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Haddad in as St. Vrain Valley superintendent through 2017

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St. Vrain approves new contract without compensation amount

By Ben Wiebesiek

LONGMONT — The school board for the St. Vrain Valley School District unanimously approved Feb. 13 a new contract for Don Haddad to keep him as superintendent through the end of the 2016-17 school year.
    Before the vote, School Board President John Creighton praised Haddad’s work to date for leading the district.
    “The leadership we’ve had in the last several years has been remarkable. And the success St. Vrain has achieved over the last few years is remarkable as well: the national attention as well as the state attention,” Creighton said. “And most importantly, the community support that’s been built and the way this community has been served – it’s hard to describe how much we appreciate it.”

    Creighton reminded the board of two changes that had been added to earlier drafts of the contract. He told the school board that the contract was modified to extend Haddad’s contract for a year.
    An earlier version of the contract also stipulated that the district would pay the annual dues and fees for the Haddad to maintain membership in the Colorado Association of School Executives, the American Association of School Administrators, and the Denver Area School Superintendents Council.
    Creighton told the board this was modified to allow Haddad to select which professional organizations, local service clubs, or other civic groups he chooses for membership. All groups would have to be approved by the school board.
    “After we complete negations with other teachers and staff, we’ll come back to his contract and discuss compensation at that time,” Creighton said. “I think we’re all aware that Don has declined any increase in compensation since he originally took the contract. And I think a case could, without much effort, be made that in comparison to the success we’ve had and how other superintendents along the Front Range are compensated, we’re out of sync with fair compensation for Don.”
    Creighton said that Haddad’s compensation should be reviewed in the spring, along with the other employees of the district.
    School board vice president Bob Smith said that the education proposals that President Obama presented during the state of the union address were similar to efforts already being made by the St. Vrain Valley School District.
    “These are terrific, but sometimes subtle differences in the district that I attribute to its success,” Smith said. “So I’m wholeheartedly in support of him.”
    In this position, Haddad has presided over record growth. St. Vrain is the fastest-growing of the large districts in Colorado. The Colorado Department of Education lists St. Vrain as the state’s eighth largest district.
    Before his contract was approved, Haddad went over the school board some of the legislative efforts currently passing.
    “Typically, the way we receive our funding is through the October count,” Haddad said. “There’s some good things in the way we’re funded today, and some areas that cause them concern. So in a nutshell, what they’re looking at with.”
    As Haddad relayed the nuances of the proposal floating in the General Assembly that would take the count four times a year instead, the school board had few questions.
    The superintendent’s ability to deliver difficult financial news has earned the board’s trust, especially after the successful mill-levy override campaign last year.
    But it was during this campaign that Haddad has received a few notes on his style.
    After school board member Mike Schiers presented the mill-levy override to the Dacono city council last fall, councilman Steve Bruno contrasted the pitch to that of the superintendent.
    “You do a hell of a lot better job than Don, and you might want to speak to him about his tone when he sits in front of the boards,” Bruno said. “Because I know there was a bad taste in our mouths. He came up — no offense — and ‘used-car salesman-ed’ the whole thing. Basically saying, ‘If you don’t pass this, we’re going to fire all the teachers. And you have a great school district. Do you want a mediocre one? You suck if you don’t pass this.’ Kind of heavy-handed tactics.”
    While the tactics are debated, the results were solid: the district will collect up to $14.8 million for the successful mill-levy override.
    As the district navigates the uncertain future of education funding in Colorado, Haddad may need every tactic available.

Contact Ben Wiebesiek at 303-659-2522, ext. 205, or email bwiebesiek@metrowestnewspapers.com.