Letters to the Editor

Letter: Leave Basalt park alone

December 17, 2014 — 

Basalt residents already voted to save Lions Park (designated open space), and it passed. Why is this land swap even being considered by the Downtown Area Advisory Committee? Why build more commercial buildings in Basalt when there are so many vacant commercial spaces now?

Leave all of Lions Park alone. Stop this outrage and abuse.

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Letter: Celebrate the holidays at Aspen Community Church

December 17, 2014 — 

Come one, come all to the Aspen Community Church.

Join in on the evening of Dec. 21 at 6 p.m. for the winter solstice concert with Jan Garrett and on Dec. 24 at 7 p.m. for the Christmas Eve service. Come join in and meet Mike Nickerson, the new pastor.

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Letter: A shared passion for the outdoors

December 16, 2014 — 

My name is Nate Simmons, and I am a partner at Backbone Media, a company that employs more than 30 people in Carbondale. Our public relations, media and marketing company is predicated upon inspiring active lifestyles and outdoor recreation, and we represent some of the biggest national and international brands in the market. To a large extent, this passion for the outdoors and access to incredible wild lands is what drove our decision to locate the company here in Carbondale in the first place. We also have offices in Jackson, Wyoming, and Denver.

Over the years we have actively promoted Carbondale, resulting in many national media stories highlighting this town. In all the coverage I have ever seen about Carbondale, the number one driving factor that makes us stand out is access to rivers and mountains, including those located in Thompson Divide.

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Letter: How do they get away with it?

December 16, 2014 — 

So, when the airlines implement higher fares, they justify it with the citation of higher fuel costs. So, why doesn’t the flipside hold true? Fuel costs are down considerably. Fares should drop accordingly. Lower fares, please.

The Krabloonik sled dogs are mistreated. The potential new owners are subject to a subordination agreement with the current owner, Dan MacEachen. If the new owners default, the place again reverts to MacEachen. More dog abuse in the works. What’s up with that? The dogs are screwed.

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Letter: J. Edgar Hoover, RIP

December 16, 2014 — 

This past week, I was shopping for a vehicle on Craigslist. I found a couple vehicles I was interested in and contacted the people to get more information. I received polite and courteous replies quickly from these people, both with the same plight: Their husbands had recently died, they were struggling to pay their mortgages and wanted to sell their husbands’ vehicles quickly. I was impressed that these two ladies structured their replies in the exact same manner.

Being little old ladies with recently deceased husbands, they were, of course, wary of the Internet and wanted to ensure that I would not take their vehicles without paying, which is why they (both) said they had established personal accounts with eBay so that they could guarantee everyone’s safety.

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Letter: Thanks for protecting our lands

December 16, 2014 — 

I am writing to thank the U.S. Forest Service for its recent decision to protect the Crystal River Valley and Thompson Divide area from future oil and gas leasing. This is encouraging news for my family-run business, Alpine and River Lodging, in Redstone.

Redstone’s economy is intimately tied to the public lands that surround us. In summer, you can hike, ride or climb the extraordinary peaks on nearby Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands. In the fall, our region features some of the most picturesque leaf viewing around, and is an important base for big-game hunting. In the winter, our guests enjoy incredible snowshoeing, back country and cross-country skiing in Thompson Divide.

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December 15, 2014 — 

With 65 years of life experience, 38 of them living in Glenwood Springs, I decided to give my opinion on the bridge replacement. Everybody seems to agree that the new bridge will do nothing to alleviate the traffic clog through Glenwood. While the super speedway off ramp and “monster” bridge may be an engineering marvel and would be wonderful at any number of places on the Front Range, the majority of people I’ve talked to agree that it is totally out of place with the character of Glenwood. The only things that I see this proposed bridge will accomplish is letting traffic reach a higher terminal speed by the time vehicles get to the Eighth Street crossing downtown and stroking the egos of the engineers that designed it. Oh, and burn through money that the Colorado Department of Transportation says it doesn’t have enough of.

