EDITORIAL: Pagosa Charter School Hires School Director… Sort of…

“The board of the Pagosa Peak Open School (PPOS) is in the thick of work to open the school’s doors for the first time this fall, including voting to hire James Lewicki as the school’s director late last week.

“The unanimous vote to hire Lewicki, who has been working with the board as a consultant, came during a special meeting on March 31.”

Thus wrote reporter Randi Pierce, in a front page article in the weekly Pagosa Springs SUN published yesterday, April 6. Ms. Pierce had been present at that March 31 meeting, as one of two members of the public, along with Archuleta School District Assistant Superintendent David Hamilton.

That board decision was reported in the Daily Post earlier this week.

As Ms. Pierce correctly notes in the article, “the board had not previously followed steps outlined in a portion of the Colorado Revised Statutes commonly known as the Open Meetings Laws (OML) that dictates how public bodies must go about hiring their top employees…”

The article quotes Jeff Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition:

“The Open Meetings Law is clear that a local public body, in this case a charter school, must reveal the list of finalists for its chief executive position no less than 14 days prior to the date on which one of the finalists is appointed. This applies even if there is only one finalist.”

As numerous recent articles in the SUN and in the Daily Post have suggested, our public officials — and members of the general public — are not always aware of the full implications of the Colorado Open Meetings Law.

Our Daily Post readers may find it curious that I was the Pagosa Peak board member who made the motion, at the March 31 meeting, to authorize two board members to enter into contract negotiations with Mr. Lewicki… without mentioning anything about the Open Meeting Law requirements to announce a finalist 14 days prior to the hiring date… considering that I have personally initiated lawsuits against both Archuleta County (in 2010) and the Town of Pagosa Springs (in 2015) for alleged violations of the Open Meetings Law.

Readers might also find it curious that three other people in the room who may have been familiar with the Open Meetings Law — long-time educational consultant James Lewicki, Assistant Superintendent David Hamilton, and SUN reporter Randi Pierce — also made no comment about what was possibly an inappropriate hiring decision at the March 31 meeting.

So far, no contract has been signed with Mr. Lewicki, although the board remains excited about his willingness to serve as the school’s chief executive officer.

The Pagosa Peak Open School board will be meeting publicly this Sunday, April 9, and I expect the board will do its best to improve the hiring process for the school director… possibly by officially announcing James Lewicki as the finalist for the School Director position, and then allowing 14 days for public comment on that choice, prior to signing an employment contract.

All in all, I’m grateful to the SUN and Ms. Pierce for keeping an eye on local public officials, and holding their feet to the fire regarding Colorado’s politically essential Open Meetings Law.

For more information about Pagosa Peak Open School, please visit their website.

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Bill Hudson

Bill Hudson founded the Pagosa Daily Post in 2004 in hopes of making a decent living writing about local politics. The hope remains.