Twelve days ago, we reluctantly took up the behavior of Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger.
At the time, we could not understand how a person in a position of such responsibility, a public servant, could obfuscate, mislead and bluster to news media about an apparent matter of public safety.
It stemmed from an October 911 call by Needham Elementary School, summoning police because district spokeswoman Julie Popp allegedly had been banned from the campus. The Herald wanted to know what was going on, a question you would want us to ask.
Snowberger’s behavior, insisting that nothing had occurred, seemed bizarre. We said then that we also were puzzled why the 9-R school board, which hired him, and which can fire him, did not seem concerned. Could it not make Snowberger do his job?
Sadly, we got an answer when the board met last Thursday: It seems to think everything is just fine.
In the interim, that elected, five-member board met secretly with Snowberger. Based on that, apparently, board member Mick Souder thought Snowberger “was being honest” in his dealings with the Herald.
This is strange, because candor may be the biggest lack in his dealings. What could he have told the board about transparency behind closed doors?
“I think he was being very honest,” Souder reiterated. That may be the worst use of “very” we have come across in some time.
Board President Nancy Stubbs, asked about Snowberger, said, “He tried.”
We do not know what Snowberger was trying to do, but what he was clearly not trying to do was communicate with the public about a matter that includes the welfare of the children in his district. It seems to us that what he was trying to do was cover for an employee, possibly at the students’ expense.
Recall that, in that October 911 call, police were also told that Popp could be armed if she returned to the school.
What was the school board’s response to this?
It said it found its own procedures were largely followed – except for identifying Popp, who is also a district parent, in that 911 call.
Imagine for a moment how Snowberger and the school board think its procedures apply to the actual world:
911 operator: This is 911, what’s your emergency?
Needham worker: Hi, we’re calling because a parent is here and she’s not supposed to be.
911: What’s she doing?
Needham: Nothing now. She just left, but she’s been told she couldn’t be here before, so we’re calling you. Also, if she comes back, she might be armed.
911: Do you know who she is?
Needham: Oh yes, she’s the district spokeswoman.
911: What do you want us to do?
Needham: Could you tell her not to come back? Talk to her?
911: OK. What’s her name?
Needham: It’s a secret.
We understand the value of privacy. What we also understand, unlike the superintendent or the school board, is that there is a point where privacy ends and common sense begins, and it probably occurs right after an employee summons police from a school to deal with another employee who is a purported menace.
It probably occurs when 911 answers.
If the board believes, because it has been confidentially reassured, that Snowberger has no problem with transparency or accountability, how can it believe it has any credibility?
And why on Earth would district parents stand for this?