So, here is the Stanley Trulock theory on bridge replacement: Design a bridge that looks like the current one, has the same alignment and is four lanes wide. Get rid of the tin sidewalk that’s currently attached to the side of the bridge. We have a perfectly good pedestrian bridge right now. I’m sure the same engineers who came up with the current bridge design that we are told is the preferred option (by whom?) can come up with a way for handicapped and wheeled vehicles to appropriately access it. If CDOT does this, it may be able to stay within its budget and would not have to ask (force) the city and county to help fund a state highway project. The city and county could then use the money they were going to give to the state for projects that would really help some of the traffic get through town. The Eighth Street bridge realignment, Midland Avenue improvement and south bridge come to mind. As an added benefit, maybe the disruption to the downtown businesses and residents won’t be as bad for as long.

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Letter: Thank you for helping hospice

December 15, 2014 — 

Thank you for helping hospice

The volunteers, board and staff of HomeCare and Hospice of the Valley wish to sincerely thank all the local businesses and individuals who donated funds, facilities, food and drink to our recent “Trees of Hospice” event. Our gathering at The Little Nell in Aspen on Monday was a tremendously meaningful evening of remembrance, camaraderie and hope.

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December 14, 2014 — 

Robotic spheres were rolling around on the floor, 3D Concepts was printing ornaments, kids were flying airplane simulators and middle school science teacher Peter Hanson was showing us all how a wave can be visualized using water or fire. It was exciting!

With so much to do during this time of year, the Aspen Science Center is so grateful for all the friends who came to our Holiday Science Festival and the volunteers and sponsors who made it possible. The fabulous sponsorships from the Elk’s Foundation, Alpine Bank, Jimmy’s Restaurant and Bar and Atlantic Aviation allowed us to provide unique activities and continuous fun. Another essential piece was the organizations and people helping with activities: Ducky Coombe brought the blood pressure machine (to make sure the kids didn’t get too excited), Susan Terra helped people send recorded holiday messages anywhere around the world (while her son decided he was the keeper of the Van de Graaf generator), Wendy Blakeslee of Mountain Flowers provided an amazing display of flowers absorbing various colors and ingredients that affected their appearance, Evan O’Branovic helped us write code, Caroline Hanson had robots crawling around everywhere, 3D Concepts wowed us with their printer, Aspen Aviation had flight simulators, Shannon Pienaar mixed perfume, Ashley Lantes made the coolest polymer snow dioramas, Georgina Levey and Alex amazed us with sodium acetate hand warmers and Leslee Francis helped the crowd toss their own ice cream. Our adult and high school volunteers put it all together: Margaret, Bill, Whitney, Mackenzie, Kim, Jessica, Caroline and Emma (hope I got you all).

Learn more »

December 14, 2014 — 

The “Heart of Aspen squeezed by big development” commentary in the Aspen Daily News on Dec. 8 raises some issues, but in my opinion, skirts the real issues and fails to address the root cause of the heart squeezing, which began more than 50 years ago. Call it no growth, low growth or smart growth ­— all growth restrictions cause housing to be less affordable and create huge distortions in a community.

An opinion from the Washington Examiner from November 12, 2010, stated, “No matter how much local politicians yammer about how they support affordable housing, they are the principal cause of the problem via their land use restrictions.”

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Letter: Preserving and protecting our world

December 13, 2014 — 

Preserving and protecting our world

My family recently moved to Carbondale from Aspen (where my wife and I both grew up), and I am so grateful for the high value on community ideals and readiness around/commitment to local food system sustainability here. I love that so many, dare I say the majority of residents here, understand that the health of our community relies on the health of our environment, and that a united front like the Thompson Divide Coalition are working tirelessly to assure that health is in place for many generations to come.

