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Aspen school district working with prominent developer to acquire more affordable housing

As the 2022-23 school year approaches for the Aspen School District, the organization is moving quickly to house more teachers before classes begin.

A new proposal is coming from developer Mark Hunt, who owns a free-market building called the Aspen Edge Condos at 1235 E. Cooper Ave.

He wants to sell or lease eight units in the building to the district and have them be deed-restricted, which is essentially rent controlled or sales priced capped.

The district and Hunt approached city officials about the idea, according to Community Development Director Phillip Supino in a memo to Aspen City Council.

Council will consider the proposal on Tuesday and if it’s approved, it will facilitate the placement of school district staff into units on Cooper Avenue before the start of the school year.

The formal application is for a change in use at another building that Hunt owns at 516 E. Hyman Ave., where he wants to transfer an existing deed restriction from a 400-square-foot studio to a two-bedroom unit at the Aspen Edge building.

It would create additional units for the working class community and generate affordable housing credits for Hunt, as well as the conversion of 400 square feet from deed-restricted residential to commercial in his Hyman Avenue building.

The certificate of affordable housing credits program allows a developer to build affordable housing and get a credit for each unit that comes online. That credit can then be sold to another developer who uses it to fulfill employee mitigation requirements on a separate project.

City staff supports the proposal because it creates seven new deed-restricted units, which is 14 bedrooms, in exchange for the relocation and expansion of an existing deed-restricted unit, according to the memo from Supino.

The school district acquired eight units on Waters Avenue at the beginning of the year and gave a tour of the new apartments earlier this week. Three people already have moved in.

The district issued a press release on Friday touting its efforts thus far and explaining its extraordinary hiring challenges due to teacher shortages and a lack of affordable housing.

As part of the district’s hiring and retention strategy, affordable employee housing opportunities have expanded, representing a 42% increase in supply from a year ago, according to the release.

Earlier in this year, the district and the Aspen Education Association agreed on a new salary schedule with significant pay scale increases, since the average starting pay for a teacher is $50,000.

The new compensation structure coupled with the recently acquired housing stock has enabled the district to nearly complete its recruitment goals for the upcoming school year, according to the release.

The district has hired 35 new staff members, which includes 26 certified teachers and special service providers arriving from in-state, across the country and the Philippines and Japan.

Nine new hires also were made for educational support staff positions, such as paraprofessional, food service and transportation.

Those are mostly local hires with two new members from Australia and Scotland. In addition to the new 35 employees, seven certified positions were filled internally through existing staff transfers, according to district officials.

Recruitment is ongoing for some additional support staff positions and progress is being made every week to fill the remaining openings.

“It’s an understatement to say that these are unprecedented times in the world of education,” said Dr. David Baugh, superintendent of schools, in the press release. “We knew that we had to think and act outside of the box to identify and hire high-caliber teachers and staff to join our existing valued team.

“Much credit goes to our community partners who recognized our pressing needs and made it possible for us to offer attractive new housing options,” he continued. “We are so grateful that they have stepped up to provide us with affordable properties, some even turnkey, in prime locations.”

The addition of 14 bedrooms at the Aspen Edge building will secure the last needed housing to open the schools for this year, according to district officials.

Another major priority in preparation for the new school year entails upgrading campus buildings, pathways and systems, including enhanced safety and security protocols and features.

Indoor and outdoor construction has been underway all summer and while most of the work is nearing completion, there will be ongoing projects due to extended delivery dates and employment challenges, according to the press release. Funding improvements, including energy upgrades and sustainability initiatives, was already in place thanks to the voter-approved bond measure passed in 2020.

“Our board charged Dave Baugh and the administrative team to aggressively recruit and hire top talent for our schools,” Katy Frisch, chair of the district Board of Education, said in a statement. “Never before has there been a tougher time to hire teachers and staff. Our commitment to raising salaries and offering new affordable housing options has enabled us to meet our goals to best serve our kids and the community.”

csackariason@aspentimes.com

Altruistic sale of Aspen property equals more educators

The Aspen School District has not wasted much time in finding places for its employees to live since securing $50 million in voter-approved bonding dedicated to housing teachers and staff.

ASD has spent about $17.5 million so far, with the latest acquisition being eight units on Waters Avenue picked up for $5 million, as well as $2.1 million put into renovations of the 50-year-old building.

“The seller sold this to us at a very generous discount, and he feels very strongly about the community getting involved in helping essential workers,” said Elen Woods-Mitchell, the district’s housing program manager.

The seller, who asked to remain anonymous, said he sold the property because he believes that the schools are the bedrock of the community.

“The district lost of a bunch of employees because of housing, and that’s not right,” he said.

The property, known as the Red Doors — home to hundreds of ski bums and parties over the years and considered a rite of passage as an Aspenite to have experienced either — was appraised by Realtors at $25 million.

“It was a lot of money I could’ve obtained, but I think this is the best result we could have gotten, giving the school district unencumbered free-market housing,” the seller said. “There are many people sitting on property that could be sold for essential workers, and I didn’t want to give it away. But, I did my part and gave back to the town and will continue to.”

