School board names interim superintendent


Staff Writer

Linda Reed was named interim superintendent for the upcoming school year by the Archuleta School District Board of Education at its Tuesday night meeting, following last week’s resignation of Mark DeVoti.

At a special board meeting on Aug. 7, DeVoti submitted his letter of resignation. “Please accept my resignation as superintendent of Archuleta School District 50 JT, effective September 30, 2013,” DeVoti wrote.  “After 16 years as a Pagosa Springs Educator, the last 12 with the school district, I have accepted a leadership position with the Colorado Association of School Boards, beginning October 1. CASB offered a position that sought me out, for which I did not apply, as I had no intention of leaving our district at this time.”

At that meeting, DeVoti recommended assistant superintendent Linda Reed as his replacement, and offered to remain in the district until the end of September to help with the transition.

At the Aug. 13 regular BOE meeting, board member Joanne Irons said, “In the business model that I grew up in, the retail business, it was our goal to make sure we always had our replacement ready to go if we should get hit by a beer truck.”

“I didn’t know I had that option,” DeVoti joked, garnering laughter.

“I am excited that we have an interim in place,” Irons continued, giving a nod towards Reed, who was in the front row of the audience. “Hopefully, we have in our organization other fine people that can step up with whatever title it may be. We need to constantly be giving opportunities for promotion from within. I am looking forward to working with Linda in this position.

“I also want to take this opportunity to say that, even though management styles can be different—each person obviously brings something unique to the table—we will be losing Board President Linda Lattin, and, hopefully, we will be gaining someone who will bring a different flavor to this board, as well.”

Irons was referring to the upcoming election, where two seats on the board will be open. Board member Tim Taylor, who represents District 1, has announced his intention to campaign to keep his seat, but Lattin has reached the end of her term limit, and someone new from District 5 will need to take her place (see related article).

“I think even with what we want for our kids,” Irons concluded, “this is part of life that is giving us great opportunities, so as much as we are losing Mark, we really aren’t losing him, because he is still going to be a member of CASB, so he will still be a resource, and yet we have an opportunity to work with Linda and see what she is like without Mark around.

“For those that may or may not have been happy with our departing superintendent, I think it was a good team and I am glad that he gave you some skills,” Irons turned to talk directly to Reed, “and that you have been selected as our interim.”

“It is something to say that we do have that,” Lattin agreed, “because we are two weeks away from school starting, and Lord help us if we had to start school with no one in place that we felt comfortable with. We are very proud to have Linda.”

At the Aug. 7 meeting, while the BOE went into executive session to discuss DeVoti’s resignation and the idea of Reed stepping up into his position, SUN staff was approached by Bob Lynch, Bruce Dryburgh and Bill Esterbrook—members of a task force hired by the board last year to help with involving the community in the issues surrounding district facilities and infrastructure.

The three gentlemen expressed their concern that the board would appoint Reed as interim superintendent this year and then make her the permanent superintendent next year.

“I know what it’s like to be an interim superintendent,” Esterbrook said. “I was the interim two years ago in Durango. It is hard work and I certainly think Linda can do it, but what Durango did is they appointed me as interim, and then they started their search process in September, and it is a long process.

“One of the reasons the board started the facility committee was because they asked us, ‘How do you bring the community in and how do you engage them?’ If you are going to change superintendent, you make somebody the interim — that’s the process you have to do — but then you open it up. If you just make them the superintendent, then the community has no engagement. That’s part of the reason they blew the bond issue.”

Esterbrook referred to events that transpired shortly after DeVoti became superintendent, when county voters were asked to consider a multimillion-dollar bond issue to pay for the construction of a new elementary school and a new middle school on the same property where the high school currently sits.

This would have freed up the location where the middle school campus is now and allowed for something perhaps more appropriate for the downtown business district — something that would help pull tourists in off of the highway. In addition, moving the elementary school would have taken care of those traffic problems along U.S. 160 during the peak drop off and pick up times.

However, the campaign for a bond issue stirred up a lot of controversy in the community and, in the end, voters soundly rejected the idea, leaving the district no alternative but to deal with the three existing buildings. In particular, the elementary school roof was failing and required a costly repair project last summer, and this summer the middle school roof is in the process of being replaced.

Many in the community have placed the blame for the failed election squarely on DeVoti’s shoulders, and he has admitted in previous SUN interviews that the election was not handled correctly and the district should have asked for a lower, more reasonable bond.