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Javier Abrego, superintendent of Adams 14 School District on April 17, 2018.

Javier Abrego, superintendent of Adams 14 School District on April 17, 2018.

Adams 14 superintendent out as leader of the troubled district

The Adams 14 school board voted unanimously Tuesday to remove Superintendent Javier Abrego as acting superintendent of the troubled school district.

The decision comes as the district is preparing to turn control over to an external manager on orders from the State Board of Education after spending eight years on a performance watch list.

According to officials, Abrego’s last working day was last week, but he will continue serving — and getting paid — for the remainder of his contract, which expires at the end of June, by being available to perform some work for the district. The deal will also give Abrego a “cost of living raise.” The raise was described as a 5 percent raise that all of the district’s administrators received this year, but which isn’t automatic for the superintendent.

Darci Mohr, the executive director of human resources/legal/risk management, is filling in as superintendent, but specifically not as interim superintendent, according to the board president, Connie Quintana.

The board did not discuss the motion, or disclose what it was when they voted. It was listed on the agenda as an action item labeled, “addendum to the superintendent contract.”

A copy of the addendum was not made available because it has not yet been signed by Abrego.

Just as the meeting was going to end, board president Quintana said she needed to announce, “something we kind of just passed.”

She said the addendum was related to Abrego’s contract and said only, “he will be out,” then directed people to talk to Mohr if they needed anything in the meantime. Someone in the crowd yelled out, asking what “out” meant, but board members did not respond.

Abrego has not been at work since last Wednesday night, when the school board met in executive session. Since then, he missed a visit from the commissioner of education, and a Monday meeting between leaders of Adams 14 and Mapleton to discuss the orders from the State Board of Education.

Abrego was hired in 2016 and at the time promised to help focus on the achievement of English learners to make big improvements in the district. He promised the improvements would come in two years, and told the community that he should be removed if he didn’t deliver.

After the state ordered Adams 14 to hire an external manager to do much of the same work of the superintendent, such as making recommendations on personnel, policy, and instruction, some board members had questioned if there was a need to pay twice for the work.

And last month, that question became more complicated after the state board rejected the proposed plan to have Mapleton, the neighboring school district, become an external manager for Adams 14. Instead the state board suggested that Mapleton would need help from another group, which would likely add to the cost of the district’s management. Board members have discussed bringing Florida-based MGT on as a partner.

Union teachers packed the meeting to ask the board to work with Mapleton and not include any private companies in the external management arrangement. The State Board of Education plans to discuss next steps for the district on Thursday, state education officials said.

After a salary increase last year, Abrego was earning $169,125 annually. The raise in the new deal brings his salary for the current school year to $177,581.

The cost of an external manager won’t be known until after a manager is selected and approved by the state, allowing a contract to be negotiated. Adams 14 did receive one grant from the state for $200,000 a year for the next four years to help pay for the external manager.

Abrego’s contract requires that the school board evaluate the superintendent every year, in writing, but the Adams 14 did not have a way to do that until recently. An Adams 14 spokesman said this year’s evaluation has been started but is not yet finalized and therefore can’t yet be made public.