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Letter: Thanks for helping the valley’s youth

December 13, 2014 — 

Thanks for helping the valley’s youth

The Aspen Youth Center would like to give a heartfelt thank-you to the Snowmass Village Rotary. Aspen Youth Center was a proud recipient of Snowmass Village Rotary Club’s Charitable Foundation’s grant. It is because of these charitable donations that Aspen Youth Center is able to continue to provide free after-school and summer programming to the valley’s youth.

In gratitude,

Keith Berglund

Executive Director, Aspen Youth Center

Letter: Please help me rally this World Cup season

December 13, 2014 — 

Please help me rally this World Cup season

Thank you to the Aspen community for all your enthusiasm and support over the years!

After sitting out the entire 2014 season due to injury, I am back! In my first World Cup race of the 2015 season, I scored my best-ever World Cup result, 22nd from a starting position of 56 in the Lake Louise Downhill. A dislocated elbow prevented me from competing last week in Beaver Creek, but I will return to competition in January. I need your support to continue my progression and competition on the World Cup Downhill circuit.

I have recently launched a Rally Me crowd funding campaign to help offset the cost of my training, travel and competing this ski season. Rally Me is an online fundraising website dedicated to keeping athletes like me in the game. On the page you will find a video describing a little about me and my love for the sport of skiing, as well as a detailed write up of my plans for this season and how your contribution will help me reach my goals. Please help me reach my goals by visiting the website (Google “Rally Me Wiley Maple”), making a contribution and following me on the World Cup Downhill circuit.


Thank you for your support.

Wiley Maple


Kudos and Kindness

January 12, 2014 — 

Let’s support the Aspen Science Center

Aspen is full of meaningful organizations doing fantastic things, but I want to express my appreciation for one that is in need of support — the Aspen Science Center. My story starts with my 9-year-old son. Like most young boys, he’s overly enthusiastic, filled with energy, slightly sassy, never quiet and always curious. He loves science in school and counts the days between visits from Mr. G (the science guy).

But the Aspen Science Center — an out-of-the-classroom nonprofit that puts on science events and programs — has enhanced his life. We rarely miss a Wednesday-evening Physics for Kids BBQ in the summer, he spent a full eight hours at last summer’s Science Street Fair, and he demonstrated air pressure during the Aspen Science Center’s Holiday Science Festival. The Aspen Science Center is hoping to open a science museum and lab in town where kids will be able to do science workshops during the summer and the holidays. They have ideas that will capture children and adults alike, and a facility like this would be fantastic for field trips, family time and possibly even birthday parties! Every time I see kids doing science, they are so involved, excited and wanting more.

The second part of my story is about me. I’m a preschool teacher at Wildwood, where we’ve had the Aspen Science Center come up to teach the kids a little science once a month. It’s been fabulous! I’m so touched by this organization, the impact it’s had on my son and the potential for science as a tool to understand our world and prepare for our future that my son and I have donated $200 to the Aspen Science Center (which is a huge chunk of my paycheck!). Please join me in supporting the Aspen Science Center. You can donate at www.aspensciencecenter.org or P.O. Box 4669, Aspen, CO 81612.

This is an organization we should want in our valley — it’s full of brilliant physicists, creative discovery, intelligent entertainment, fascinating programs and potential for a future of innovation.

Leslee Francis


Being a Buddy will change your life

Are you looking to make a difference in someone else’s life while at the same time enriching yours? Have you ever wanted to help make the world a better place? Do you seek a way to “pay it forward” in honor of someone who has helped you along in your own personal journey?

Look no further. The answer is simple and offers the ultimate win-win scenario for all parties involved. Lives are changed, communities are strengthened and lifelong friendships are created.

The answer is to become a mentor in the Buddy Program! Eleven years ago I made the decision to do so and took a leap of faith in the face of my own personal doubts about my ability to make a difference. Would I have the time? Would I be able to establish a relationship with a total stranger? Would it cost me money I didn’t have?

Looking back at what has transpired in the 11 years since I nervously met my then-7-year-old Buddy, I am now filled with joy at the decision I made to follow my instincts to get involved with this incredible program. I laugh at all the anxieties and trepidations I had, as they proved to be mere figments of my imagination.

