GUEST COMMENTARY | ‘Hard-Fought, Difficult and Not Universally Popular’ Action Afoot in Ridgway Schools

Over the course of last several months, but reaching back to before the current Board was sworn and seated last November, the Ridgway School District has been immersed in a series of debates and conflagrations over the administrative leadership of our schools. These debates have spread from the Board to administration, teachers, staff and still further throughout the community at large.

We know that some in our community have strong and varied feelings on the issues before us. Nevertheless, the constituents of the District elected us to use our independent and collective judgment to take action we believe are in the best interests of our District, our community, and the future of our schools. It is time we took action, even if the actions are hard-fought, difficult, and not universally popular.

On April 8, the Board accepted the resignation of Ms. Gomez as Superintendent. The position of District Superintendent is the most critical to our administration given its role as chief executive officer and liaison to the Board. We already have begun transitioning the duties of Superintendent from Ms. Gomez to Mr. Steve Smith, who the Board recently hired as Interim Superintendent. Ms. Gomez will be assisting Mr. Smith and the District in this transition in the coming weeks and months. We thank Ms. Gomez for her exceptional service to the District and applaud her significant accomplishments during her tenure as our Superintendent.

After careful consideration and often difficult discussions amongst ourselves and with community stakeholders, we’ve determined that a change in leadership in the position of Secondary School Principal is necessary. We make this difficult decision fully aware of the positive impact Mr. Hobbs has had on students, teachers, and the secondary school community. We are grateful to Mr. Hobbs for his lasting contributions to the Secondary School. Mr. Hobbs earned the accolades and public support he has received from members of our staff and community.

Earlier this year we accepted the resignation of Mr. Rick Williams as the Secondary guidance counselor. Mr. Williams substantially increased post-graduate opportunities for our students and established scholarship opportunities that have benefitted scores of Ridgway students. We thank him for his long and successful years of service to this District.

We sincerely wish Ms. Gomez, Mr. Hobbs, and Mr. Williams continued success in whatever new endeavors they choose to pursue. It is a fact that our schools are better because of the contributions of these dedicated administrators.

At the same time, we are persuaded that the changes in leadership outlined above are necessary and in the long-term best interests of the District. We are excited to begin working

with Mr. Smith and hearing his perspective on how we can continue to grow student achievement, support teachers, and improve upon community involvement in our schools.

Clearly, this is a time of significant change for our District. Just as we are implementing widespread change in administration, this Board also must change in the way it does business and communicates with its constituents.

In recent history the Board has not done all it could do to establish trust in our judgment. Certainly, the Board has fractured for months over the personnel issues we’ve faced and the District has suffered as a result. Conflicts amongst board members and between board members and administration do not set a professional and positive example for the unity that these times require. We can and must do better for a community that cares so deeply for its schools.

We also realize that there is a perceived lack of transparency associated with Board processes that we must strive to address. Our need to avail ourselves of the executive session privilege to discuss personnel matters will diminish as soon as the personnel issues we’ve been facing are resolved. We pledge to make efforts to build the trust that must exist among and between the Board, administration, staff, and the greater community in order for us all to be moving forward in the same direction. We must endeavor to unify our District.

We will have decisions to make and key positions to fill in the coming weeks and months as we prepare for the next school year and beyond. As difficult as our proceedings have been as of late, we are excited about the future and the near limitless possibilities for our schools. We truly appreciate and value the public input we’ve received from all facets of our community. That input has been weighed carefully and considered fully. Whether or not you agree with the outcomes it is now time for the Board to shift the focus away from divisive administrative personnel matters and put it back on the students where it belongs. We can begin in the coming weeks by honoring the accomplishments of our graduating Senior Class.

We wish to acknowledge and thank all District staff and students who put distractions aside and dedicated themselves to their work and studies under difficult circumstances.

Just as we are eager to move forward, we hope staff and the community also will resolve to move forward with us in the best interests of our District. We invite everyone to join us in a new beginning so we may forge a better and stronger era in the history of the Ridgway School District.

(Members of the Ridgway Board of Education are Roger Sagal, Heather Yeowell, Greg Lawler, and Steve Larivee)

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