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New nonprofit for parents teams up with Conscious Discipline for workshop

What started as a monthly parenting newsletter known as Threads of Thought has transitioned into a new nonprofit dedicated to nurturing healthy relationships by promoting education, empathy and mutual understanding called Community Threads.

Community Threads was started by two local educators, Christina Holloway and Melisa Sweet. Holloway is the owner of Woody Creek Kids and Little Red Schoolhouse. At Woody Creek Kids, Holloway does everything from teaching to driving buses. Sweet has worked alongside Holloway at Woody Creek Kids since its start in 2016. Together, they are bringing their hard-won and well-researched knowledge on early childhood education into their new nonprofit.

“I think we need to make a place for children and educators in our community,” said Holloway. “We’re working with our next generation and these kids need more support, especially in the social emotional aspects.”

The idea to form a nonprofit was born out of Sweet’s monthly newsletters, which weren’t the typical school newsletters. She spent time researching tips and tricks for parents to connect with their children and eventually, the monthly newsletter turned into a parent meeting.

“When it comes to children, we hope to have an impact when it comes to how people see children. Although children are appreciated in our culture, I personally believe they are quite misunderstood and underestimated by most adults,” said Sweet.

After a successful parent meeting in November with many “aha moments,” as Holloway described it, they decided to look into forming a nonprofit to provide more services to the community.

“We started putting our heads together and came up with the idea. We loved the name (of Sweet’s newsletter) Threads of Thought, and from there the name transformed into Community Threads as we are wanting to reach our whole community,” said Holloway.

According to Sweet, Community Threads was born as a space for parents to share their child rearing experiences with each other and the vision grew from there. As educators, both Sweet and Holloway have an understanding of how isolating and stressful parenting can be, especially post-COVID and amid the many threats schools received lately.

“We hope that Community Threads can support families and teachers not only by offering educational opportunities such as our upcoming Conscious Discipline workshop, but also by providing a space where we can all come closer as a community,” said Sweet.

Their first event on April 5 is a Conscious Discipline workshop with Amy Speidel called “From Chaos to Calm.”

Conscious Discipline is an organization that works to empower parents with skills that create a safe, connected, problem-solving environment for families.

With the help of Kids First, Aspen Family Connections and The Aspen School District, parents and educators are invited to attend the workshop where they will learn about the different brain states and how regulating ourselves helps us teach children the tools they need for meaningful problem solving.

“We believe that healthy relationships are the foundation of a strong society, and we strive to nurture those relationships by promoting education, empathy and mutual understanding in our community,” said Sweet.

Community Threads is just getting up and running, and in the next few months they have leadership trainings for directors of local child-care centers and an art exhibition for children ages 0-5 in Paepke Park.

“Long-term, we want to dive into seeing what the community needs and wants,” Holloway said. “The more support we can give people the better.”

“Our dream at Community Threads is for everyone to see that children are valuable members of our society,” said Sweet.

If you go…

What: Community Threads and Conscious Discipline present “From Chaos to Calm,” a Conscious Discipline workshop for parents and teachers

When: April 5, 5 -7 p.m.

Where: Aspen District Theatre

The event is free.

Basalt schools get a new outdoor, experiential coordinator

The Basalt Education Foundation’s new outdoor/experiential education coordinator, Desiree Pimentel, has busied herself in sorting through outdoor gear and planning day ski trips for students since beginning in early February. Anything to take the load off of the teachers.

Amy Honey, executive director of the foundation, said the idea for the position came directly from school administrators themselves.

“(Teachers) said, ‘We’d love to increase our outdoor ed and experiential ed and we’re having trouble finding the bandwidth to do that,'” Honey said. “Normally, we give out our support just financially, but (teachers) were saying we need people hours to help us take some burden off.”

In a valley with an abundance of outdoor activities just outside the classroom, Pimentel said, giving students experiences in the outdoors is invaluable. Not only is it allowing for students to build a community from shared experiences, but it creates equity throughout the economically diverse schools.

“Kids have different access to these types of experiences, whether it’s not their family’s thing or there’s a financial barrier,” said Honey. “If these kinds of (experiences) can happen at school where everyone has to participate, everyone can be talking about their shared experience the next day. I think that’s important.”

Pimentel added they are working toward finding experiences everyone can do regardless of mental or physical disability. Partnering with organizations such as Challenge Aspen and Smiling Goat Ranch allows the schools to include all students in their different events.

“The partnerships with all these people who are contributing and working with the schools to add this programming will create equity for all and create compelling, adventurous things for everybody,” said Pimentel.

The experiential aspect of her position will be just as important as the outdoor part, they said. Not every student is going to love camping or skiing, for instance.

“Some of the trips are not necessarily nature,” Honey said. “The high school juniors go see colleges and for a lot of them, it’s the first college trip they’ve made. Also, there are chances to go and see things like the planetarium, which makes education exciting and engaging.”

