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December 30, 2012
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Top 10 news stories, No. 10: Haptonstall out as RFSD Re-1 superintendent

A newly elected school board majority for the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 voted 3-2 at a special Jan. 4 meeting to terminate the contract of Superintendent Judy Haptonstall, effective at the end of the 2011-12 school year.

The decision brought to an end Haptonstall's more than 20 years as a school principal and district office administrator for Re-1, including six years as superintendent overseeing public schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt and seven years as assistant superintendent.

In reaching its decision, the board weighed input from district teachers, staff and parents gathered through a "360" review, including an online survey and numerous public comments at board meetings.

Haptonstall had been criticized in recent years for her management style and what some referred to as a "culture of fear" within the district that they felt prevented them from speaking out on district education policies.

Those concerns became a key issue in the November 2011 election when three school board seats were up for election. After just two months on the board, new members Daniel Biggs, Matt Hamilton and Terry Lott Richardson voted to end Haptonstall's contract. Board members Bob Johnson and Richard Stettner dissented in the vote.

Following an extensive nationwide search for a new superintendent to take the helm starting with the 2012-13 school year, the Re-1 board initially selected Rob Stein, a former Denver Public Schools and private school principal and teacher.

In addition to leading the much-publicized makeover of Denver's Manual High School and serving as headmaster of the prestigious Graland Country Day School in Denver, Stein had also previously taught at Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale.

However, soon after accepting a five-year contract with Re-1 and working for a brief time in early July, Stein had to resign to tend to family matters when his wife was seriously injured in a bicycle accident.

Later in the summer, the Re-1 board selected former Aspen School District superintendent Diana Sirko to serve as interim superintendent for the current school year. Sirko had been head of Aspen public schools for seven years and had recently retired after three years as a deputy commissioner with the Colorado Department of Education.

In December, the Re-1 board re-interviewed both Sirko and Stein before reopening the search for a long-term superintendent. The board ultimately decided just before the winter holiday break to stick with Sirko, who is expected to sign a multi-year contract at the Jan. 9 regular school board meeting.

Sirko was acknowledged for her CDE expertise as numerous state-led educational reforms are under way, including new academic standards and changes in student assessments and teacher evaluation procedures.

Sirko will also oversee the Re-1 district's upcoming exploratory process to consider converting Glenwood Springs Elementary School into an expeditionary learning school, following the rejection in December of the Two Rivers Expeditionary School charter proposal.


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The Post Independent Updated Dec 30, 2012 12:45AM Published Dec 30, 2012 12:37AM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.