Durango School Superintendent Dan Snowberger is defending himself against allegations by a citizen-comprised accountability group that says he has misrepresented his educational career in résumés and applications to past jobs and at District 9-R.
At a special work session with the school board Wednesday, Snowberger said the claims made in a 46-page white paper, “Misleading Leadership?: A Close Examination of Dan Snowberger’s Educational Career Records,” are mostly wrong.
He said The Durango Herald’s story about the white paper’s allegations was full of inaccuracies that are easily refutable. The Herald published a story Dec. 12 after the accountability group made the paper public by posting it on its website Dec. 10 and by giving it to school district board members a week earlier. The story quoted several white paper allegations.
Snowberger has been on medical leave since the end of November to help his wife, Olga, who was severely injured in a car crash Nov. 30. Olga Snowberger suffered multiple pelvis fractures and severe bruising. She was flown to St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood for medical care.
At Wednesday’s work session, Snowberger refuted what was published and said he is likely to sue the Herald for defamation.
School board President Nancy Stubbs said the district considers the white paper to be an anonymous document, and policy does not require a response to anonymous complaints.
David Dillman, a former teacher at Durango High School, who has served as spokesman for 9-R Central Office Accountability, said the group wrote the paper ahead of Snowberger’s automatic one-year contract extension, which is set for January. He said members of the group – about 40 – are troubled by Snowberger’s leadership of District 9-R.
“Durango 9-R Central Office Accountability hopes all stakeholders will review the contents of this report and consider whether Mr. Snowberger truly represents the values of the citizens living within the Durango 9-R boundaries, most especially the children attending 9-R schools,” the paper states. “Further, all should consider whether he can successfully represent Durango 9-R’s employees in a meaningful capacity and let the appropriate 9-R Board of Education member know their feelings.”
Stubbs said the board has asked Dillman if he would sign the report, but as of Wednesday night, no one had claimed authorship of the white paper.
In an email to the Herald, Dillman declined to comment about whether he would sign the document.
“Durango 9-R Central Office Accountability has held serious discussions with the 9-R Board about the contents of ‘Misleading Leadership?: A Close Examination of Dan Snowberger’s Educational Records,’” Dillman wrote. “Out of respect to Mr. Snowberger and his family’s medical concerns, we politely decline to comment further at this time regarding the board’s ongoing investigation of the matter.”
Stubbs said Snowberger’s résumé was thoroughly vetted by the private recruitment firm McPherson & Jacobson when he was hired by 9-R in 2012 and “it came back clean.”
Snowberger defended the accuracy of his résumés on several allegations in the white paper that were part of the Herald’s story:
On a claim that he could not substantiate his claim of nine years of teaching experience, he said he included his time as a paraprofessional compensatory education instructor during college from 1985 to 1991, before he was licensed to teach, as part of his teaching experience.Snowberger said he taught math, computers and reading during this time at the Dade County Public Schools in Miami. He said Dade County considered paraprofessional experience to be teaching experience. He said some districts accept paraprofessional instruction as teaching experience and some do not.
“I can assure you that it was not made up,” Snowberger told school board members.
On the claim that he had not served as a Title IX compliance officer, Snowberger countered that he addressed numerous discrimination complaints, including sexual assault claims while serving as an administrator with both the Harrison School District in Colorado Springs and the Douglas County School District in Castle Rock.Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, including sexual misconduct. By law, schools are required to have a staff member trained as a Title IX compliance officer.
Snowberger does not list his experience as a Title IX compliance officer in his résumés, and the group questioned his experience after he told the Herald in October “that he served as a Title IX officer for multiple years in other school districts where he worked.”
Snowberger added that the Title IX compliance officer is rarely a full-time job in Colorado school districts. The duties, he said, are usually handled as a part of the responsibilities of an administrator. Snowberger did not say if he has received Title IX training or if the 9-R board or hiring firm assessed his ability to serve as a Title IX compliance officer.
On the claim that he misrepresented his graduation date as 1990 not 1991, Snowberger said he completed his course work in elementary education at Nova Southeastern University in 1990 and completed student teaching in 1991, and he was conferred his degree in May 1991.Snowberger also refuted other allegations included in the white paper.
The white paper questioned whether Snowberger should have been working part time with Cornerstone Academy in Los Angeles while working for both the Douglas County School District from 2002 to 2006 and the Harrison School District from 2007 to 2012. Snowberger said Wednesday he had permission from his superiors to work part time at Cornerstone.He defended his record at Cornerstone Academy. He noted the renewal documents of Cornerstone’s charter by the Los Angeles Unified School District in June 2008 showed the school achieved Academic Performance Index growth of 63 points in 2007 from 2006 – significantly better than the 12-point growth target the school had for the academic period. He said the achievement came at a school that had among the highest rates of students receiving free and reduced lunches in the district.He described the insinuation in the white paper that he knew about the Los Angeles District’s 2011 closure of Cornerstone 15 months before it occurred as “really sad.”
Snowberger acknowledged incorrectly reporting that Shirley Whitmore, his supervisor at Lake County Schools in Tavares, Florida, where he served as a teacher from 1991 to 1994, was deceased in résumés. He said he keeps an extensive Christmas card list, and after her card had been returned as undeliverable for two successive years, he made an incorrect assumption that she had died.In early December, the Herald found and contacted Whitmore in Eustis, Florida. Whitmore confirmed she worked as principal when Snowberger taught in that district. “Everyone liked him, and he just loved the students,” she told the Herald.
“I’m happy to know she’s alive,” Snowberger told board members.
School board members continue to question the accuracy and validity of the accountability group’s white paper.
Board member Stephanie Moran said “many statements” in the white paper “were masquerading as facts.” And she noted many inferences were introduced in the white paper with the qualifier “perhaps,” which amounted to opening avenues for speculation.
Board member Shere Byrd said while the document accuses Snowberger of obfuscation, she found “the entire white paper to be a work of obfuscation and selective reporting.”
She added, “I don’t feel we should pay a lot of attention to this.”