Pimentel’s position was created to ease the workload of teachers and them to focus on curriculum, while Pimentel helps tie experiences into the curriculum. Teachers are able to talk to Pimentel about what they are learning in class and offer suggestions for field trips that coincide with curriculum.

“(Pimentel’s) there to support teachers. You guys tell her what to do, and she’s there to support. We’re letting (teachers) drive the train in terms of what they want to accomplish,” Honey said.

Another goal of the position is to create a progression in outdoor and experiential education from kindergarten through high school. It can be hard for a fourth grader to want to spend nights away from home on a camping trip, Honey said. However, if they start with single night trips at a younger age, by the time the kids are in older grades, they will have a higher comfort level with overnight trips.

“We’re super excited about that potential as Desiree goes on to create that progression and that culture that (outdoor ed) is something we do,” Honey said.

Pimentel has been the foundation board secretary for two years and is a member of the Taste Basalt Committee. She is a nearly 20-year employee of Aspen Skiing Co. and is currently the culinary executive assistant at the Little Nell. She has a National Outdoor Leadership School certification in Leadership, Environmental Ethics and Skills Practicum and is a qualified “Leave no Trace” trainer, which has prepared her for her new role in Basalt schools.

“When teachers are excited about something they want to do but they don’t have time to plan it, I’m hoping they can come to me and say, ‘I want to do this cool thing. Can you research it? Can you help me find the money for it?'” Pimentel said.

Though she has only done one Buttermilk ski day so far, Pimentel said she hopes to continue with different kinds of trips and experiences as spring approaches. Right now, she’s spending her time sorting through and collecting gear and getting ideas from teachers.

“I think it is an incredible position to be able to help teachers in a way. It’s amazing how much I’m doing already,” she said.

Latino students shaken, Roaring Fork Schools administration regretful after career expo included Border Patrol 

Latino students are shaken, and the school district apologetic after a career expo at Glenwood Springs High School included a table with agents from Border Patrol, an agency under U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“Why the h*ll was Border Patrol there? For what reason are they here? Why, in this Latino-majority school? Something we’ve been taught always is like this fear of deportation — documented or undocumented,” questioned a student. “I need something to change to be able to feel safe in school knowing that my race, my ethnicity isn’t a problem.”

The annual career fair is meant to be a fun and educational way to introduce Roaring Fork School District high schoolers to career opportunities in the valley and beyond. Students get to chat with representatives from over 100 employers, all while picking up free merchandise and getting out of morning classes with their peers.  

But at Tuesday’s event, the mood shifted when students realized that an agency responsible for the arrest and deportation of undocumented immigrants sat among the employers.

How did Border Patrol get there?

This is the first year that the school partnered with Carbondale-based Youthentity to host the expo after multiple years partnered with GlenX. Law-enforcement and public safety employers are regular features of the expos, but this is the first year that Border Patrol appeared. 

“In previous years, Glenwood Springs High School did see that list (of employers) in advance. This year, we did not,” said Roaring Fork Schoold Public Information Officer Kelsy Been. “So obviously, we need to make sure in future years that we are working more closely with Youthentity, so that we’re seeing who’s going to be there before the day of.”

She said that the school and the district deeply regret the oversight, but will not bar Border Patrol from participating in future job fairs. Rather, should the district choose to include Border Patrol, the school will “do so thoughtfully in terms of their location at the event and communication ahead of time.” 

Superintendent Jesús Rodríguez issued an apology statement Wednesday and reaffirmed the district’s commitment to ensuring students feel safe from threats of “intimidation, hostility, or violence, including threat of deportation.” He has not mentioned any opposition to the Border Patrol nor stated any intentions of banning them from future career expos.

“I think (the district is feeling) regretful and apologetic. I know that Dr. Rodriguez feels that if even one student felt unsafe, that we messed up,” Been said. “And although we weren’t at the table reviewing who was going to be at the career expo, we should have been. And we will be next time.”

She shared a statement from district principals via email: docs.google.com/document/d/1XzVX-xGFrNm-vRwedIPtB4PB7Yo-poPOi6qujV-WZE8/edit

Youthentity Director Kirsten McDaniel declined an interview but provided this statement via email: “Earlier this week, Youthentity’s first Career Expo was held at Glenwood Springs High School. Over 90 exhibitors were present including the U.S. Border Patrol. I sincerely apologize to any student or community member who was inadvertently hurt by their presence. The purpose of the event is to connect students with a variety of professionals to learn more about their career paths. This includes students who may want to serve their local community, state, or country in a law-enforcement or military capacity. Discussions have already taken place with superintendent Dr. Rodriguez and we pledge to work more closely together regarding future events to help ensure all students feel safe.”

