New leader takes reins at Kiowa Schools

Travis Hargreaves steps into superintendent role after resignation of Silvia McNeely

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Travis Hargreaves, who had been serving as principal of Kiowa Schools since summer 2021, is taking over the role of district superintendent after the resignation of Silvia McNeely, who served as superintendent for 10 months.
 
Hargreaves was appointed as interim superintendent in a 5-0 vote at the Kiowa School Board’s May 10 meeting, where the board also voted to accept McNeely’s April 30 resignation. The motion to accept McNeely’s resignation passed 4-1, with Board Member Stephanie Buker opposed.
 
Hargreaves will assume the role of superintendent this month. Per regulations, the board on May 10 opened the superintendent position for 14 days, though members already had Hargreaves in mind as the desired candidate.
 
“We’re pretty late in the game for (hiring) a superintendent,” said School Board President Donnie Gabehart. “I think Mr. Hargreaves is the obvious choice in my opinion.”
 
At the meeting, Hargreaves said he understood there would be a learning curve given the time constraints, but that he is confident in his abilities.
 
“I feel we can do this. We’re already in May and we’re now doing salaries and the budget. We clearly have some catch-up to do here,” said Hargreaves. “We have nine months of work to do in two weeks. I feel confident that whatever we don’t have done, we can get done before we get to fall.”
 
Board members asked how they could help Hargreaves. He indicated that he’d like their support and needs them to listen to and support the staff as best they can.
 
“I think just listening. That’s going to be the big one. We need to keep our staff first,” Hargreaves said. “That’s how I’m going to need to be supported. That’s my specialty, the teaching and the kids.”
 
Once he become superintendent, Hargreaves hopes to hire Mark Bender, current athletic director at Denver Academy, as athletic director/assistant principal and to make Vaden Holmes, the current Kiowa Schools counselor, the new principal.
 
“I’m excited and honored and nervous, but that’s a good thing,” Hargreaves told the board. “There will be mistakes made, but I feel like I’ve got the trust of you guys.”
 
McNeely had been superintendent since July 1, 2021, and served during a tumultuous time. Just three days before she took her position, Gov. Jared Polis signed Colorado’s law generally banning Native American mascots, and on July 21, McNeely released a statement explaining a tentative plan if the district needed to comply with the law by removing Kiowa Schools’ Indians mascot.
 
In December, in an interview with the Elbert County News about replacing the aging Kiowa Schools sign that faces Highway 86, McNeely noted that the plan would include a departure from the Indians mascot.
 
The school board changed its approach to the mascot issue that same month, when three new members joined the board determined to fight to keep the mascot. In the process of the district’s dealings with the ruling body — the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs — McNeely did not take part in a March 10 meeting where the CCIA meeting considered a letter from the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma endorsing Kiowa Schools’ continued use of the Indians mascot, and by April the drive to keep the mascot was in the hands of the school board, which succeeded on May 19.
 
Also during spring of this year, McNeely’s presentation of a proposed 2022-2023 budget did not occur until April 19, leading the school district to scramble to meet publication and adoption deadlines for the budget, which must be adopted by the end of June. The district has now contracted with an outside vendor to get the budget across the finish line on time.
 
The Elbert County News attempted to contact McNeely by text, phone and Facebook Messenger, but has not received a reply as of the time this story was posted.

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