Court could be option for ousted principal
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – A possible court challenge is one option being considered by ousted Glenwood Springs Elementary School principal Sonya Hemmen.
Despite intense public pressure to reinstate Hemmen at GSES, she was suspended with pay for the remainder of this school year and told by Roaring Fork School District Re-1 officials this week that her contract would not be renewed for next year.
Since the special Wednesday night school board meeting when the decision was made, Hemmen has reportedly been meeting with attorneys to consider her legal options.
“We feel we have a clear case involving a violation of her rights under the Colorado Constitution, and due public process,” one of her attorneys, Don Kaufman, said on Friday. “We still need to make the determination if that’s how she wants to proceed.”
Hemmen had asked that the reasons for her dismissal be disclosed in public session when the school board met to consider Re-1 Superintendent Judy Haptonstall’s recommendation against renewing her contract for the 2011-12 school year.
The specific reasons were not disclosed by Haptonstall or the school board, which voted 3-0 to accept the recommendation.
The vote came in open session after the second of two closed executive sessions that night for the board to receive legal advice from its attorney on how to proceed.
Haptonstall told the Post Independent she could not legally share the reasons for her recommendation.
Hemmen has said the only indication she got was that, in her own words, “my leadership style may be offensive to the superintendent and some teachers.”
In the meantime, Haptonstall said GSES Assistant Principal Dave Anson has been named acting principal for the remainder of this school year, with assistance from Anita Parker, the district’s elementary instructional facilitator. The school board is expected to discuss the process to find a new principal for next school year at its April 13 meeting.
Because Hemmen has tenure status with the district, Haptonstall did say that Hemmen would be guaranteed a teaching position in the district if she chose to pursue that.
“Should she wish to do that, she would be given a teaching position in any area for which she is qualified,” Haptonstall said.
Haptonstall has also come under criticism for the decision, and for the way it was handled. Some have even called for her resignation.
“Actions such as this are never taken lightly or without a great deal of thought,” she said. “Had there been a better way, we would have done that.
“It is not unusual or unexpected, and is often part of the job of making difficult and unpopular decisions,” Haptonstall said of calls that she step down.
Some voters are also considering a possible recall of school board members over the decision, or possibly waiting until the regularly scheduled election in November to put up challengers for three board seats that will be up for election.
Two of the three board members who were present for the Wednesday meeting, Bill Lamont and Myles Rovig, are among the members whose terms are up this year. The third whose term will be up, Debbie Bruell, was unable to be at the meeting due to a death in the family.
Terms for the other board members, Bob Johnson, who was present and voted in favor of the recommendation, and Richard Stettner, who had a work conflict and could not be there, are up in 2013.
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