In an email statement to The Times, Jason Givens of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol wrote:  “CBP attends numerous career fairs at colleges, universities, high schools, and other locations throughout the nation. CBP has a number of excellent career opportunities available that feature competitive salaries and an exceptional benefits package. CBP representatives attend career fairs to benefit students who might be seeking a career in law enforcement or civil service within the federal government. Representatives from CBP who attend career fairs are only there to discuss employment opportunities and not to conduct law-enforcement activities.”

The presence of the Border Patrol drew criticism from state Rep. Elizabeth Velasco, D-Glenwood Springs, and the Latino advocacy group Voces Unidas.

Latino student reactions

The Roaring Fork School District’s student body is 55% Hispanic as of the 2021-22 school year, and Glenwood Springs High School’s makeup is about 51% Hispanic. 

As a majority-minority school and district, Latino students said they expected greater care and sensitivity from their school.

The Times is using pseudonyms for the students since they are minors and fear that some family members could be endangered by identifying them in connection with their immigration status. 

“I didn’t see it straight away. But I heard from a friend when I walked into the main gym that there was Border Patrol at the Career Expo,” said Adrian, 16. “To any Latino, it’s crazy to see because essentially, it’s ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement). … It’s scary to think that at my school, where I went to the Career Expo to see if there’s a job that I was interested in, but I go and see (Border Patrol). It just made me feel very unsafe.”

He said that it brought back traumatic memories of his uncle’s deportation a couple years back, and that there are members of his family whose immigration status is not secure.

Another student, Vanessa, 17, said the sight of the Border Patrol agent and table frightened her.

“I’ll be honest, being from an immigrant family, I walked faster than I walked past other things,” she recalled. “I avoided that area and just walked away as quick as I could. … It’s just something that makes me nervous, scared.”

Adding to the layer of fear, just weeks prior, she asked some of her teachers to help write letters of hardship to assist with her dad’s immigration case. The letters demonstrate to the federal government how the deportation of a person would cause more harm than good. 

Vanessa said asking her teachers to help with those letters was extremely difficult.

“It’s something that you’ve always been taught to keep to yourself. You don’t tell other people you have undocumented parents. You don’t tell people you’re that kind of stuff or that, like, there’s a chance of deportation in your family, you keep that to yourself,” she said. “Having to tell my teachers was really hard for me and really uncomfortable. Especially when they would ask me about it, I would try to end the conversation as quickly as I could. After going through all that stress and all that uncomfortableness, seeing Border Patrol at school was just kind of an anxiety (inducing) thing. It made me nervous and just made me not want to be there.”

For Samuel, 16, seeing Border Patrol at the expo was upsetting but not a surprise. 

He said he feels that Latinos are often targets of racist behavior at school. Vanessa agreed that she has seen it, too.

In the student/parent portal Infinite Campus, Samuel said he saw and heard from friends that teacher comments noticeably changed in tone for minority students as far back as elementary school.

“Comments like, ‘doesn’t pay attention well, rowdy, disorderly.’ When you compare that to white kids … it doesn’t really go as harsh as it would for Latinos,” he said. “And racism has made a pretty big comeback in the school, too. Even during the Career Expo the police were giving out Blue Lives Matter stickers.”

“Blue Lives Matter,” referencing law enforcement’s “blue” lives, is viewed by many police reform advocates as disrespectful to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Apart from Latino staff, Samuel said he does not feel like he has a strong support system at school among faculty. And even though no one in his family is undocumented, Samuel expressed fear for kids newly arrived in the country or whose immigration status could be questioned. 

“Being a fresh immigrant, and there’s many in our schools, and having to see basically your number one enemy there is kind of … you would want to stray further from the school,” he said.

In an email to The Times via Been, Glenwood Springs HIgh School Principal Paul Freeman wrote: “We are committed to supporting all of our students each and every day. Racism will absolutely not be tolerated. We always encourage students to report any wrongdoing to a trusted adult or through Safe2Tell.”

All three students agreed that it will take a long time and more action to regain trust that their school will keep them safe, though they were reluctant to place blame on Superintendent Rodríguez. 

“I don’t feel like a Latino should apologize for an oversight that affects Latinos,” said Samuel. 

Topic long under discussion

Discussions over the role of immigration enforcement in schools have spanned years in the Roaring Fork Valley. And after a number of advocacy groups called for the separation of school resource officers and immigration enforcement, an agreement to cease information sharing between agencies arose. But not an official memorandum of understanding. 

“There is not a signed MOU,” said Been. “With our local law-enforcement agencies, we certainly have a working agreement. One of the reasons the current MOU wasn’t signed was around the cost associated with it. So I think both parties are working as though we have a signed MOU, so it’s not just a handshake. I think we all are following our agreement. But I think there’s just a piece around funding that has prevented the signatures from getting on that document.”

