Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger received a one-year contract extension Tuesday at the Board of Education meeting after receiving the backing of 11 principals in the wake of several incidents that have led to conflicts with The Durango Herald.
The principals appeared en masse in a show of support for Snowberger before the board during the public participation period of Tuesday night’s meeting.
After the meeting, school board President Nancy Stubbs said board members weighed support from the principals along with Snowberger’s self-evaluation, input from others and Snowberger’s compliance with numerous policies in conducting a midyear evaluation.
“When we do the midyear evaluation, we look at his whole history, not just part of it,” Stubbs said. “We’re especially concerned about the condition and the direction of the district with a focus on the students.”
The evaluation came in a three-hour closed session that also included an update about contract negotiations with the Durango Education Association and the Durango Education Support Professionals Association.
Riverview Elementary School Principal Doug Geygan told board members, “I want to speak about culture and leadership. When I arrived at 9-R, it was very much a culture of us versus them. Dan Snowberger has turned that around.”
Snowberger has created an environment of cooperative decision-making and has given teachers, principals and administrators the ability to pursue creative, out-of-the-box solutions to problems, he said.
“Dan didn’t tell me how to do things. He asked my opinion,” Geygan said. “Dan’s leadership has helped me become a better leader.”
Snowberger’s one-year contract extension will carry him through the 2020-21 academic year. His contract was renewed in September. He was granted a 2 percent raise, bringing his annual salary to $169,320.
Durango High School Principal Jon Hoerl said Snowberger provided the vision to regroup and enhance the school’s counseling staff and to create a child care center for school and district staff members.
“Dan’s the reason I’m here, plain and simple,” Hoerl said.
Snowberger’s contract is extended by one year each January unless school board members take action to block the extension. None did after emerging from the closed session at 11 p.m. and quickly adjourning the meeting.
By early next week, Stubbs said she plans to issue a letter further explaining the board’s decision to extend Snowberger’s contract.
Three Durango residents also spoke in support of Snowberger.
One resident, the father of a Riverview Elementary student who has accused the district of mishandling an investigation into the alleged sexual assault of his son by another student in May 2018, called on Snowberger to resign.
“Mr. Snowberger has broken the community’s trust,” the father said.
The Herald is not naming the father to protect his son’s identity.
Bern Heath, CEO of Axis Health Systems, speaking in favor of Snowberger, said, “Dan has always thought about the students first.”
Snowberger’s extension comes after a rocky end to 2018 that included an admonishment from Stubbs for using district email to air his “personal agenda” in response to media stories about him. In an email Snowberger sent to 9-R staff on Dec. 21, he accused The Durango Herald of publishing a “defamatory document without the opportunity for me to present facts.” He said he had “personally engaged an attorney to address the libel and defamation of character that some in our community felt appropriate.”
In early December, a group of residents, employees and former employees called for the superintendent to be fired after it said it found numerous alleged inaccuracies in Snowberger’s résumés and applications for past jobs and 9-R. The group released an unsigned, 46-page white paper, “Misleading Leadership?: A Close Examination of Dan Snowberger’s Educational Career Records,” claiming he misrepresented and provided inaccurate information about his career in education. Snowberger said most allegations made in the white paper issued by the Durango 9-R Central Office Accountability group are inaccurate and easily refutable.Snowberger has also said he will likely sue the Herald for defamation and libel for reporting on the white paper.
The email came after a few months of other unrelated issues that involved Snowberger and 9-R:
In October, the father of a Riverview Elementary School student alleged Snowberger and the district mishandled an investigation that his son was sexually assaulted by a classmate at the school. Later, the father alleged Snowberger compromised the identity of his son by distributing an email, which Snowberger sent to The Durango Herald in response to a reporter’s questions about the investigation, to a parent-teacher organization. The father has filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights claiming the investigation into the alleged assault was mishandled by Snowberger and the district, and his son’s identity was compromised by distribution of the email.Also in October, Snowberger initially denied an incident at Needham Elementary School involving a 9-R administrator took place. A school employee had called 911 to report that Julie Popp, the district’s spokeswoman, was banned from campus and was trespassing. Snowberger and Needham Principal Jennifer McKenna told the Herald no such incident took place and refused to acknowledge police records and a recorded 911 call about it. He eventually acknowledged the Oct. 19 incident and explained that Popp was at the school as a parent, not as a 9-R employee.On Dec. 5, Snowberger issued an apology letter on 9-R’s website about his handling of the 911 incident.
email@example.comAn earlier version of this story misstated the name of Durango Education Support Professionals Association.