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Important leaders leave school district

Matt TerrellVail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY – The school district is losing some key players in its leadership team this year.Three administrators have resigned and taken new jobs, one is retiring, and a school board member is leaving to travel with his family.There’s no doubt that they each had an impact, especially while developing and implementing the Teacher Advancement Program, the major school reform started five years ago that bases teacher pay on performance, Superintendent John Brendza said.In the search for new administrators, Brendza said it’s been important to find candidates excited about taking on such a progressive approach to education.Karen Strakbein, the former chief financial officer who led two successful bond campaigns, took a similar job in the Summit County school district earlier this year. She had been in the Eagle district for 12 years and was the woman behind the scenes crunching numbers and managing investments. She won several awards for her financial management and was recruited to work on numerous state financial and procedural committees.The district is conducting a national search to fill her position. The chief financial officer is one of the most critical jobs on the staff, Brendza said.”She was instrumental in the success in the past couple of bonds, and in connection with that, she’s been paramount in completing construction projects,” Brendza said.Trisha Theelke, the human resources director, will soon take a job in Summit as well. She is very involved in hiring teachers and works on teacher evaluation and negotiations committees, both important parts to TAP, communications director Brooke Skjonsby said.Melinda Gladitsch, the district’s former spokeswoman and grant writer, returned to work in the private sector earlier this year. She was instrumental in bringing in the $6.7 million grant from the Teacher Incentive Fund, which will be used to reward high-performing teachers through TAP, Skjonsby said.”Grant writers are key components to any nonprofit organizations – you have to understand the idiosyncrasies of writing grants and know how to work our successes into the writing,” Brendza said.Carolyn Neff, the director of elementary education, is retiring after 11 years in the school district. She was the first principal at Avon Elementary and was key in developing the elementary curriculum, after-school programs and helped save the Head Start preschool program when it was in danger of losing federal funding, Skjonsby said. She’ll be replaced by Heather Eberts, the principal at Brush Creek Elementary.School board member Pat Donovan, who represents Avon, Wildridge, Eagle-Vail and Beaver Creek, recently turned in his resignation. He’s planning on traveling the world with his family for about a year and visiting places like Thailand, India, Vietnam, Costa Rica and Ecuador.”He sees the big picture,” Brendza said. “He’s been very diligent about working to maintain the direction we are moving in terms of our reform. He has very progressive ideas.”Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.


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