She said that disagreements over what the school district pays each local law-enforcement agency for the school resource officers are why the MOU has not officially been signing. 

The school district does not track and cannot legally ask anything that would imply a student’s legal status or their guardians’.

In 2016, the Board of Education passed the Safe Haven resolution. And they recently passed a policy stating law enforcement’s involvement in schools cannot be immigration related. Been said that the district sees the Border Patrol incident as failing the resolution.

“When we think about why this was a problem, it’s not because of a violation of MOU, either with SROs or Youthentity,” she said. “We think of it as a violation of our resolution to keeping our students feeling safe in our schools: free from intimidation, hostility or violence, including threat of deportation.”

Correction: Roaring Fork Schools public information officer Kelsy Been misspoke when she said the district would not include Border Patrol in future career expos. “The statement about banning them at future events was my misunderstanding. We absolutely would want to know they were coming so that if we chose to have them participate, we could do so thoughtfully in terms of their location at the event and communication ahead of time,” she said. The article has been updated to reflect that change.

Aspen schools tighten security, communication measures

A month after the threatening phone call that put Aspen schools into lockdown, district officials are still looking at the event from all angles to improve safety, security, and communication throughout the district.

An update from Aspen School District Superintendent David Baugh at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting revealed the district now has a working crisis-communication plan that goes into action when a crisis call is initiated and will be reviewed and updated frequently. Communication was something many parents felt was lacking during the lockdown situation in February.

“Our greatest single failure was probably our communication on the day of (the incident), and since then, we have revised our practices,” he said.

Spearheading the crisis-communication plan will be the crisis-communication team, consisting of five members at the district office. Each member will be assigned a task, from answering phones to obtaining factual information from law enforcement at the incident command post to sending out timely communication to stakeholders.

“The first five minutes are huge in a crisis situation. Our general strategy is to slow down the bad guys and accelerate access for the good guys,” said Baugh, noting there were no gender implications by using the term “guys.”

Within the first five minutes, the team will gather the facts and determine who needs to know what. In gathering the facts, he added it is crucial for the team to be able to ignore speculation and rumors in order to determine what the true crisis is.

“These cell phones are great to reassure parents, but they’re also terribly good at spreading misinformation,” he said of the cell phone usage during the February lockdown.

The first message sent out will be emailed, sent via text, sent via phone call, and placed as an alert on the ASD home page and each individual school’s page. Messages will also be put on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. From there, updated messages will be sent every 15 minutes via text, website, and social-media updates.

Starting next year, the district will be requiring high-school students to put their phone numbers into the system, so they receive the messages. Baugh said student liaisons revealed that the students hardly check their emails because they get too many; so in order to keep the high-school students informed, they will have to provide their phone numbers.

Once the incident is over, staff, families, and board members will receive an “end of incident” email explaining the event and inviting them to provide feedback.

The district has also begun making upgrades to the security of each of the buildings.

“One of the big things that is different about the Aspen School District is that we’re always in secure state …. Our doors are locked here indefinitely,” Baugh said.

Their key-card system has been upgraded, and law-enforcement officers have been given cards that will allow them to access all building doors at all times. Aspen Elementary School is scheduled to have updated key cards and entries after spring break. Due to supply-chain issues, the timeline for the middle and high schools is still being determined.

Despite the lockdown scaring many students, an Aspen High School survey completed by about 60% of the students last week, revealed that 71.4% of students feel “very safe” at school.

“Obviously, we’d love it if 100% (felt safe), but we will continue to have that conversation,” Baugh said.

The district will also be looking at switching to a closed campus, meaning students will no longer be able to leave campus to go out for lunch. According to the same survey, 75% of the high schoolers understood the need for a closed campus.

Middle school mathletes head to state competition

Liz Coyle’s MathCounts class was buzzing with excitement on Thursday afternoon as students prepared for the upcoming MathCounts state competition. The students were chatting while snacking on pretzels and popcorn because, as they put it, “snacks go well with math.”

MathCounts is a nationwide math program for middle schoolers of all ability levels. It is meant to build confidence and improve attitudes about math and problem solving.

The Aspen Middle School team placed second at the Western Slope Region of the competition on Feb. 25 and will head to the state competition at Cherry Creek High School on Saturday.

Students review practice tests ahead of the state competition.
Audrey Ryan/The Aspen Times

In addition to the team of four, Aspen Middle School sent six individuals to the first competition in Grand Junction. Though none of the them qualified for state, Coyle said they had one student who was very close.

The team qualifying for state is made up of Zoe Owen, Kieron Byford, Greta DeBacker, and Justin Mavrovic.

“I think because we did better than we thought we would (at regionals), I’m going to have a lot more confidence going into states than I did going into regionals,” said Zoe.

