Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 Superintendent Alex Carter announced his resignation Friday in an email to teachers.
In a 289-word email on Jan. 15, Carter told teachers that he has accepted an undisclosed position at the Colorado Education Initiative, stating the organization’s mission was “closely aligned” with his professional purpose. The Colorado Education Initiative is a nonprofit that collaborates with the Colorado Department of Education and schools and districts across the state to accelerate achievement for all Colorado students.
“As thrilling and as rewarding as this new opportunity will be for me both personally and professionally, my heart is heavy with the thought of leaving the many great friends and colleagues I’ve had the fortune to work with these past four years,” Carter wrote.
Attempts to reach Carter and assistant superintendent Lori Haukeness on Monday were not returned. Schools were closed because to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
“I’m sorry to see him go,” Re-1 board president Jack Schuenemeyer said via telephone on Monday.
Schuenemeyer added that “great progress” was made under Carter’s leadership, pointing to construction of a new high school, improved graduation rates and a University of Virginia turnaround program targeting the district’s three in-town elementary schools.
Carter stated in the email that Re-1 schools were headed in the right direction, and it had been an honor and pleasure to work alongside dedicated staff, teachers and leaders.
“We are on track to fulfill the district’s vision of being a beacon of educational excellence for others to admire and emulate,” he wrote.
In the email, Carter said details of his resignation and the district’s plans for leadership transition would be discussed in secret when the school board convened for its monthly meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
Under Carter’s administration, the district opened a new 152,000-square-foot high school. The community celebrated the $41.5 million investment at a ribbon-cutting in August.
At that event, remarks from Ute Mountain Ute tribal elder Terry Knight of Towaoc received the warmest welcome.
“This is a school that we can all be a part of,” said Knight, who recalled a more racially contentious era in the 1960s when he attended the school.
Afterward, Carter publicly highlighted Knight’s statement more than once, alluding that long-held divisive attitudes across the community were shifting.
That joyous energy, however, has appeared to fade. In recent months, Carter has faced public scrutiny on multiple issues.
Within weeks of opening the high school, Carter informed city officials that the district failed to properly budget for the demolition of the old Montezuma-Cortez High School building on Seventh Street.
When applying for a grant and bond measure in 2012 to finance a new high school, Re-1 officials vowed that the old Seventh Street high school would be flattened. That plan was shelved because of unforeseen asbestos abatement costs, Carter said.
Last November, Carter also faced backlash after calling a board workshop to discuss district finances, in large part to dispel a myth that local property taxes had steadily risen to fund public education. According to a letter from one newspaper reader, Carter, at the finance meeting, also attempted to paint Kinder Morgan as a villain because the company only paid the minimum tax allowed under state law.
Last month, Carter emailed a school district attorney in Boulder, stating that a Journal news reporter was a “cancer” to the district. The email was sent in response to a media query about a secret board meeting held prior to a standing room only crowd that gathered at an open meeting to lament over the termination of four high school coaches this semester.
Carter was hired as Re-1 superintendent in 2012 and paid a yearly salary of $115,000. He previously served as principal at Telluride High School and Brentsville District High School in Virginia. Carter was also the former chief academic officer for TVtextbook.