I’ve had the privilege of witnessing the blossoming and growth of someone who is now a fine young man readying himself to be the first ever in his family to attend college and then conquer the world! I‘ve experienced the joy of seeing a future that we designed together come to fruition and exceed all of our expectations. We shared many “firsts” together: the first movie, the first rock-climbing/ropes-course experience, the first snowboarding lesson, the first camping experience — the list is endless!

I have witnessed the strength and resilience of the human spirit when we faced issues that would make most of us buckle at the knees. I have discovered that you can learn as much from a young child as they can learn from you. But the best thing of all is that I met a fine young boy who has grown into an exemplary young man whom I’m proud to call my friend. He has been the “Big Buddy” to my own children and has shown them firsthand the benefits of hard work and determination as well as the importance of not being afraid to believe in oneself and dare to dream big!

There is nothing I regret about getting involved with the Buddy Program except for not joining earlier! I have full confidence that my Buddy and I will be involved in each other’s lives for the rest of them, and I urge anyone who is considering getting involved to do so now. There is a great kid out there just waiting to meet you, who I promise will change your life in wonderful ways you now cannot fathom!

All you need to do is call 970-920-2130 or email heather@buddyprogram.org to start the application process! Visit www.buddyprogram.org for more information.

Peter Dolan


Generosity pours in for Aspen Science Center

For those of you who don’t know, Mark Campisi, owner of Domino’s Pizza, could be one of the most generous men in this entire town. When asked to donate pizza to worthy events, he always tries to be giving and helpful, and I can’t thank him enough for helping me out during Aspen Science Center’s Holiday Festival last month.

Mark and his beautiful wife, Tori, are longtime locals who deserve endless admiration and appreciation.

Others I want to thank (from the bottom of my heart) for their help at the festival are Aspen Middle School teachers Georgina Levey, Peter and Caroline Hanson and the staff of Aspen Middle School for letting us go science crazy in the middle school cafeteria.

Our volunteers included Ashley Lantes (Aspen Youth Center), Shannon Francis, Nathan Hanson, Mirjam Roser, Margaret Simmons, Mike Stranahan and a bevy of Aspen High School students — my thanks to you all.

The Aspen Science Center wants to keep hosting these fun science evenings — let me know if you want to help.

Jackie Francis


Letter: To be commended

December 11, 2014 — 

To be commended

Mark Udall’s courage in calling for accountability in the bone-breaking and rectal torture by the CIA should be commended. President Barack Obama’s “Look forward, not backward” statement is an affront to all law-abiding citizens.

Ray Cheney


Letter: Put the phone down and watch the show

December 11, 2014 — 

Put the phone down and watch the show

Belly Up, Aspen’s predominant live-music venue, is one of its most impressive cultural assets and a centerpiece of the town’s nightlife. It attracts an array of talented musicians who run the gamut from world renowned to rising up to yet-to-be-discovered. It is intimate and authentic, and would be the perfect place to see your favorite band — were it not for the frivolous audience that it seems to attract. I’ve lived all over and attended shows in the many points in between, and never have I encountered a more self-absorbed, inconsiderate, unappreciative and selfie-obsessed audience as I’ve found the last several times I’ve been to Belly Up. I’ll take nothing away from the quality of the talent and the thrillingly intimate access the venue allows to it, but I’ve been dumbfounded by the lack of respect shown to the artists by those who insist on having their own private social gathering front row and center to the stage.

At a majority of shows, it’s not terribly difficult to snag a spot close up and personal to the band, which is one of the venue’s most endearing qualities. But be forewarned, true fans are likely to share the front row with a crew of very chatty, drunk narcissists armed with the very latest in Apple iphone technology. And when they aren’t talking to each other over that stirring acoustic ballad, they’ll be waving these phones in your face in an attempt to videotape the show they have front row access to (but couldn’t give a s--- about) in order to post it on Facebook, Twitter, or “ME-Tube.”