Zoe Owen, Greta DeBacker, Kieron Byford, and Justin Mavrovic’s MathCounts team qualified for the state competition in Denver on Saturday.
Audrey Ryan/The Aspen Times

The MathCounts class meets every other day and has been preparing for the competition with practice tests and tests from past competitions.

“MathCounts is about how much you know about math, but it’s more about using logic to do it the fastest. It doesn’t matter if you’re in eighth grade or sixth grade because it’s using logic and math, which is how it’s different,” said Jack Diaz, one of the students who competed at the school competition.

According to Justin and Kieron, the environment during the competition was very quiet, but it wasn’t intimidating to either of them.

“It was kind of calming,” Kieron said.

“You’re just focused on what you’re doing,” said Justin.

The school’s MathCounts class is made up of eighth graders, but seventh grader Norah Glasgow attended the regional competition with the group.

“I was mainly just there to have fun,” she said, adding she did not find the competition very intimidating.

Ten students competed in the regional MathCounts competition in Grand Junction on Saturday, Feb. 25.
Audrey Ryan/The Aspen Times

The competition is comprised of four rounds: Sprint, Target, Team, and Countdown Round. In the Sprint Round, students have 40 minutes to complete 30 math problems. The Target Round focuses on problem-solving and mathematical reasoning; students get four pairs of problems and have six minutes to complete each. In the Team Round, which focuses on problem-solving and collaboration, students have 20 minutes to complete 10 math problems as a team.

The final round, called the Countdown, focuses on speed and accuracy. The top 10 individuals are ranked and compete against each other in a best two-out-of-three format, Kieron explained.

“I started at fifth and then the person in eighth moved all the way up to second and beat me, so I went down to sixth,” he said.

Coyle said schools where she previously taught had MathCounts programs, and she was happy to bring it to Aspen Middle School.

“It’s a different way to approach math. It’s not just a set from our curriculum,” she said. “There are questions from all different areas of math — algebra, probability, statistic, trigonometry — there are all sorts of ways that we don’t even think about that math affects our lives.”

Aspen High School Theatre presents ‘The Pirates of Penzance’

Aspen High School Theatre’s spring musical production, “The Pirates of Penzance,” will be seniors Isabella and Willow Poschman’s final one, at least in high school.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Isabella. “(“The Pirates of Penzance”) is a good last show to be going out on.”

The sisters have been a part of Theatre Aspen for over eight years and did theater in high school for all four years.

Students rehearse for Aspen High School Theatre’s spring production: “The Pirates of Penzance.”
Courtesy Photo

“I think before I started doing theater I had a hard time expressing myself. Theater has really helped me with that,” said Willow. “Acting is one of the ways I can most easily express myself.”

Both of them agreed theater is a strong part of who they are and helped shape them throughout high school.

“If I hadn’t done theater in high school, I’d be a completely different person. It’s where I found my sense of self and the community I belong to. It’s where I learned how to connect with other people,” said Isabella.

“The Pirates of Penzance,” a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, premieres at the Aspen District Theater on Thursday at 7 p.m. and has showings Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m..

“It’s an operetta, which is somewhere between an opera and a musical theater show,” said Director Vanessa Strahan.

The plot centers around Frederic, who was mistakenly apprenticed to a pirate instead of a pilot by his nursemaid, Ruth (played by Willow Poschman), at the age of 8. Frederic is now 21 and chooses to go out and be the good person he wants to be, but realizes to do that he has to destroy the pirates who raised him.

“They’re very bumbling pirates,” Strahan said. “They don’t attack anyone they think weaker than themselves. They’re all orphans, so if they capture a ship and they say they’re orphans, (the pirates) let them go.”

Aspen High School Theatre’s spring production, “The Pirates of Penzance,” premieres Thursday at Aspen District Theater at 7 p.m..
Courtesy Photo

After leaving the pirates, Frederic comes across a group of maidens and their father, one of whom steals his heart. The group has a run-in with pirates but escapes because the general lies and says he’s an orphan.

Just as Frederic is ready to lead a band of policemen to take out the pirates, a secret is uncovered that will change his fate forever, but naturally, all comes out right in the end.

Strahan said the operetta is vocally challenging, even for adult performers, and is often put on by opera companies rather than theaters because of the score and the nature of the show.

“The singing is very demanding. A good 90% of the show is song instead of spoken,” she said. “Musically, these kids have tackled a huge amount, which is very impressive.”

The 14 students in the play have been rehearsing since the second week of January and have put in a lot of time and work, Strahan added.

“The kids work incredibly hard at bringing these shows together,” Strahan said.

In her time with Theatre Aspen, Strahan’s focus has been on high school, especially in the past six or eight months. She said that just walking the halls and accomplishing your day in high school can feel like a risk, but they have created a safe environment with an ensemble that’s supportive of each other and allows risks to be taken.

