SHIPROCK – Four hours, and still no decision.
The Central Consolidated School District board of education still cannot decide if it wants to keep its top official.
The board still was in a closed session Tuesday after 10 p.m discussing Superintendent Don Levinski's contract and evaluation. Aside from the closed session and vote on Levinski's contract, the board still has a three-page agenda to go over.
This is the third three-hour closed session this month regarding Levinski's contract. Obviously, not an easy decision.
Levinski has been a divisive figure since he was hired.
He replaced former Superintendent Gregg Epperson, who was placed on administrative leave in May 2011. Levinski replaced him two days after Epperson was put on leave, and signed a contract in July 2011.
He faced suspension by the New Mexico Public Education Department only months later, in November the same year.
Department Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera told Levinski that he violated district policy and state law during his time as acting superintendent, when he did not have a contract. He had promoted and demoted district employees under questionable circumstances, allowed board members to interview job candidates, and had censored public comment in open meetings, the letter said.
Levinski maintained his job.
Levinski declined an interview Tuesday evening, saying that he was afraid it would “jinx” the decision. He has a prepared statement that he plans to release if his contract is renewed tonight.
Levinski's new three-year contract would begin this year and end in June 2016. It would replace his current contract, which would have ended in June 2014.
Even if his contract is renewed, some argue that he still is violating district policy and state law, just as he previously was accused of.
“I do have concerns on many levels,” said Ewa Krakowska, a representative from the National Education Association of Northwest New Mexico.
Krakowska emphasized that she was speaking as a former district employee. Krakowska worked as a history teacher at Shiprock High School for nearly 13 years before she left the district in December last year.
“Employees feel threatened and intimidated,” Krakowska said, noting that morale is low among employees. “It's affecting the students.”
Representatives from the Central Consolidated Education Association expressed similar worries, namely the focus on test scores and graduation rates, rather than learning.
For others, the concerns about Levinski seemingly have dissipated.
Larry Behrens, spokesman for the New Mexico Public Education Department, said that the department trusted the board to make the right decision, whether it is to keep or not keep Levinski. Behrens did not elaborate on whether the department felt Levinski had made progress since it threatened his suspension.
“We respect the authority of local school boards. We expect them to make the best decisions for our students,” Behrens said in an email Tuesday.
About a quarter of attendees at the meeting do not want his contract to be renewed, according to district spokesman James Preminger.