Taking a step back, as I observed this (and later wrote about it), I had to wonder if maybe I was just old; a relic of a bygone era (the 1990s) where cell phones weren’t smarter than their owners and probably didn’t fit in their pockets anyway. A time when live music was a live experience for a real-time audience, not just a segment of someone’s social media campaign. But then I remembered, at a show back in August, just when I’d begun to assume I was alone in my “old-fashioned” concert etiquette beliefs, Whitey Ford of Everlast told the crew of iPhone videographers hoarding the front row to cease and desist. This past Saturday night, Alex Clare joined the movement, pleading with the crowd prior to his final song to “put the cell phones away and just try to enjoy it.” I think he even took a girl’s phone out of her hand and put it in his pocket. It was to no avail, as phones were out in force recording the final and only song any of them probably even knew.

Christy Yoest

Snowmass Village

Letter: Gardening gurus

December 10, 2014 — 

The Cottage has had the opportunity to work with Busy Beavers Gardening on our playground-remodel project. Arabella, Jason and their team were amazing to work with. Not only did they have amazing design ideas, but they had such a can-do attitude about getting this job completed and perfect for all of the children at our school.

Arabella did substantial research about early-childhood education before working on-site. Arabella and Jason have been gracious enough to donate $1,100 worth of flowers to our project. Without their dedication to our project and school, our playground would not look as beautiful as it is today.

Busy Beavers Gardening is a top-notch company. It shows great care in all the work it does. The team works hard and has fun doing it. We are so grateful to have had it as a huge part of the playground remodel and transformation.

Christina Holloway

Director of The Cottage

Letter: Donations helping local youth

December 10, 2014 — 

The Aspen Youth Center would like to give a heartfelt “thank you” to the Snowmass Village Rotary. The Aspen Youth Center was a proud recipient of the Snowmass Village Rotary Club’s Charitable Foundation grant. It is because of these charitable donations that the Aspen Youth Center is able to continue to provide free after-school and summer programming to the Roaring Fork Valley’s youth.

Keith Berglund

Executive director, Aspen Youth Center

Letter: Back in the race

December 10, 2014 — 

Thank you to the Aspen community for all your enthusiasm and support over the years!

After sitting out the entire 2014 season due to injury, I am back! In my first World Cup race of the 2015 season, I scored my best-ever World Cup result, 22nd from a starting position of 56 in the downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta. A dislocated elbow prevented me from competing last week in Beaver Creek, but I will return to competition in January. I need your support to continue my progression and competition on the World Cup downhill circuit.

I have recently launched a Rally Me crowdfunding campaign to help offset the cost of my training, travel and competing this ski season. Rally Me is an online fundraising website dedicated to keeping athletes like me in the game. On the page, you will find a video describing a little about me and my love for the sport of skiing as well as a detailed write-up of my plans for this season and how your contribution will help me reach my goals. Please help me reach my goals by seeking out this website (Google “Rally Me Wiley Maple”), making a contribution and following me on the World Cup downhill circuit!

Visit http://ussa.rallyme.com/rallies/1230/wiley-maple-rally.

Thank you for your support!

Wiley Maple


Letter: Grants for their generosity

December 10, 2014 — 

Every month, volunteers at the Thrift Shop of Aspen meet to continue to accomplish our mission: to make grants to other nonprofit organizations in the Roaring Fork Valley. We are grateful to all the community members who continue to support our efforts by donating and purchasing gently used clothing and household items. For the month of December, we are pleased to announce the following recipients: Aspen Homeless Shelter, Valley Settlement Project, Mount Sopris Montessori School, Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, Wilderness Workshop, Energetics Education, GrassRoots TV and Aspen Writers’ Foundation — Aspen Words.

