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June 28, 2012
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Ski Academy principal fired

MINTURN - Some local parents are livid after the Eagle County School District fired the principal of one of its top performing schools.

Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy principal Geoff Grimmer's contract was not renewed by superintendent Dr. Sandra Smyser and the school district's administration. It became public on June 14, after the school year was over.

Two other principals resigned: Eagle Valley Elementary School principal Monica Lammers, and principal of New America High School Kathy Brendza, who will further her education at Yale University.

Eagle Valley Elementary School is the district's only baccalaureate school. New America High School will move into the Eagle Valley High School building next year. The school district cited cost savings for New America's move.

Parents to protest

Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy has 92 students. Dozens of parents say they'll be at next week's school board meeting asking the school board to overturn the decision. There's been an outcry on a Facebook page for the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy PTA, and another page on Cause.com has more than 150 supporters.

On that site, a note from Mikel Obourn urges parents to show up at next Wednesday's school board meeting to "speak their minds," adding that Grimmer has "given VSSA his heart and soul."

"Our families have benefited from his amazing commitment," Obourn, a broker at Prudential Colorado Properties, wrote.

The school board, however, hasn't commented on the details surrounding the termination.

"Parents and community members should be reassured that although this was an abrupt change in leadership there is no allegation of wrongdoing," said school board president Jeanne McQueeney.

Parents say they're shocked by Grimmer's firing.

"The last time I had the pleasure to see the superintendent and assistant superintendent, Michael Gass, was at graduation ... when the amazing progress of VSSA under Mr. Grimmer's leadership was applauded. Therefore, this is a complete shock to me as I am sure it is for you!" Sounia Nejad Chaney said in an email to VSSA parents.

Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy is the nation's only public school ski academy.

It was the subject of a flattering New York Times story on Jan. 11, 2011, "Where all school days are snow days."

One student was a Winter Olympian and others are on the United States Ski Team. Several are Junior Olympic champions, and a few earned titles at junior world snow sport championships. VSSA students have transferred to the Minturn campus from around the country.

Grimmer was also featured in Anthony Salcito's blog, "Daily Edventures," dedicated to what Salcito, Microsoft's vice president of worldwide education calls "global heroes in education."

When the Eagle County School District decided to terminate its French and German foreign language teachers and replace them with an online computer program, school district communications director Brooke Macke said in a Vail Daily guest column that the district was following Grimmer's "blended" model.

Under Grimmer, VSSA earned a score of 9 on a 10-point scale on the Great Schools rating system.

The school's eighth-graders' math scores improved from 55 to 79 percent proficient or advanced in the latest available statewide standardized testing scores.

"If such success as measured by the admittedly questionable instruments of Colorado state standardized tests proves grounds for dismissal, have you failed to renew the contracts of Mr. Grimmer's similarly successful colleagues?" asked Ian Hoke, an English teacher at the Zurich International School and colleague of Grimmer, in a letter to Smyser.

The school district declined comment Wednesday.

"The district is unable to discuss personnel issues, as it is of utmost importance to protect our employee's rights," Macke said in an email. "At-will employees, such as principals, district office administrators, school administrators, classified staff and support staff, are all on one-year contracts, which can be renewed or non-renewed for any or no reason on an annual basis."

New America move is about money

The decision to move New America is money motivated, school district officials said.

It costs $120,000 a year to lease the second floor of the Gypsum office building where New America has been located since it was launched as a charter school by a Denver-based foundation.

The foundation picked up the tab for three years, with projections of 250 kids. The school has 62 students this year and topped out at 90 in the third year when the foundation walked away. New America High School needs 120 students to break even.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Jun 28, 2012 12:19PM Published Jun 28, 2012 12:18PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.