Principal remains on paid leave from Glenwood Elementary
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Glenwood Springs Elementary School principal Sonya Hemmen remained on paid suspension heading into the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 spring break next week.
No final decision was expected until at least the first part of April, Hemmen’s attorney, Don Kaufman, said on Friday.
Exactly why Hemmen was placed on leave still remains a mystery, at least so far as the public is concerned, he said.
“We were told that Sonya is on paid suspension, pending a decision to be made by [Roaring Fork School District Re-1 Superintendent Judy Haptonstall],” he said.
Kaufman said he accompanied Hemmen to a brief Friday morning meeting with Haptonstall and the district’s human resources director, Nikki Jost.
“We asked if she was accused of any wrongdoing, and [Haptonstall] refused to disclose anything,” he said. “She indicated she was not willing to discuss the matter, and that she would let us know when they will make a decision.”
Hemmen, the principal at GSES for eight years, was advised before the start of the school day on Wednesday that she was suspended. She was reportedly told to not have any contact with teachers or staff, and to not be on the school grounds, according to Kaufman.
However, several parents, after receiving word that Hemmen had been suspended, showed up at an Re-1 school board meeting that evening hoping for some answers.
Although they got no answers, some parents offered their support for Hemmen and said she’s done a good job at the school.
Kaufman, who is also a parent of two GSES students, agreed to represent Hemmen. She has formally requested that any discussions with the school board about her situation be done in public, and not in executive session.
Colorado law provides that such discussions can take place in private, unless the employee or employees who are the subject of a pending personnel action want it to be in open session.
Kaufman said it was his understanding that teachers at GSES were interviewed by Haptonstall on Thursday.
“Some contacted me and were quite upset,” he said. “Some asked what they were allowed to tell students and parents, and were advised to say nothing.”
Kaufman also indicated that a recent peer evaluation of Hemmen was positive.
“She had one of the most positive reviews of any of the principals in the district,” he said.
GSES did come under close scrutiny from the Colorado Department of Education this school year, when it received lower marks for student academic performance and growth than any other school in the Re-1 District.
The school was required to submit a so-called “priority improvement plan” to the state outlining how it planned to address the concerns, and received a Title 1 improvement grant from the state to help improve the statistics.
Whether that played into the decision regarding Hemmen was unknown.
“Every school is going to have problems at times, but we’ve been impressed with her ability to deal with those problems … to get in the middle, and go after it,” Kaufman said.
Haptonstall could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon. The next regular school board meeting is slated for April 13. However, the board could schedule a special meeting at any time with proper public notice.
Hemmen declined to comment on the situation, deferring instead to Kaufman.
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