Ellen Walbert

Thrift Shop of Aspen Public Relations Committee

Letter: Protect residents near drilling

December 10, 2014 — 

I lived up Divide Creek south of Silt on and off from 1985 until 2001. I had a beautiful 100-acre hay farm I bought in 1998, and I was prepared to build my dream place on it and raise horses. I built a large riding arena, put up corrals and was designing my house when I noticed I was having headaches every morning for about six hours. At that point I was living down the road in my old house, next to seven gas wells. One was almost on the property line. Whenever they let off pressure, the flames would shoot up and my house would smell like the stove had blown up. It was about this time my neighbor and friend Ann Wells contracted leukemia, a kind caused by exposure to benzene, either through air pollution or drinking water. Her home had spring water, and the leaking well (I presume, since I had headaches) was just down the driveway.

Chemo did no good, and she went quickly. It was tragic. Her parents lived into their 90s.

At the same time this was going on, the government decided to unitize the mineral rights. I realized at this point that Divide Creek would never be the same. What was going on ruined the people’s health, their property values, often their water (I had methane in my new well) and their views. It was going from a beautiful, green valley to a brown, bare-dirt, industrial zone.

I sold at a 30 percent loss and eventually ended up in the North Fork Valley, a special place because of its beauty, agriculture and people. I hope the Oil and Gas Task Force can come up with recommendations for better laws that protect property values, clean water and air, and the health of the workers and the people who live near oil and gas wells.

Jane Reed


Letter: Concerned parents should attend school board meeting Wednesday

December 9, 2014 — 

Concerned parents should attend school board meeting Wednesday

The Roaring Fork School District board will discuss Wednesday Superintendent Diana Sirko’s request for a contract renewal. The decision is of critical importance because it reflects a major change in the school board’s governance and process. When Rob Stein was initially selected as superintendent, it was after a lengthy search and vetting that included public input. Now, the board plans to make the same decision administratively. Parents are concerned because it was widely understood that Sirko was hired in an interim capacity. In fact, on July 26, 2012, The Aspen Times quoted Sirko herself saying as much: “Sirko said her job is also to help prepare the district for a permanent superintendent to take over for the 2013-14 school year.” To be clear, this issue is not about Rob or Diana: they are both talented and respected administrators. This is about a perceived change in direction by the district around a critical decision. If the board wants to appoint a new superintendent that hasn’t gone through the thorough vetting process Rob Stein did, then it ought to launch a new public process like it did last time. Concerned parents ought to attend the Dec. 10 meeting at Roaring Fork High School at 5 p.m.

Matt Jay


Letter: School district needs to keep moving forward

December 9, 2014 — 

It’s clear to nearly everyone that the transition many people had anticipated between Superintendent Diana Sirko and Assistant Superintendent Rob Stein is not happening this year. This misunderstanding, and the uncertainty it creates, is very disruptive. So how do we keep moving forward and create a more stable future?

Sirko, Stein and the other members of the leadership team each bring a unique set of skills to the table. We are fortunate to have these capable individuals working for our district. It is essential we retain key players to provide stability, continuity and effectiveness as the district vision is implemented. In our unique valley, strong employees dedicated to living here are hard to find. If we have high quality, in-house people leading the district, let’s not lose them.

Most members of the community would agree that Sirko has been an important stabilizing force over the past two years. She stepped up in a time of need, has created goodwill, a sense of trust in the district again and has built an effective, well-rounded leadership team. It is in the district’s best interest to use her talents and experience to ensure goodwill and a path that propels us into the future. Given that she will most likely be moving back into retirement within a few years, we’d be wise to think of her successor sooner rather than later.

Most of us also can agree that Stein is imminently qualified to be Sirko’s successor. He’s already been fully vetted by the community, been instrumental in the visioning process, and has the experience to implement many of the experiential education opportunities our communities are asking for. He is, therefore, a natural leader for the future of our district. I think we deserve an opportunity to see Stein in the position of superintendent. He has an inspiring vision for our schools; I want to see what he is capable of. If we wait too long, we may lose this opportunity.

