Schendler: Some thoughts on Roaring Fork School District governance |

Schendler: Some thoughts on Roaring Fork School District governance

Auden Schendler

For community members interested in the health and well-being of the Roaring Fork School District, here’s a recap of recent events. 

On Feb. 23, HR Director Angie Davlyn was fired by Superintendent Jesus Rodriguez.

Why? Rodriguez was in breach of his employment contract, which required that he obtain his state superintendent’s license and certification by Dec. 31, 2022. According to that contract (available here

“If at any time the Superintendent fails to comply with these requirements, then this contract, without further action by either party, shall automatically terminate for cause …” 

As chief human resources officer, Davlyn, would have been the administrator responsible for enforcing it. She did so. And was fired for “insubordination” — by a superintendent who was not, at least according to the contract, employed by the district at the time. The reason for the firing was at least odd, since avoiding one’s work responsibility is also a form of insubordination.

In a March 3 Superintendent Update (available here, Rodriguez acknowledged the breach. According to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Rodriguez said: “‘I completed my related courses … but I did not press the submit button on the … application …'”

Despite statements by the board chair to the contrary, the community perception was that the board had been unaware of the contract problem. Otherwise, they would have fixed it before the deadline. Instead, eight weeks after it had expired, and only when the issue became public through the firing of the HR chief, the board cured the contract at a closed-door executive session on March 1. 

At that same meeting, the board discussed the new Accelerated Learning Plan: a proposal to spend $2.6 million to improve education through quasi-administrative positions. This may well be an excellent plan. But it would occur in a district where teachers don’t make a living wage, so decisions to expand administration — or to support those teachers in the classroom vs. through the paycheck — can’t be taken lightly.

The bigger question is whether school leaders and staff have been part of developing the plan and are on board. Do they feel resources will be deployed equitably among schools and for the right purpose? Did principals and even district leadership know about it before it made the papers? Several senior district employees I talked to said they did not.

There is certainly a performance gap between whites and Latinos. But pushing solutions from the top down and not enlisting the guidance and support of teachers is probably a mistake.

Later in the March 1 meeting, the board discussed an effort to, according to the superintendent, “explore downpayment assistance options to help staff afford home ownership.” But this plan specifically applied to the superintendent.

According to district documents, the board wrote: “As the board’s sole employee, it is the board’s responsibility to offer any such benefit to the superintendent, independent of a program for other staff …. A majority of the board is in support of making up the $500,000 in downpayment assistance available for this position.” Details on this loan proposal are here:

It makes sense, in this insane housing market, to help with housing. But the superintendent makes almost four times what a well-paid teacher does. And this is in a school district where many teachers commute each day from as far away as Parachute. 

The board may think its sole employee is the superintendent, but the entire 800-plus staff depends on it to advocate for equity from senior leadership to lunch servers, coaches to custodians. A $500,000 handout for downpayment assistance to the superintendent while teachers are still far from a living wage is slap in the face to those who make the biggest difference in our children’s lives.

If you have questions or simply want to better understand what may well be excellent programs, you should ask a board member to coffee. You can also write a note to the board here:, or attend the board meeting on Wednesday, March 15, at the Carbondale District Office at 400 Sopris Ave. 

Parents and other interested parties should assume the best intentions of the board and superintendent, all of whom are public servants (the board is unpaid) with the best interest of the community in mind. 

In the end, the disconcerting developments described above are partly about district culture. Who gets included or consulted in decision-making? What process exists to ensure buy-in? How do leaders behave? Are they in the trenches with the staff, or do they eat first?

The board and staff at public meetings refer to each other in antiquated, overly formal honorifics. But this is the Roaring Fork Valley, where the town doctor lives up the street and the police talk strategy — and smack — with parents and students on the sidelines of basketball games. At best the board’s practice is annoying. At worst, it places leaders above their constituents, creating a wall of authority. 

How leaders position themselves in public affects how they make decisions — and how they treat people — behind closed doors. 

Auden Schendler is a Roaring Fork School District parent. 


Mountain Mayhem: Spring flings

Casa Tua hosted a dinner last month in partnership with Wyld Blue, the chic boutique in the Elks Building downtown featuring a collection of housewares, childrens’ clothes and women’s fashion.

See more