Haptonstall makes the grade
“Excellence, tenacity and passion.”Those were the qualities that Roaring Fork School District Re-1 board member Susan Hakanson said have earned Judy Haptonstall the privilege of being the district’s next superintendent. The board announced Monday that Haptonstall, 57, will replace retiring Superintendent Fred Wall. She will begin her new job July 1.The boardroom was filled mostly with district faculty and staff, all of whom gave Haptonstall a standing ovation as the board announced its decision. Haptonstall said she felt humbled by the board’s glowing assessment of her work for the district over the last 18 years, during which she served as a principal in Basalt and, for the last decade, assistant superintendent. “I know that it’s not easy, but I’m very excited about the possibilities of working with communities and meeting with people and starting to build some bridges,” she said.Beginning Tuesday, Haptonstall said she will be making phone calls to meet with people in the community about the direction the district should go in the coming years.In a resolution offering Haptonstall the superintendency, board members said that she is the candidate most district staff members supported for the job, she has “firsthand knowledge of the unique issues facing each of the towns within our district,” and listed the many programs she has helped develop. Haptonstall “rose to the top” of the slate of three candidates the board considered, and board members thought she would offer crucial continuity in meeting the district’s goals, the resolution said. District staffers at Monday’s meeting said the board made the right decision.”I’ve known her 18 years,” said retired Roaring Fork High School and Basalt Middle School Principal Patrick Henry. “She’s been a mentor and a friend and a great administrator, and I think she’s done great things for the district, and it’s the decision that should have been made.”RFSD special needs staffer Dan LeVan said he is optimistic about the district’s future with Haptonstall at the helm. “Through her own self identity I think she’ll do a good job,” he said. Though the board’s decision was unanimous, its deliberations were long and arduous, said board member Bob Johnson. The board met in executive session discussing the candidates for about seven hours one day before spring break.”We felt it was the best thing for the kids of our valley,” Johnson said of the decision to hire Haptonstall. “It was a tough task.”Board member Brad Zeigel said board members asked themselves for the kids. “It became unbelievably clear that Judy was the right person to take this district to the next level,” he said. Board president Michael Bair said much of the district’s success in standards-based education is owed to Haptonstall’s efforts, adding that continuity is important for the district after Wall steps down. Hakanson said she’s excited about “new beginnings” with Haptonstall helming the district. “This fall marks the year we’ll be working on a strategic planning process again,” Hakanson said. “And that is very exciting because that’s our opportunity to bring in those community voices and work again together as a larger community, and that’s a great time for Judy to step into this role.”Wall said he doesn’t think he’s ever worked with anybody of Haptonstall’s caliber. “One of the things I think is a real strength of hers is … everything usually is revolved around the student – what’s best for the kid is what’s most important – and she keeps that at the forefront,” he said. “She’s also very bright, very knowledgeable and she’s a great systems thinker. She’s one of the best there is.”Haptonstall’s ascendancy to the superintendent’s chair leaves vacant her current position. She said the district will soon advertise for assistant superintendent and try to have it filled as soon as possible.
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