Post Independent Opinion: Hemmen deserves to have an open hearing | PostIndependent.com

Post Independent Opinion: Hemmen deserves to have an open hearing

Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

The shroud of mystery the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 has thrown over its suspension of Glenwood Springs Elementary School Principal Sonya Hemmen is a disservice to everyone involved.

Students, teachers and the community are left to wonder what egregious activity she’s been engaged in. Surely to be abruptly put on paid leave – and in the middle of Colorado Student Assessment Program testing – is a sign that immediate action was necessary.

But so far no explanation has been given for the suspension, not even to Hemmen. She joins the community in wondering what she is being accused of.

She has formally requested that any discussions about her with the school board be conducted in public, a strong statement that she has nothing to hide. The school board should follow through with this idea and hold an open hearing on Hemmen’s suspension.

While it seems unlikely that Hemmen’s suspension is simply a budget-cutting maneuver, it very well may have an effect on the district’s finances. Re-1 may be burning up valuable goodwill with the community should it decide to put a mill levy override question on the ballot in the fall.

The Post Independent has received a flood of letters from flabbergasted citizens all in support of Hemmen and her years of success at GSES. As perhaps the exception that proves the rule, the paper has received one phone call from a parent concerned about Hemmen’s performance.

It is certainly possible that Hemmen has been both the principal who is deeply revered by the community and the principal who’s done something warranting suspension.

But at this point, the community is wondering what’s going on. Without knowing the reason for the suspension, the community is restricted to expressing its support for Hemmen and commenting on how poorly the situation is being handled. It’s the cloak-and-dagger approach that is rubbing people the wrong way.

Letter-writing parents aren’t the only ones upset. To have a principal pulled from school and ordered to have no contact with teachers or staff and to keep off school grounds is going to be distracting, at the least, to teachers and students.

The situation is markedly different from that of Rifle Middle School Principal Shane Bostic. While he also garnered strong community support, he was given notice that district officials have recommended that his contract not be renewed. This is part of life when working for a school district. He will be able to finish out the school year even if the district decides not to renew his contract.

But Bostic has been told what he’s up against. Hemmen and the GSES community should be afforded the same courtesy with an open hearing explaining the reasons behind the suspension.


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