A succession plan may not be binding in the future, as the board may change its composition again next fall. Regardless, it is the responsibility of this board to develop a succession plan that is thoughtful and well researched. I don’t think a good decision can be made today. A decision made in haste will most likely be revisited, especially if there is intense public opposition to what is decided. On the other hand, a strong plan with public buy-in sows the seeds for stability and continuity.

I encourage the board to create a well-articulated succession plan that helps ensure a smooth leadership transition between two very fine leaders. A solid plan must also provide enough transparency to unify our community’s stakeholders. I don’t want to loose the incredible momentum we have gained over the past two years. We need to keep moving forward.

Beth Shoemaker


Letter: Honor the process

December 9, 2014 — 

I find it alarming that the RE-1 Board is considering the renewal of Superintendent Diana Sirko’s contract and not honoring the community process that thoroughly vetted candidate Rob Stein for the job. Sirko’s post was seen as a temporary one until Stein could take the position.

Had a group of aware and active parents not brought this to light, the board may have quietly and behind closed doors — for whatever reason — renewed Sirko’s contract. While Sirko did her job, Stein brings a new level of innovative thinking to education going forward.

Please speak out at today’s board meeting at 6 p.m. held at Roaring Fork High School to demand the board respect the immense effort that went into the search for a new superintendent.

We need the right leader at the helm to take this district’s embrace of learning and personal accountability whether student, teacher or parent to new heights.

Jenifer Seal Cramer

Glenwood Springs

Letter: Choose Rob Stein

December 9, 2014 — 

It’s disheartening that we have to write this letter today, a feeling that starkly contrasts with the optimism and excitement we felt when Rob Stein was hired as superintendent of the Roaring Fork School District in 2012. It was unfortunate that he had to resign due to a family emergency shortly thereafter, but we were again pleased to hear that he would come on as assistant superintendent in 2014, with the expectation that he would take over the superintendent’s position in 2015.

Stein was selected through an extensive, in-depth process involving the community, staff and board members. He was hired because he demonstrated through his work experience and track record that he would bring long-term leadership and vision to our unique district. His hiring served to energize those of us who have consciously chosen to keep our children in the district, despite its reputation for underachievement and decades of losing students to other districts and more progressive schools. We were optimistic that with community support and strong leadership, the Roaring Fork School District would become known instead for delivering a highly effective, progressive and engaging education.

Armed with optimism and faith in the decision to hire an exciting, visionary leader in Stein, the community has widely supported the district in recent years. Now, however, the school board threatens to change course from the direction that was set in place two years ago, a direction that the community overwhelmingly supported and eagerly anticipates. The possibility that the board would make a decision to extend Diana Sirko’s contract without a process for community and staff input, effectively changing course from what we have requested, makes a farce of the very pillars of the district’s new vision: High Expectations, Integrity, Respect, Transparency, Equity, Trust.

We urge the district to stay the course and move Stein into the superintendent’s position this spring.

Joel and Kimi Mischke


Letter: Schools risk losing a gem

December 8, 2014 — 

Schools risk losing a gem

I was on the Roaring Fork School District selection committee that interviewed and hired Rob Stein in 2012. I vividly remember being blown away by Rob’s intelligence, leadership and clear vision for our schools. It was one of those moments when I thought that all the hard work over several months by many dedicated parents and staffers had paid off, knowing that we might actually get someone this excellent in our district. And it wasn’t just me — it was clear to the selection committee and the board that he was the perfect fit for our school community for the long term.

Stein was on the job for a short time before a family crisis forced him to withdraw from his position. He was later brought back as assistant superintendent with what I and many parents believed (and still believe) was the intention of resuming his role as superintendent when Diana Sirko’s contract expires in June.

I have the deepest gratitude for Sirko’s stellar district leadership during these past few years, and now, as we look toward our district’s future, I want to make sure Stein is leading it.

Along with many of my peers, I am concerned that we risk losing Stein if the board extends Sirko’s contract by three years without due process. District parents can get more information at the board meeting Wednesday at Roaring Fork High School at 5:30 p.m.

