In an interview with the El Diablo, the student-run newspaper at Durango High School, Superintendent Dan Snowberger repeated incorrect information and criticized The Durango Herald’s “journalistic integrity” for its coverage of several controversial issues that made news during the past six months.
Snowberger has come under fire in recent months for various issues that came up in quick succession, including:
His handling of a sexual assault complaint involving a student at Riverview Elementary School.A 46-page “white paper” release by a group of residents, employees and former employees who called on Snowberger to be fired after it said it found numerous alleged inaccuracies in Snowberger’s résumés and applications for past jobs, including his position with 9-R.Denying an incident took place at Needham Elementary School in which 911 was called against the school district’s spokeswoman.Using his 9-R email account to air his “personal agenda.”In the two-page spread of this month’s El Diablo, Snowberger defended his actions, called for greater civility and lashed out at the Herald for its coverage of recent incidents.
“I would say, just personally and professionally, these past few months have been the most challenging in my life,” Snowberger told the El Diablo.
The article, written by two student journalists, concludes by saying Snowberger wants greater unity and encourages members of the community to have conversations to better understand one another.
Snowberger did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Snowberger told the El Diablo that most allegations made against him in the “white paper” are inaccurate and easily refutable. Snowberger is quoted as saying, “For a group of people to claim I’m dishonest is just sad.”
He also told El Diablo that the Herald gave him only “four hours” to respond for a story about the white paper, and it was during a time he was in intensive care with his wife, Olga, who had been in a car crash and suffered severe injuries.
Snowberger has continued to make this statement, but it is inaccurate. The Herald first called Snowberger about the white paper on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, and left a voicemail. The Herald again sought comment from Snowberger on Monday, Dec. 10. The article was posted on the Herald’s website on Tuesday, Dec. 11 and was published in the print edition Dec. 12.
The El Diablo did not reach out to the Herald for comment before publishing its article.
Snowberger also defended his handling of an incident at Needham Elementary School involving a 9-R administrator. On Oct. 19, a school employee called 911 to report the district’s spokeswoman was banned from campus and was trespassing.
Snowberger initially denied an incident took place and refused to acknowledge police records and a recorded 911 call about it. He eventually acknowledged the incident and explained that the spokeswoman was at the school as a parent, not as a 9-R employee.
He told El Diablo: “Did something happen? Yes. Because it involved a parent, I chose to deny it.”
School board President Nancy Stubbs reprimanded Snowberger in December for using his 9-R email for “your personal agenda where it is not appropriate for you to refer to your plans for litigation or your relations with the media.”
The board directed him to “cease and desist” using his email account when it comes to issues concerning the alleged sexual assault at Riverview Elementary School, the “white paper” and media issues.
In the email, Stubbs asked Snowberger to refer messages from reporters about the white paper and other incidents to Andy Burns, 9-R deputy superintendent; Darryl Farrington, 9-R’s attorney; or Stubbs herself.
Stubbs said last week she does not view Snowberger’s conversation with El Diablo as violating that request.
“The El Diablo is a school endeavor where students are learning to be journalists and need practice with interviews and writing articles; Mr. Snowberger is free to grant interviews with them,” Stubbs wrote in an email to the Herald.
Julie Popp, 9-R spokeswoman, issued a statement to the Herald stating: “Thank you for reaching out to us for clarifications around the recent article ran by the El Diablo. We have provided responses to the Herald in regard to this topic in support of previous articles and have begun the steps necessary to continue our work for our students and our community. We presently do not have any further comment, as a district or a board, on topics previously covered.”