Durango School District 9-R is beginning the search for a new head of Durango High School after current principal Diane Lashinsky resigned earlier this week.
The 9-R Board of Education approved Lashinksy’s resignation late Tuesday night.
In a conversation with interim superintendent Bill Esterbrook, Lashinsky said she realized a different type of leadership might be beneficial to DHS considering the current needs and goals of the school, Esterbrook said.
The district declined to provide a copy of the letter of resignation Lashinsky submitted to the district citing an exemption to the open-records law for personnel files.
Thomas Kelley, a Denver media lawyer who represents The DurangoHerald, disagreed with the district’s decision, saying resignation letters are subject to the state’s Open Records Act, and case law supports that position.
Esterbrook declined to say whether he was surprised by Lashinksy’s announcement to leave the district.
“She has worked very hard and established a lot of good things,” he said. “She has the school on the brink of something really special.”
The district is committed to continuing the school’s work on small learning communities, he said. The school-within-a-school model groups ninth- and 10th-graders into different pods that share a common set of teachers in core subject areas. The school is preparing to introduce a new version of the small learning communities this fall.
Lashinsky was hired at the high school in 2007 and led the school’s transition to the small learning communities, which started in 2008.
“When I came to Durango High School, I was challenged to lead the school to make the change from a comprehensive high school to personalized learning environments,” Lashinsky wrote in an email to the Herald. “This is what I’m good at, and I feel successful in our accomplishments.”
Enrollment at DHS has been declining for much of Lashinsky’s tenure at the high school. Since 2008, it has fallen by about 400 students. District administrators attribute part of the loss to the opening of Animas High School, a public charter, in 2009. Animas has an enrollment of about 180 students.
A survey given last year to all district educators provided insight into teachers’ working environment at the high school and elsewhere. Survey results showed that only 36 percent of DHS teachers agreed that faculty and leadership have a shared vision, the second-lowest among the district’s schools.
Teachers’ responses to this statement at DHS and elsewhere in the district “is the most alarming problem highlighted by this survey,” Elizabeth Collins, president of the district’s teachers union, wrote in her report of the data.
Daniel Snowberger, who is in contract negotiations to become the district’s next superintendent, will visit Durango on Friday to meet with the high school’s staff and to discuss finding a replacement for Lashinsky.
Similar to recent principal searches at Sunnyside and Park elementary schools, a committee of parents and school staff will serve in an advisory role while reviewing DHS principal candidates.
Lashinksy’s resignation will be effective June 26. She wrote in an email that she will complete her doctorate this summer at the University of Washington and has no other specific career plans.