Board extends interim superintendent's contract through June 30

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SHIPROCK — The Central Consolidated School District Board of Education has approved extending the contract of interim Superintendent Colleen Bowman.

Bowman was appointed as interim superintendent in August 2015, after three board members voted to place Superintendent Don Levinski on paid administrative leave. As part of the discharge process, the board held hearings for Levinski in October and November. After the Nov. 18 hearing, Eleanor Bratton, Levinski's attorney, said no further hearings were scheduled at that time.

Late on Thursday, CCSD's five-member board unanimously voted to extend Bowman’s contract to June 30 and continue her salary at $125,000.

The decision was made after the board spent more than three hours in executive session.

"I'm excited about it because there are lots of plans in place," Bowman said about the board’s action in an interview after the special meeting.

Among the plans are designing programs for the district that center on academic achievement and student safety.

"We had these plans since the beginning of the school year so to be able to have that vote of confidence to continue to serve in this capacity for the remainder of the school year is a good thing for me," Bowman said.

She added the board's action allows the district to continue moving forward.

"I work with good people, and every one of them is focused on the students. It's our students that we put first, and that's my expectation," she said.

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Among the challenges Bowman sees for the school year are developing strong academic strategic plans for students and improving the district's school letter grade, which is issued by the New Mexico Public Education Department.

She said under her leadership, CCSD saw its district grade move from a D in 2014-2015 to a C last school year.

The district is also working to improve its finances and record keeping in response to a letter the state education department sent last month.

State education officials are requiring district officials to complete nine corrective steps after concerns were raised about financial management and oversight.

Bowman said district officials have enlisted the assistance of financial consultants Heinfeld, Meech & Co., P.C. in Flagstaff, Ariz., and DSutherland Consulting in Aztec. Both companies are helping the district address concerns and have been instrumental in identifying internal controls the district was missing, Bowman said.

CCSD is also implementing software to manage finances, she added.

When asked about the categories the board used to evaluate her performance, Bowman said the process was divided into three parts centering on job responsibilities, annual goals and an overall summary that focused on significant achievement and room for growth.

The board also evaluated her on board relations, communications, staff relations, community relations, instructional leadership, organizational and financial management, and values and ethics.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.

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