Principal’s suspension expected to be taken up Wednesday |

Principal’s suspension expected to be taken up Wednesday

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Parents and community members continue to rally behind suspended Glenwood Springs Elementary School Principal Sonya Hemmen, pending a decision about her future at the school that could come as soon as Wednesday.

Hemmen, the principal at GSES for the past eight years, was placed on paid administrative leave by Re-1 Superintendent Judy Haptonstall on March 23 for undisclosed reasons.

District officials have since declined to give a reason for the suspension. That has set off a public outcry among parents and other supporters, including an aggressive letter-writing campaign, a petition drive among GSES parents, and even an “I support Principal Sonya Hemmen” Facebook page.

Hemmen, through local attorney and GSES parent Don Kaufman, has asked that any discussions about the reasons for her suspension and her employment status be handled in public session.

Re-1 officials have scheduled a special meeting of the school board for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the District Office in Glenwood Springs.

The only agenda items are a closed executive session for the board and administration to receive legal advice from the district’s attorney, followed by action on a “personnel issue regarding contract non-renewal.”

“They do have a right to legal counsel, as long as they’re not specifically talking about Sonya,” Kaufman said of the scheduled executive session.

Beyond that, “through me as her counsel, she has asked to waive her right to privacy,” he said, referring to the school board discussions.

Meanwhile, during the Re-1 spring break last week, dozens of letters addressed to the editor of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Superintendent Haptonstall and the school board members in support of Hemmen have been pouring in.

The public Facebook page supporting Hemmen had nearly 300 “likes” as of Monday evening, and a petition drive had garnered 475 signatures, primarily from GSES parents, Kaufman said. The school has a student enrollment of roughly 500.

“We haven’t heard a legitimate reason or any allegation of wrong-doing of any kind,” Kaufman said. “Based on what we know, it appears to be just a personal vendetta by Judy [Haptonstall] against Sonya.”

Haptonstall could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

Several GSES parents were originally planning to pack what was scheduled as a school board work session to discuss the budget Tuesday afternoon, hoping to apply pressure regarding Hemmen’s suspension.

However, that meeting was canceled and the special Wednesday meeting to discuss the personnel matter was scheduled on Monday afternoon. The budget discussion is now slated to take place during the regular April 13 school board meeting.

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