that would suggest otherwise.
However, the particular requirement addressed in that clause — that Rodríguez complete his formal superintendent’s license and certification with the state of Colorado by Dec. 31, 2022 — is still pending, she said.
The original contract does state that, “if at any time the Superintendent fails to meet these requirements, this contract, without further action by either of the parties, shall thereupon be automatically terminated for cause …”
Such administrative licensing is not actually required in Colorado for superintendents, though the board and Rodríguez did mutually agree to include that as a provision, Kuhlenberg said.
“He has completed the work, passed the exams and began the process of submitting that to the CDE (Colorado Department of Education),” she said.
Rodriguez said Thursday that he’s committed to completing the process, but that, with the board’s blessing and its extension on the timeline, he simply hasn’t pressed “submit” to finalize things just yet.
He said it’s been a goal of his since obtaining his doctorate degree in educational leadership and policy at the University of Denver to become a schools superintendent. Formal licensure, though not required in Colorado, was also something he said he wanted to do, but there is a lengthy process involved to do that.
Rodríguez said he paid out of pocket to complete his intern hours over the summer last year, and passed his related coursework through DU by early August.
“I have completed my related coursework, the 300 internship hours and taken the test, but I have not hit the submit button on the CDE application,” he said, citing some technical glitches in the system that prevented scheduling the test sooner.
“I wasn’t worried about it, because I have already completed all of the hard work to become eligible to apply for my license, and the board was aware of it,” Rodríguez added. “It’s been a pretty wild last eight months, and I’ve been adjusting to this role … so, hitting that submit on the application was not my highest priority.”
Questions about the contract provision came up both inside and outside the district organization in light of Chief of HR Angie Davlyn’s firing on Feb. 23.
The board on Wednesday approved Davlyn’s termination as part of the “Routine Personnel” report that was included on the consent agenda.
Davlyn acknowledged Thursday that the contract question, and the fact that the deadline had passed, was one she had been asking.
One of the duties of the district’s chief of human resources is to oversee licensing and contracts for district employees, she said.
“The Roaring Fork Schools have been my home for the past seven years. I’ve made my career working on behalf of our community’s incredible teachers, staff, students and parents and truly loved the work,” Davlyn said in a written statement to the Post Independent. “The actions that led to my abrupt termination — pointing out a discrepancy in the Superintendent’s contract — were routine and part of my ordinary course of work as Chief of HR. I had the best interests of the district and all of its constituents in mind and I acted with the same heart and integrity that I’ve always brought to my work with the school district.”
Kuhlenberg said the board was in communication with Rodríguez about the contract issue going back to the fall semester.
“We talked to Dr. Rodríguez about it, and were assured that it was being taken care of,” she said.
Ultimately, she said the board decided to extend the deadline through an addendum to his contract at the time of his annual evaluation after the first of the year. That process concluded with a lengthy executive session discussion prior to Wednesday night’s regular school board meeting in Carbondale, she said.
“We have no concerns surrounding it, and our (legal) counsel has no concerns surrounding it,” Kuhlenberg said. “I want to reassure the public that there was no requirement for (certification), but it was something that he was willing to do on his own, and the board felt that it was a good idea for him to do that.”
She said the board will be presenting an executive summary at a future meeting of Rodríguez’s evaluation, as he nears the end of his first school year with the district.
One district parent did offer a written comment to the school board expressing his “extreme distress” over Davlyn’s firing.
“Angie was a key administrator in the school district with a flawless record and extreme competency,” Auden Schendler wrote to the board. “She was beloved by many, and an essential point of contact for staff and parents. The board and the Superintendent owe the community an explanation with specifics.”
Kuhlenberg and Rodríguez both declined to comment specifically on the reasons for the termination, citing confidentiality in personnel matters. Rodríguez said the decision was not retaliatory and is not a signal that others should be worried about their jobs.
“It was an isolated incident where there were some related matters of insubordination and lack of judgment,” he said. “There was a pathway for some repair, but unfortunately we were unable to get to a place to rectify the situation.”
He also stood behind a complimentary note sent to district staff last week announcing Davlyn’s departure, saying, “I mean every word of it.”
Prior to taking the job as Chief of HR in August 2021, Davlyn served as Senior Project Manager and assistant to the school board, including overseeing board elections.
“Her contributions to the district are numerous, and span across the last seven years, but most recently include: health insurance provider exploration to ensure staff have the best benefits possible; her collaboration and leadership throughout our Interest-Based Bargaining (IBB) process; her commitment to improving human resource systems and practices, including many policy updates; and her overall advocacy for all employees and responsiveness to needs,” Rodríguez wrote to district staff.
Added Kuhlenberg, “We are very appreciative of all that Angie did for the district, and all that she contributed over the last seven years that she has been there.”
In the meantime, district Human Resource Generalist Begonia Platt has been named interim chief of human resources, including work as part of the ongoing IBB negotiations with teachers and staff. That process will be the subject of an IBB team meeting on March 8.
Post Independent interim Managing Editor and senior reporter John Stroud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 970-384-9160.
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