Diana Lane


Letter: Get creative with superintendent decision

December 8, 2014 — 

Get creative with superintendent decision

Dear Roaring Fork School District Board of Education,

I echo the impassioned sentiments of the many letter writers before me and implore you to consider a transparent, reasoned and thoughtful process in considering Diana Sirko’s three-year extension request on Dec. 10 at the next school board meeting.

Since you have two newly appointed board members who were not elected by the public, I urge you to slow down and delay making a hasty decision so that they may gather the information needed to make such an important decision. I also encourage you to think outside the box —­ there are many creative solutions. Those of us who have been deeply invested in supporting education in our district are counting on you.

Erika Leavitt


Letter: Body cameras prevent mistreatment

December 8, 2014 — 

Body cameras prevent mistreatment

The massive public reaction to the tragic deaths of three black teens at the hands of white police officers has led to a national call for use of body cameras to record and prevent any future mistreatment of suspects.

There is ample precedent. Animal-protection activists have used body cameras to document egregious atrocities and safety violations by workers in the meat, dairy and egg industries. The resulting videos have led to a number of corrective actions as well as felony convictions, meat recalls and even a $500 million civil settlement.

How ironic, then, that agribusiness interests in seven states (Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and Utah) have now enacted “ag-gag” laws imposing severe penalties for using body cameras in their agricultural facilities. The language is typically drafted by the anti-consumer American Legislative Exchange Council.

Let’s hope that other vested interests do not impose similar restrictions on the use of body cameras by law enforcement officers.

Andrew Teller


Letter: DA’s remarks showed lack of respect

December 8, 2014 — 

DA’s remarks showed lack of respect

On Nov. 26, The Aspen Times reported in its article “Troubled times at the DA’s office?” that District Attorney Sherry Caloia compared defense attorneys’ bargaining tactics to Jewish stereotypes when discussing plea negotiations. The Anti-Defamation League finds the report and the allegations very troubling. The slur that Caloia is alleged to have made calls to mind ancient canards about Jewish greed and dishonest business practices that have played a major role in supporting anti-Semitism for thousands of years. They are an affront not only to Jews but to all of us who strive for respectful, inclusive communities.

Furthermore, Caloia’s reported apology fell short. Someone who holds the solemn responsibilities of a district attorney should certainly do everything she can to avoid using expressions that reflect prejudice and potential bias.

Scott Levin

Regional director, Anti-Defamation League


Letter: Let’s not sacrifice a top-tier administrator

December 6, 2014 — 

Wednesday’s Roaring Fork School District board meeting (5 to 8:30 p.m. at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale) is a must-attend event for taxpayers, business owners, parents and community members in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.


It’s at this meeting that the board will discuss Superintendent Diana Sirko’s request for a contract renewal. The decision is of critical importance because of its cascading impact: Renew Sirko’s contract and we stand a good chance of losing second-in-command Rob Stein, a progressive educator and administrator who is leading the district’s strategic planning, and who many — including some board members — expected to succeed Sirko at the end of this school year.

The community is concerned, but the public outcry is not divisive. Rather, it’s a sign of an engaged, supportive and enthusiastic district. The outcry comes from the very same parents who worked hard to pass the mill levy, who participated in visioning, strategic planning and facilities meetings, and who volunteer in the schools, serving on PIE, boosters and the accountability committees. This community cares because it helped select Stein. This was the community’s decision, not entirely the board’s. And to lose him would be to disenfranchise the very parents most involved in the district, not to mention sacrificing a top-tier administrator who would be almost impossible to replace. Last but not least, it would be a waste of our invested time and the district’s money, to lose Stein.

The best way to avoid unnecessary divisiveness is for the board to find a way to keep Stein while Sirko finishes her work as our transitional superintendent. Short of that, the board should undertake a new public process for determining who our next superintendent should be.

Ellen Freedman and Auden Schendler


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