Haptonstall cuts to the chase with new school board
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – It didn’t take long after a new majority of Roaring Fork District Re-1 school board members were sworn in Wednesday for the question of district administrative leadership to come up.
At one point during a discussion about scheduling a board retreat and possibly a special meeting in the coming weeks, Re-1 Superintendent Judy Haptonstall asked if her future with the district was to be addressed.
“I have heard based on discussions by the three of you that I may not be the person to lead the district,” Haptonstall said.
Her comment was directed at newly elected board members Daniel Biggs, Matthew Hamilton and Terry Lott Richardson.
Biggs, who unseated former board member Myles Rovig in last week’s Re-1 school board election, responded that the board’s working relationship with Haptonstall is a discussion that needs to happen.
“I do think that we as a board need to have great confidence in our leadership,” he said, agreeing with other board members that a closed-door meeting with Haptonstall on the subject would be appropriate.
Exactly when that discussion will take place was not decided.
Hamilton, who was unopposed in his election to the board, was appointed as the new school board president at the Wednesday meeting.
He agreed it’s important that the board have the discussion sooner rather than later, but also said no rash decisions should be made.
“Each of us individually certainly expressed concerns about leadership and direction during the campaign,” Hamilton said after the Wednesday meeting.
A lot of that grew out of the decision last spring by Haptonstall, and supported by the school board, to fire popular Glenwood Springs Elementary School principal Sonya Hemmen, Hamilton acknowledged.
“But, as board members we don’t make decisions based on that one decision,” Hamilton said. “We have to look at the whole picture … and have that discussion in the context of what’s best for the community and the kids we serve.”
Hemmen, who now heads the public charter Ross Montessori School, was let go before the end of last school year for what remain undisclosed reasons, due to the confidential nature of personnel matters.
Hundreds of Hemmen supporters showed up at an April school board meeting hoping to influence the board otherwise, but the decision was upheld.
In May, the board agreed on a 3-1 vote to extend Haptonstall’s contract for another two years, amid continued public outcry over the Hemmen decision and general concerns about communications within the school district, both with district staff and the general public.
Haptonstall’s contract renewal was, however, strongly supported by several school principals from Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt. They said her leadership is crucial as Re-1 continues to implement several instructional changes in district schools.
At the Wednesday meeting, Basalt Middle School Principal Jeremy Voss welcomed the new board members, and, without mentioning Haptonstall’s status, encouraged the board to stay the course regarding those changes.
“I believe we are on the right track, we have the right people involved, and we have made big steps this year,” Voss said.
Meanwhile, the school board also cut to the chase on some of the issues it wants to address.
One is a district policy related to the way the superintendent and school board address issues raised by a citizen or district staff members, which will be reviewed by the board.
On the communications front, the board unanimously approved a recommendation by outgoing board member Bill Lamont to have the Colorado Association of School Boards conduct an audit of both internal and external district communications.
The audit is to be paid for with grants from the Aspen Community Foundation and the Manaus Fund, Lamont said.
“This is an opportunity for everybody in the system – teachers, principals, staff, parents, and community leaders – to gather as much information as we can and clear the air on some of the communications issues,” he said.
In other action, the board:
• Voted 4-1 to cancel the Jan. 2 and June 7, 2012, teacher and staff furlough days that had been part of the budget reduction plan, in light of the voter approval last week of the district’s mill levy override ballot question. Biggs was opposed, saying an overall plan for use of those funds should be laid out first.
• Denied a request by parents living in the upper Cattle Creek area, and within the Glenwood Springs school attendance area, to send their two children to Basalt Elementary School. BES has a closed enrollment policy for out-of-area student requests due to overcrowding.
• Appointed board member Richard Stettner as the board vice president, and Biggs as secretary-treasurer.
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