SHIPROCK – The Central Consolidated School District Board of Education decided to keep the district's top official after four hours of deliberation Tuesday evening.
The board was in a closed session until 11 p.m discussing Superintendent Don Levinski's contract and evaluation. This was after two previous three-hour closed sessions earlier this month regarding Levinski's contract.
In total, the board spent about four and a half hours discussing the contract.
Board members Matthew Tso, Lupita White and Christina Aspaas voted to approve the contract. Board members Hoskie Benally and Randy Manning voted against it.
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 before the decision Tuesday evening, saying that he was afraid it would “jinx” the decision. He had a prepared statement that he released after the board made the decision.
The statement listed what he perceived to be his greatest accomplishments since June 2011. They included his changes to administration, as well as his push for Common Core standards and higher graduation rates.
He said nothing of improvements to be made, nor of his sentiment after having his contract renewed.
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.
“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, and also fretted about the focus on test scores and graduation rates, rather than on 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. 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 did not want his contract to be renewed, according to district spokesman James Preminger, so Levinski was quite relieved when his contract was renewed.
Aside from the closed session and vote on Levinski's contract, the board still had a three-page agenda to go over Tuesday evening.Public comment was not on the agenda, however, in an attempt to shorten the meeting time, Tso said.
For more coverage of Central Consolidated School District and stories from the Navajo Nation, follow reporter Jenny Kane on Twitter at Jenny_Kane. You can also contact her at email@example.com or 505-564-4636.