Sirko fumbled; play deserves a booth review
December 14, 2006
Aspen, CO ColoradoWorst case: Aspen School District Superintendent Diana Sirko used an unspecified number of complaints – meaning it may have been as few as one – to push Travis Benson out of his job as the high school’s head football coach in order to make room for her husband.Best case: Sirko is worried that the Aspen Skiers are still struggling seven years into the football program’s reinstatement. She thinks her husband, whose success leading teams in the Colorado Springs area is undisputed, can help the team. She sits coach Benson down and suggests he step back from the top job in order for her husbsand to “mentor” him on winning ways. Either way, Benson has quit. Teachers are concerned with the way Sirko used – or misused – her power in ousting Benson. Sirko says it was all an unfortunate misunderstanding.She’s not dwelling on Benson’s misfortune, however. She pointed out this week that her husband might apply for the open position through normal channels, now that Benson is gone. That the Aspen School Board has stated publicly its support for her actions is disquieting, given how far out of line those actions are. Sirko should be under serious scrutiny, not receiving blanket support, for a potential abuse of power.Diana Sirko is the most powerful person in the district. She sets the agenda for policy discussion, has final say on implementing education initiatives, and is the district’s quarterback, so to speak. Benson, on the other hand, is one of the least powerful people in the district. He is a part-time, contract employee who runs an extracurricular program for approximately $4,000 a year. His wife is a high school teacher, so his family security is in part tied to Sarah Benson’s continued employment under Diana Sirko.There certainly is room for improvement in the way the Skiers play football. But it’s important to remember that this is a team that’s only been around for a few years – and that Aspen isn’t necessarily a football hotbed. High school football had been abandoned here for years before Benson moved back home and helped start it up again.Sirko apparently proposed to Benson that his demotion would only last a couple of years, so that he could receive some “mentoring” from her more experienced husband. But what exactly did Sirko expect Benson to do when she suggested that he step down to make room for her husband? Why couldn’t Mike Sirko mentor Benson by working under him as an assistant coach, helping out with special teams or offense?Although Sirko insists that Benson could have said no to the demotion, it’s not clear that she in any way made him feel secure enough to reject her proposal. Benson – who stands by the job he has done at the high school – made it clear in an interview with The Aspen Times that he felt pressure to comply with Sirko’s wishes.Worst case: Sirko understood the power play at hand, and is now set to install her husband in a position he covets. Best case: Sirko was stunningly naïve about how her suggestion would be received. Either case, she fumbled, and a booth review of her play is warranted.