Coach flap prompts policy rethink | AspenTimes.com
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Coach flap prompts policy rethink

ASPEN ” In the wake of recent turmoil surrounding turnover in the Aspen School District’s football coaching staff, the district’s school board is considering changes to the administration’s policies governing employee evaluations.

Although no decision was made this week, beyond confirming that the district superintendent has been “in compliance” with board policies, the board agreed to look into rewriting some of the policies regarding administration reviews of “at-will” employees, which include athletic coaches and other non-academic employees.

The subject arose at Tuesday’s 7 a.m. school board meeting, during a previously scheduled review of the board’s policies regarding Superintendent Diana Sirko’s duties. Specifically, the board was taking a look at the 19 “executive limitations” ” a list of expressly mandated duties that the superintendent and other staff members must perform as indicated in the policies.



During discussion of rule number five, which calls for the administration to “effectively handle complaints and concerns,” board president Laura Kornasiewicz and other board members noted Sirko’s written remark that “in a school district where the community is highly involved, this is especially critical.”

Kornasiewicz asked Sirko to more clearly “spell it out” as far as how she deals with complaints about district staffers that come from citizens who are not district employees, ” “in light of recent experience” ” an apparent reference to the recent football coaching controversy.




The recent resignation of former head varsity football coach Travis Benson, according to statements made by Sirko and members of the school board, were at least partially in response to alleged complaints from parents about the performance of the Aspen High School football team. Benson resigned late last year after Sirko suggested he step down to assistant coach so that Sirko’s husband, respected Colorado Springs prep coach Mike Sirko, could step in as head coach and mentor to the coaching staff. No evidence of complaints was ever produced by Sirko or the board.

Mike Sirko has since been hired as the new head coach of the varsity football program, amid considerable turmoil among the district’s teaching staff and the community at large, some of whom accused Diana Sirko of nepotism and a lack of respect for Benson and for teachers in general.

Kornasiewicz entered the fray at one point, demanding that the teachers who were upset over the treatment of Benson “act like adults” and get back to their proper jobs. Her remarks prompted further charges of disrespect for the teachers’ views and rights of free speech.

At the board meeting, board member Elizabeth Parker agreed that further clarification was needed concerning Sirko’s policies in responding to citizen complaints, and suggested the board may wish to rewrite the policies to reflect that clarification.

Board member Sally Hansen said the board should take a look at the “evaluation instruments” used by Sirko in reviews of teachers, administrators and support staff, as well as the “at-will” positions, and board member Charla Belinski pointed to a need to see to it that they are applied consistently to all employees.

Sirko asked if the board was insisting that the evaluation procedures “be perfect all the time,” noting that it could be said that “the whole system is flawed because we had a human error somewhere.” She also noted that at-will employees are not specifically mentioned in the policies and asked if that meant the district was out of compliance with the policies.

“We have holes in our system,” Kornasiewicz said. “In order to get that discussion on the table, we need to start somewhere.”

Her goal, Kornasiewicz said, is “to ensure that we are giving reasonable feedback to every employee” whenever there are complaints about an employee’s performance, and to “identify those things you can do better” as a district.

It was agreed that the board will take the issue up at a future work session; no date for the discussion was announced.

John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com


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