Glenwood Elementary principal suspended |

Glenwood Elementary principal suspended

Sonya Hemmen (photo taken by her daughter, Molly)

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – More than two dozen parents packed the Roaring Fork District Re-1 school board meeting room Wednesday evening in support of suspended Glenwood Springs Elementary School Principal Sonya Hemmen.

Hemmen was placed on paid suspension before the start of the school day Wednesday by Re-1 Superintendent Judy Haptonstall.

Haptonstall said she could not disclose the reason for or the length of the suspension.

“She’s wildly popular, and the best principal the grade school has ever seen,” said Don Kaufman, a parent of two GSES students and a local attorney who agreed to represent Hemmen at the Wednesday meeting.

“We had the ability to send our kids to any school we wanted, but we chose Glenwood Elementary, in large part because of Sonya,” Kaufman said. “We think she’s done an excellent job, and we ask that she be restored back to her position as soon as possible.”

Kaufman also presented the school board with an affidavit from Hemmen, indicating her desire to have any school board discussions about her status discussed in open session.

The school board did not formally address the matter on Wednesday but expects to do so in the near future.

Hemmen did not attend the meeting and could not be reached for comment afterwards. She did confirm with the Post Independent earlier in the day that she had been placed on leave.

Kaufman said he did not know the reasons for Hemmen’s suspension but said the public has a right to know why, especially if the situation leads to her being fired.

“If it’s something horrendous that she’s done, then they need to open the door and let us know,” he said.

Meanwhile, parents are also organizing a petition drive in support of Hemmen. They plan to present the petition at a future meeting.

“Mrs. Hemmen has transformed GSES so that each student now enjoys individualized education,” the petition reads. “[She] works tirelessly to attain excellence in education and to ensure the safety and well-being of the students and GSES.”

Some parents were shocked that the suspension came in the middle of CSAP (Colorado Student Assessment Program) testing, which has been going on for the past two weeks throughout the school district.

“I can’t understand why a principal would be removed during that important testing time,” said Jenny Cutright. “It seems absolutely uncalled for, and harmful.”

Others offered anecdotes about how Hemmen has personally taken an interest in individual students.

“She took the time to call me one day with a concern that the book my son was reading might be too much of an adult book for him,” said Patty Deaton, who said she moved here three months ago and purposely chose GSES over other school options for her son.

“I told her I thought it was OK and why, but the point is that she took time out of her day to call me about it,” Deaton said.

Added Courtney Madden, “Sonya knows every child in that school, and she takes the time to make sure parents are kept up to date on what their kids are doing in school.”

Another GSES parent, Daniel Biggs, who works in human resources at Valley View Hospital, said he understands about confidentiality, and how personnel issues need to be handled.

However, “Based on what I’ve learned today, this action seems to be a gross overreaction.”

Haptonstall said she doesn’t have a specific time frame for when a decision on Hemmen’s employment will be made.

“It is something that we don’t want to drag on too long,” she said.

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