He first had thought of deed-restricting the property and began the planning process through the city but realized, after a few months, that it would have cost too much time and money.

Mark Janian, left, project manager for B2B Builders, talks during an open house last week to show off the Aspen School District’s newest units, located at 1050 Waters Ave. in Aspen, to be used for teacher housing.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

“The city’s bureaucracy made it too cumbersome,” he said.

What he did not know at the time of selling directly to ASD, which became a boon in the effort to get 36 bedrooms available to teachers quickly, is that school districts are exempt from local government jurisdictions, from a permitting and planning perspective.

That translated into getting the renovation work done in months rather than years.

“What that means is that the purview of this work was done and permitted through the Colorado Department of Education,” said Bob Daniel, principal of Gateway Management Co. and the district’s owner’s representative on the project.

The district bought the two lots in December and January. Once the previous tenants moved out, the renovation by B2B builders began May 1, and construction was completed by Aug. 1.

“We kind of took a pledge to each other to make it happen at the beginning, and it’s been a great partnership,” Woods-Mitchell said.

The four- and five-bedroom units have been completely overhauled with new doors, appliances, fixtures, windows, flooring, skylights and everything in between — including asbestos abatement and environmental testing.

An open house was held on Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, to show off the Aspen School District’s newest units, located at 1050 Waters Avenue in Aspen, to be used for teacher housing.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Mark Janian, project manager for B2B Builders, said things moved quickly even in a time of labor shortages and supply-chain interruptions.

“We went down to Lowe’s, bought what we could. From day one, we ordered all of our cabinets, ordered our windows, called in favors,” Janian said earlier this week during a site tour.

That expeditious process allowed three new employees and their families to move in this week. Two middle school teachers from Telluride, and a sign-language interpreter from Denver who will assist the athletic director.

Woods-Mitchell said the goal was to have the units ready in conjunction with the teacher calendar.

“It’s hard to make these units available mid-year because everyone hits the ground running mid-August,” she said.

The units are being rented at $2,400 a month, or $600 a bedroom.

Not all of the units are spoken for yet, but they will be soon, Woods-Mitchell predicted.

“These are to attract and retain, so it’s to attract a new hire or have us hold onto teachers that are with us,” she said. “Right now, our priority — per our mission statement — is teachers, district staff and hard-to-fill positions, and those are like special education teachers and counselors.”

The district’s other significant acquisition of housing was near the intersection of Eighth Street and West Hallam Street on the site that was formerly home to Poppies Bistro Cafe.

The district’s purchase of the Hallam property — which includes seven units in three buildings for $6.6 million — marked what district officials for months have cited as the first major housing acquisition funded by a $114-million bond that’s intended for facilities maintenance and improvements and teacher housing.

The bond spending breaks down to about $45 million in facilities work, $50 million in housing (most of that for acquisitions) and $20 million in discretionary funds.

Rents at the Hallam property are $900 per month for the single one-bedroom unit, $1,600 per month for each of a couple of two-bedroom units, $2,100 per month for each of a few three-bedroom units and $2,400 for the single four-bedroom unit onsite.

Schools Superintendent David Baugh said this week that if they hadn’t acquired the West Hallam and Waters properties, it would have been challenging to be at full staff, leading to a teacher shortage and larger classroom sizes, among other challenges.

“We really would’ve been up the proverbial creek,” he said.

The district also has purchased a one-bedroom condo in downtown Aspen with the bond money, as well as three units in Snowmass Village, two on Main Street in Aspen and another one in Basalt.

Altogether, those acquisitions translate into 13 bedrooms.

The goal is to have 143 units at the end of the current bond, Woods-Mitchell noted.  

In July 2021, the district had 64 units to offer — 57 owned and seven sublet. Starting Aug. 15, it will have 91 units to offer — 74 owned and 17 sublet. 

The district currently has 263 employees, of which 150 are certified as teachers.

csackariason@aspentimes.com

The science of spiritual growth: Awakened Schools aims to support students

The brain has a natural capacity for spirituality — a “neuro seat of transcendence” — according to Dr. Lisa Miller, and Aspen knows it best. From the schools to the trails, Aspen holds many pathways for getting in touch with the spiritual brain. 

“We are born with the ability to be in this deep, loving, guiding, holding relationship with the transcendent,” Miller said.

Miller’s work involves research to discover a human process of spiritual development based on science. She will present her findings at the Aspen Institute at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Paepcke Auditorium in conversation with Simran Jeet Singh, Ph.D. The findings are published in Miller’s newest book, “The Awakened Brain: The New Science of Spirituality and Our Quest for an Inspired Life.”

For her research, Miller spent three years studying spiritually supportive schools, eventually coming up with the DNA of a spiritually supportive school. The framework includes “12 drivers of cultural transformation.” Educators can select a few of the drivers to focus on, according to which elements best fit their school’s culture.

