Pagosa Peak Open School hires director

James Lewicki

The Pagosa Peak Open School (PPOS) is officially under the helm of a school director.

In a special meeting Monday, the PPOS board voted unanimous to approve the contract employing James Lewicki as the school’s director.

“I accept,” Lewicki said following the vote. “I more than accept. I’m very honored and touched.”

Lewicki followed the statement by noting that he’s speaking with prospective educators and noted, “It’s getting very real.”

“I think having your experience base, your knowledge, … having started up a few schools in the past, having you be able to come here … has been a God-send,” board member Aaron Burns said.

Per Lewicki’s contract, his salary will be $65,000. Other specifics of the contract were not available by press time due to the PPOS attorney reviewing the approved contract.

The board first voted to hire Lewicki during a special meeting on March 31.

However, that vote came without the board having previously taken steps outlined in a portion of the Colorado Revised Statutes commonly known as the Open Meetings Laws (OML) that dictates how public bodies must go about hiring their top employees.

According to the OML, for CEO searches, a list of finalists must be made public at least 14 days prior to an appointment, with no prior offer of employment made.

The school director, referred to as the executive director in the school’s charter, is PPOS’s top employee and reports to the PPOS board.

Following questioning by The SUN regarding its hiring timeline, at its April 9 meeting, the board officially declared Lewicki the finalist for the position, though discussions regarding Lewicki’s contract continued, including an executive session during that same meeting, with Lewicki’s contract as the sole topic.

On April 14, the board met to discuss what contract specifics it would offer to Lewicki, with the consensus at that meeting being to offer the contract to Lewicki for review as soon as it had been drafted and reviewed by PPOS’s attorney.

Lewicki has been a consultant for PPOS for several months and will continue to serve in that role until his contract begins on July 1.

According to his resume, Lewicki is currently the executive director of the Academy of Arts and Knowledge in Fort Collins, Colo. — a post he has held since 2015.

From 2005 to 2015, Lewicki was the founder and senior consultant for Lewicki Education Consulting, and before that was an English teacher for 17 years, a YMCA camp and program director and National Outdoor Leadership School instructor.

He completed an associate degree in outdoor recreation leadership at Colorado Mountain College in 1976, a bachelor’s in social sciences at Evergreen State College in Washington in 1979, a master’s in outdoor education administration at George Williams College in Illinois, a master’s in education from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse.

The resume also indicates some doctoral studies in education in 2005 and 2006.

Lewicki has also created consulting publications and videos, the resume indicates.

In other work on preparing to open the school, the board held a work session prior to the April 9 regular meeting to discuss playground options, and toured the grounds of the Parelli headquarters, where the school will be.

Several natural playground features were discussed, and it was suggested that the board talk to Town of Pagosa Springs staff concerning the playground equipment being removed from Yamaguchi Park.

Earlier this week, it was reported to The SUN that the town had donated that playground equipment, with PPOS board members working to move the equipment earlier this week.