“Theater, I think, allows them to let go and feel that sense of empowerment and confidence. Finding these choices and making them work within the context of the show is a way to practice doing that in your own life,” Strahan said.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students and Aspen School District staff and are available at TheatreAspen.org or at http://theatreaspen.org/pirates/.

Snow days lead to tweaks in Aspen school calendar for next year

The Aspen School Board is adding four instructional days to the 2023-24 school year calendar to make up for potential snow days.

Although the 2023-24 calendar was adopted last year, the calendar committee made the change due to the high number of snow days they have had during this school year, District Communications Specialist Monica Mendoza said.

The calendar committee is made up of representatives from each school, a representative from the International Baccalaureate program, Superintendent Dave Baugh, Assistant Superintendent Tharyn Mulberry, and one of the school-board members.

In addition to the four days added to the calendar, the school board voted to eliminate three professional development days and replace them with six early release days on Sept. 27, Dec. 13, Jan. 24, Feb. 28, April 24, and May 22.

Spring break was reduced by one day, and spring conferences were eliminated, as well.

This totals to 173 instructional days for the 2023-24 school year, compared to 170 days in the current school year.

“This brings us into alignment with another school district in the county and allows us to fall into better alignment with the other districts in the Roaring Fork Valley,” Baugh said.

Board Assistant Secretary and Assistant Treasurer Katy Frisch brought up a concern with cancelling spring conferences because they are a time for high-school students to discuss picking their schedules for the next school year.

Baugh said they will circle back to the high school and ensure there is a smooth course selection process for the next year.

“It might just be a note from a teach in a subject area to the parent and the student on what (the teacher’s) recommendation is,” Frisch said.

The board asked for the total hours of instruction and the start and finish times to be added to the calendar document, along with noting the date of high-school graduation.

Two proposed 2024-25 school year calendars were also reviewed by the board, which Mendoza said will be presented for approval next month. The calendar committee has two proposed calendars in the work — Calendar A and Calendar B.

According to Baugh, the largest differences between the calendars are the start and finish dates for the school year. Calendar A proposes starting school on Aug. 15, and Calendar B proposes starting on Aug. 7.

“It also aligns with Roaring Fork (School District); it’s better for our IB programming, and it allows students to finish their final exams before the winter holidays,” he said.

Both calendars would have more instructional days than previous years. Calendar A would have 176 instructional days and Calendar B would have 175.

A change to the current school-year calendar, which would eliminate a professional development day for Aspen High School, was also approved by the board. The May 30 professional development day will now be an instructional day to make up for the closure of the high school on Feb. 8 due to a potential gas leak. The professional development day will remain for the middle school and elementary school.

Event highlights wealth and wellness specifically for women

Wednesday is International Women’s Day, which seemed providential for a story about a safe space for women to discuss wealth and wellness recently at the Here House. The turnout at the event was so great that organizers decided to make it a quarterly event.

From left to right: Michaela Carpenter, co-owner of Here House, Dr. Ava Shamban, and Shirley Sherman. 


Here House co-founder Candice Olson had envisioned the event for some time. Her zest for community, diversity, and open discussion led to the social club she co-owns with daughter, Michaela Carpenter.

“It’s the first time we’ve had an event like this,” she said. “We were approached by Yvonne Mychal of First Western Trust and were immediately intrigued. There are so many large-wealth events, but what about those who just have a little to invest or are overwhelmed by the process and structure and need basic information? We wanted to create a safe, educational environment for women.”

That just happened to dovetail with Mychal’s interest.

“My vision was to create an event dedicated to holding a safe space to empower women,” she said. “We wanted women to gain some education, allow them the opportunity to network with financial professionals, as well as to create connections. We hoped to inspire their confidence by discussing ways to support their physical and financial freedom.”

Local Ella Rathey (left) and Aspen Sojourner Publisher Nancy Mayer enjoy the first gathering of its kind for women in the Aspen community.
Julie Bielenberg / The Aspen Times

Carpenter, director and co-founder of Here House, said, “We offer a regular Wednesday speaking series, and when they approached me with this concept, we were excited to bring all these power topics to a public dialogue. This offered a one-stop-shop for all the things that interest are female audience.” 

Capital Gain

“I found there to be a large community of independent and financially-secure women in Aspen moving forward in the second story of their lives. However, they never had the time, education, or resources to educate themselves on their own finances/investments and or having trust in a firm or individual to help them with their own financial goals,” Mychal said. 

She said she enjoys working with and helping them — professionally and personally. Her role allows her to help uncover the freedom that a strong financial foundation can afford a woman, one that provides for adventures and experiences that will help her to live her best life.   

