Public schools chief steps down |

Public schools chief steps down

Matt TerrellVail, CO Colroado

EAGLE John Brendza, the superintendent for Eagle County School District since 2003 and leader during a sweeping education reform, has resigned.His resignation takes effect Aug. 1, but hell continue working as a consultant for the school district until mid-January.During Brendzas tenure as superintendent, the school district went through its most dramatic change ever the implementation of the Teacher Advancement Program, also known as TAP, which ties teacher pay to performance. He was also an integral part of the $128 million bond issue that voters passed in November. The bond, the schools largest ever, is being used to build new schools, renovate old ones, upgrade technology and make buildings energy efficient and environmentally friendly.

School board president Scott Green said the split was a friendly and mutual decision. While the board has been quite satisfied with Brendzas performance as superintendent, they agreed it was time for some fresh leadership in a high-stress job, Green said.John took his superintendents job very personally the successes as well as the failures, Green said. The stress wears a guy out over time. He needs to step back I think from the stress and the pressure and get grounded again.Theres a reason why (school) boards turn over. Its time for some new enthusiasm, something fresh in there, Green said.The resignation in no way reflects poor performance on Brendzas part, Green said.Hes been a very dedicated leader, and his interest has been nothing but loyalty for Eagle County school district, Green said.Brendza said hes very proud of his 24 years working with children in the school district. He started as a teacher and later became a principal. As for being superintendent, he says its a tough, high-stakes job thats hard to understand unless youve ever done it. Its a job where peoples children are on the line, and the public wont let you forget it, he said.The most precious asset people give us every day is our children, and parents have a right and a moral responsibility to hold us accountable, Brendza said.Brendza will receive a $290,000 severance package. This includes $51,000 for unused sick leave, $15,000 for unused vacation days and a payment of half his annual salary $66,524 which was a condition in his employment contract. The $290,000 also includes Brendzas consulting fee.Beyond his consulting job with the district, Brendza hasnt decided what hell do next.Its been an absolute honor I look forward to watching more great things come out of the educators here, Brendza said.

Its a big disappointment to see Brendza leave, said Todd Huck, a science teacher at Berry Creek Middle School and president of the teachers association.

Huck taught with Brendza years ago at Minturn Middle School and followed Brendza to Berry Creek when he became principal. Huck said Brendza was an effective science teacher and coach who had a great way of keeping kept kids interested.I think its a shock to our school district right now were losing too many administrators, Huck said. I dont know which direction well go in now. This is quite unexpected.Huck is referring to the unusually high number of school officials that have left this year.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 district for 12 years and was the woman behind the scenes crunching numbers and managing investments.Trisha Theelke, the human resources director, also took a job in Summit County. Melinda Gladitsch, the districts former spokeswoman and grant writer, returned to work in the private sector earlier this year.And Carolyn Neff, the director of elementary education, is retiring after 11 years in the school district.School board member Pat Donovan, who represents Avon, Wildridge, Eagle-Vail and Beaver Creek, recently turned in his resignation. Hes planning on traveling the world with his family for about a year and visiting places like Thailand, India, Vietnam, Costa Rica and Ecuador.Its obvious the school district is in a precarious situation with leadership, Green said. We all have impacts, but education is going to move on, whether Im there, whether John Brendza is here, Karen Strakbein kids are going to show up, teachers are going to teach, schools are going to be open.Green said a search has started for both an interim and permanent superintendent.Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or

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