Board overturns superintendent’s decision
Ryan Summerlin June 27, 2012
EAGLE – Geoff Grimmer is still Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy’s principal.
After a 90-minute hearing and more than an hour of public outpouring of support, the school board voted 4-3 to overturn superintendent Sandra Smyser’s June 14 decision to fire Grimmer.
More than 75 supporters packed the room and burst into applause when school board member Brian Nolan, hesitating slightly, broke the 3-3 tie and voted to keep Grimmer at VSSA.
Grimmer said he was fired because did not hire the superintendent’s husband, and because he was willing to disagree with district administrators.
Smyser said he was not “coachable,” and had not been for three years.
In reference to his clashes with the district’s administration, especially Smyser, board members said Grimmer was disrespectful, something they said Grimmer must change.
“We expect certain things and we’re not getting them,” said school board member Ross Morgan. “Some of the email chains were astonishing, and coming from a principal, disconcerting.”
During public input, VSSA 6th grader Roxanna Chaney even sang a song, belting it out on a guitar, asking, “Please don’t let this go away, because we love VSSA.”
Grimmer said Smyser caught up with him during an administrative meeting at Eagle Valley High school to tell him that her husband was available for the VSSA part-time math teacher.
Grimmer said he interviewed him because felt obligated to, but said Smyser’s husband was not a good fit as a middle school math teacher.
“After I did not hire him, I must say that my relationship with the administrator went south,” Grimmer said. “My failure to hire her husband became a factor.”
School district attorney Adele Reester said Grimmer’s assertion is without merit.
“He had already been hired as a substitute,” Reester said.
Reester told the board that Grimmer was an at-will employee, and that not hiring Smyser’s husband was not a factor.
“They can be fired for any reason, or no reason at all,” Reester said. “In this case, there is reason for his termination.”
Reester said Grimmer was put on a performance improvement plan on Jan 15, 2010.
Among the issues Reester outlined were:
* VSSA’s master teacher left the building once during a training session. Grimmer said they had made it clear the night before that she would be unable to attend.
* Reester said the district mandated that Algebra II was not to be offered, but Grimmer had a math teacher teaching it anyway.
* Reester said Grimmer made comments about district initiatives, that they were “like polishing s*#t.”
Smyser, Assistant Superintendent Mike Gass, and Curriculum Director Heather Eberts said he does not support their new “rigorous curriculum.”
“As for its rigorous curriculum design, I was under the mistaken impression that the district wanted feedback,” Grimmer said.
During the hearings, Smyser called a building principal a “middle management position.” School board president Jeanne McQueeney later called it a “poor choice of words,” but said it speaks to principals serving staff and students, as well as following directions from upper management.
“Having a tight relationship with parents and inspiring kids is not all there is. You have to implement the stuff that comes form above, and do (so) in the way you have been asked to do,” Smyser said. “It’s my job not just to evaluate and coach, but to choose building leaders who can implement.”
Grimmer said that “the idea that principals are middle managers is an interesting one for their leader to have.”
“If your challenge is to create these learning communities, a principal needs to be more inspiring than a middle manager,” he said.
VSSA has Colorado’s second-highest ACT scores, behind a private school in Denver, Grimmer said.
Grimmer has been with VSSA since it opened, growing it from 31 in its first year to 160 for the 2012-13 school year.
“I love what I do. I love it every single day,” Grimmer said. “I never run to the shower happy that I’m a middle manager.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.