Aspen residents Sarah Sohn (left) and Mariah Morris (right) attend the first Women’s Wealth and Wellness Event sponsored by First Western Trust at Here House. 
Julie Bielenberg / The Aspen Times


“I felt it was a discussion in many social circles I was included in, that financial decisions were focused and/or directed towards family and-or the wealth creator in the family, in many cases the male/father, as women were busy raising the children and running the family households,” Mychal said. “A close friend confided in me just last week that when she visited her financial adviser for her annual review, he asked if her son would like to attend. My friend has twins, a son and a daughter!”

Allocation: Wealth + Health  

A critical component of the event was women’s internal and external confidence. Ring the Aspen dermatology bell because many local women are game for beauty advice. Why not combine financial and beauty education?

“This past summer in my Los Angeles office, we did an event focused on women’s health, beauty, and the latest and greatest in office treatments and skin care,” said Dr. Ava Shamban, a board-certified celebrity dermatologist and the evening’s headline speaker. “Yvonne attended and thought the topic would be a good fit for a women and finance event that she was planning. As a dermatologist, I know that when you look good, you feel better and have more confidence in your work and your personal life. Also, knowledge is power, too, and being informed about finance is also part of female well-being”

“Our financial, physical, and even our aesthetic well-being aligns in that they all need consistency, care, and a professional check-up, along with making changes as we are in different stages of life,” she said. 


“We wanted to celebrate women from all walks of life: business owners, C-suite executives, moms, women in transition and more … and we encourage them to be pro-active in their own financial affairs,” Mychal said. “Our theme for the evening was protection and prevention on the areas that hit closest to home. Those being financial planning, retirement, and the preservation of assets. Then moving onto the second part of the program — the discussion on cosmetic beauty, aging, and holistic/natural health remedies — essentially how to fix yourself from within.”

“Women should be empowered with knowledge to make decisions that change the trajectory in how we live and how we age, from choices affecting how we will face our financial future and how we see our faces in the future,” Dr. Shamban said. “We are all living longer and should be living better. We need to protect and correct along the way in all aspects of our lives. Eliminating the fear factors of the unknown and putting our best face forward, literally, is key.” 

The crowd’s response and feedback seemed to solidify that there’s a void in the Aspen women’s community for opportunities to learn how to become financially independent.  

Net Worth 

Beauty and brains do seem to be a winning combination.

“It is multifactorial, but in my personal circumstance, I am a doctor who became an accidental entrepreneur, independent, and running four offices, a research clinic, developing and funding a skincare line, and managing over 55 people on my staff, 95% of whom are women, many of whom are minority and POC, and the majority of whom are the primary breadwinner in their family. The business of beauty is key in the financial freedom and wealth empowerment,” Dr. Shamban said.

Generally speaking, she said she believes people feel better when they look better, and that confidence is palpable and contagious. She said beauty is confidence, and confidence is powerful.

Balance Sheet

“It all starts with education and understanding the landscape of opportunities and then finding like-minded professionals who share that aesthetic. In my field, it is those who have an artistic and natural perspective and share in an aesthetics responsibility,” said Dr. Shamban.

Mychal said she hoped to add presentations on women as business owners, women’s lifespan, inheritance, real estate, and more.

Return on Investment 

“Did you know women outlive men, and 90% of women will most likely be managing their own affairs? On average, a 75-year-old woman with no chronic conditions will live 17.3 additional years,” said Mychal. 

Cindy Bragdon, a senior wealth adviser at First Western Trust, said, “Women should never become fully dependent on anyone.” The crowd roared with applause and cheers at her statement.

Thinking financially out loud 

Catherine Runge, vice president of insurance operations at Western Trust, posed a series of questions to the women:

  • Are you sure your life insurance policy beneficiaries match your current lifestyle, or did you check the box of buying a policy when you bought your first house and never looked at it again?
  • When is the last time you let a professional review your life insurance coverage?
  • Has your estate has grown in size and value? And has your insurance policy increased in benefit to provide adequate funding for your family equal to the current value of your estate?
  • If you have a business agreement in place with your partners, have you funded the agreement through the use of life insurance?
  • What is your plan for your care as you age? Who is taking care of you in case you need outside assistance at home or in a facility? Do you really want it to be a child or partner?
  • If your (almost) adult kid was put in charge of your family investments today, on a scale of 1-10, how confident are you that they are ready?

Kids prepare the main ingredient for Empty Bowls fundraiser Wednesday

There are brightly colored bowls overflowing boxes and lining the tables of Aspen Middle School art teacher Rae Lampe’s classroom as she prepares for her 19th year of Empty Bowls.

“It’s an incredible project we do,” Lampe said.

The event returns to Buttermilk Mountain Lodge, formerly known as Bumps, Wednesday afternoon for all community members who want soup, bread, dessert and a hand-crafted bowl to take home. The cost of a meal is a $10 donation, and all proceeds go to regional non-profit food pantry Lift Up.

