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Leadville superintendent outstanding (in some ways, anyway)

Brief by Central Staff

Education – January 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine

Outstanding, in some ways, anyway

Peg Portscheller, superintendent of schools in Leadville, was honored as Superintendent of the Year by the Colorado Association of School Boards at the group’s annual convention in Colorado Springs in December.

The judges’ panel said she “has set a standard of leadership” and she “exemplifies the qualities which make Colorado’s public schools outstanding.”

Nothing against her, but in 1996, Leadville had the worst graduation rate in Central Colorado — 59.5%. Most of the smaller districts, like Westcliffe and Cotopaxi, were at or near 100%, and Gunnison, Salida, and Buena Vista, all of comparable size to Leadville, were all around 80%.

Besides leading the region in drop-outs, Leadville also had the highest rate for suspensions and expulsions.

And community support might be gauged by the results of school-bond elections in 1996 and 1997 — all defeated, despite some very real problems with the district’s physical facilities, like windows that leak enough to let in snowdrifts.

If that’s an outstanding school superintendent, we’d hate to see a mediocre one.

Of course, maybe the bond issues failed because not enough people voted. A school-district employee received a letter after the election from Portscheller, which said that, “An explanation of the voting tally sheets for Lake County indicates that you chose not to cast a vote. Please know that we find this extremely disappointing.”

The employee’s husband, Merril R. Damme, sent a blistering letter to the Herald-Democrat, which said in part that “If you must know why my wife and I chose not to vote … Being new to the community we felt we could not make an informed decision.”

Speaking of the Herald, it managed to stop time. We received an edition numbered Vol. 118, No. 47, dated Nov. 20, 1997, with the headline, “Union Pacific responds to legislators’ concerns.” A fortnight later, we received one with the headline “Commissioners hold hearing on county budget,” also numbered Vol. 118, No. 47 and dated Nov. 20, 1997.

As weeks go, that of Nov. 20 was okay, but we really didn’t think anybody should go through it twice.