Empty Bowls returns to Buttermilk Mountain Lodge at 5-7 p.m. Wednesday.
Audrey Ryan/The Aspen Times

The bowls are hand molded and painted by Aspen middle schoolers and students at Aspen Community School. Each of the hundreds of bowls is different and reflects the creativity of the students who created them.

For Lampe’s students, Empty Bowls is more than just an art project. It’s also an opportunity to teach her students about food distribution across the globe.

“It’s not just make a bowl and raise some money,” she said.

Lampe has a whole curriculum that goes with making the bowls, including a game involving candy.

“I divide (students) into countries and then I distribute M&Ms in the proportion of the amount of food that is consumed in that area,” Lampe said. “For example, Africa gets 13 M&Ms versus the United States getting 61. It has an impression.”

Students use a mold to shape each bowl into the right shape before firing it. Although many of the students want to write their names on their bowls so they can paint the one they shaped, Lampe has the bowls remain anonymous.

“Part of this is physically making something to give away,” she said, adding that the students gain a lot from painting something another student created because it builds a sense of community.

Lampe emphasized the importance she places in students using their hands in a time when so much is technological. Creating the bowls gives students a tangible way to see the impact they have on the world around them, she believes.

In addition to being a fundraiser and community event, Empty Bowls will generate no waste this year. Lampe thrifted hundreds of spoons from Aspen Thrift Store for this event. There will be a compost bin for food scraps and napkins, as well as a dishwashing station so people can take home clean bowls.

“We live in a valley that is so generous. They give us soup, bread and dessert. SkiCo gives us a place to host,” she said.

More than a dozen local restaurants are donating food for Empty Bowls, including the Caribou Club, Tasters, Paradise Bakery, Clark’s Market, Cache Cache, Home Team BBQ, Meat and Cheese, Big Wrap, Betula and Louis Swiss Bakery.

“Empty Bowls” is a nationwide initiative led by artists and craftspeople to raise funds for local food organizations and to bring greater awareness to hunger. After participants finish their meals, the bowls serve as a reminder that others still face empty bowls.

The vent poster states, “Participants leave with a full tummy, a bowl, a warm heart and a nourished soul.” which Lampe said they wrote a while ago but stays true to this day and is something she loves.

“I love the idea of actually making something with your hands to give back to the community,” she said.

If you go…

Where: Buttermilk Mountain Lodge, Base of Buttermilk

When: Wednesday,  5-7 p.m.

Cost: $10 for soup, bread, dessert and a handmade ceramic bowl


Another threatening call puts Aspen schools in ‘secure’ mode

Aspen School District went into “secure” status on Wednesday morning after receiving another threatening call.

At 9:30 a.m., law enforcement received a call with a similar message as the one that put the school into lockdown on Feb. 22, Aspen schools Communications Specialist Monica Mendoza said.

“Rather than locking down, we secured all buildings at the outside entrances while law enforcement cleared the campus,” she said.

“Secure,” or lockout, status means students and staff remain in the buildings, and exterior doors are locked, according to the Standard Response Protocol Aspen schools follow. Lockouts occur as a precautionary measure due to a suspected and/or immediate threat or hazard outside the building. Class resumes as normal, and the main entries to the buildings are monitored.

At the town-hall style safety discussion on Feb. 23 following the previous day’s lockdown, Pitkin County Sheriff Michael Buglione said if the swatting event were to happen again, law enforcement would respond in the same way. However, the schools went into “secure” rather than lockdown this time around.

An email went out to parents from the school district at 9:48 a.m. informing them of “secure” status.

“Parents please DO NOT come to campus. We will provide updates every 30 minutes,” the email stated in both English and Spanish. Notifications being sent in only English was a concern one student brought up at the town hall-style safety discussion.

Once the school received an “all clear,” activities resumed as normal, Mendoza said. Officers remained on campus for the remainder of the day to keep a sense of “situational awareness.”

After last week’s lockdown, the district and law enforcement identified communication as their No. 1 priority for improvement, which she said she believes they improved on this time around.

A PitkinAlert message went out at 10:07 a.m. informing the community the schools were in “secure” mode. It also stated law enforcement was present at Basalt schools, but classes were running as normal there.

Another PitkinAlert at 10:44 a.m. stated there was no threat at the Aspen schools, and schools were released to normal business. Law enforcement remained on campus throughout the day.

Much like last week, other Colorado schools were placed on “secure” due to swatting threats. According to The Denver Post, Boulder High School and Pennock Elementary School in Brighton were affected by swatting calls in addition to Aspen School District.

Colorado is not the only state receiving these phone calls. A report from EducationWeek says schools in California, Michigan, and Vermont have also been disrupted by swatting phone calls. Another report from Rochester’s News-Talk says an elementary school in Austin, Minnesota, went into lockdown on Monday morning as a result of a false report of an active shooter. According to the report, gunshots were believed to have been heard in the background of the emergency call.