Although science and spirituality are often seen as separate and sometimes conflicting ideologies, Miller believes they go hand-in-hand. The historic refusal of the scientific community to look at questions of spirituality was a product of the culture, not of the limitations of science, she said. 

“We can take the lens of science and turn it to ask a broad host of questions, including the impact of lived human spirituality, including the extraordinarily different way that our lives unfold when there’s a strong spiritual course,” Miller said. “We can look at the profound life-changing effects of spiritual awareness on mental health, on personal ethics, on relational ethics, on outward performance. It’s absolutely game-changing”

KEY LINKS

In the 1990s, scientists began studying links between spirituality and mental health and found a multitude of protective benefits from spirituality. Now, there are hundreds of peer-reviewed articles supporting the importance of strengthening the spiritual in youth.

Miller is the founder of the Spirituality Mind Body Institute at Teachers’ College, Columbia University. The Collaborative for Spirituality in Education, which is a branch of the Spirituality Mind Body Institute, runs The Awakened Schools Institute. The Awakened Schools Institute is a year-long course for educators that combines scientific research and educational frameworks that foster spirituality and show how schools can support the “spiritual core” of children and young adults.

“Let’s support natural spirituality in all children in a way that is inclusive, in a way that honors diversity, in a way that is constitutional by supporting just the pure, natural, spiritual core,” Miller said. “Because this is not just for those who in the end struggle with (Alcoholics Anonymous), this is not just for those facing trauma. This is for every single child to strengthen. They’re really the hub of the wheel, the spiritual core of the whole child.”

Miller’s own experience with awakening the mind began with her innate spirituality being fostered from a young age. When her family went through a tough time, she dived deeper into the spiritual world.

“Through that road of trials, like anyone’s road of trials, more was made apparent,” Miller said. “In the worst moments of our life — 52-card pickup, bottoming out — it is actually the perfect moment. It is the best moment to open up to a deeper, richer and more spiritual understanding of life.”

The work Miller is doing aims to build a stronger mind for youth. According to Miller, when children and teens build their natural spiritual core, they are 80% less likely to struggle with addiction, 60% less likely to be depressed and 80% less likely to commit suicide.

The spiritual core begins to flourish during puberty, and continues developing into late adolescence and emerging adulthood, according to Miller.

“No matter what lens you use, you see the same developmental pattern,” Miller said. “We are born with a natural spirituality; it burgeons, whether or not we’re told it’s coming, whether or not it is supported.”

Miller’s view regarding the importance of whole-child education is increasingly supported by social emotional learning professionals who are implementing lessons to strengthen students’ spiritual core in classrooms.

“It makes it deeper, it makes it more long-standing and addresses this deep, latent capacity that increasingly is just left to lay fallow, but very much to the detriment of young people.”

Many teachers enter the educational world because they feel a personal calling to support children’s values, capacity for love and connection to nature, according to Miller.

“It is empowering for teachers to realize why they came into education in the first place,” Miller said. “At the end of the day, you have teachers realizing their spiritual core, you have students who through the relationship with one another and teachers flourish through the strength of their own spiritual force. All that we’ve really done is give people back their birthright, which is to realize what is natural spirituality, the genetic inheritance of every single person.”

AWAKENED SCHOOLS

This year, several Aspen educational leaders will be part of the Awakened Schools fall 2022 cohort beginning in September. Although individuals in the Aspen School District have attended Awakened School events in the past, this will be the first time that the entire school community has been invited to attend and work together on their own school and as a larger Aspen Valley community.

“I think what Aspen will contribute to the national understanding of awakened schools is the power of spirit and presence in and through nature and how that radically changes how a young person grows up,” Miller said.

Miller is optimistic about Aspen’s potential for implementing all 12 dimensions of an awakened school due to the community’s spiritual awareness and connection to nature.

“Aspen is the perfect place for Awakened Schools,” Miller said. “Aspen is a very spiritual community. When we are in nature for an extended period of time, it entrains to awaken the natural spiritual brain. Nature truly is a sacred cathedral.”

Anna Meyer is an editorial intern at The Aspen Times for part of the summer. She will be a sophomore at Vassar College this fall.

Aspen campus upgrades include energy efficiency, school safety

Over the course of this year, the Aspen School District will spend nearly $29 million on campus work from its $114 million bond dedicated to facilities maintenance and housing, according to district Superintendent David Baugh and Bob Daniel, who’s part of the owner’s representative team for the bond. 

On the ground, those dollars translate to some work that will directly impact the student experience and other work that’s more behind the scenes of campus operations. 

The roof of the science wing at the high school won’t leak anymore, for one thing. New carpeting is going into the elementary school; durable, slip-resistant rubber flooring replaces the current slick surfaces at the high school. 

A deteriorated terrace at the elementary school is getting back into a sturdier shape; an outdoor staircase leading to the high school that had been closed for safety purposes during the school year had become a mound of dirt by the time of the tour, soon to take shape a new set of steps that’s safe for use. 

“Landscaping and hardscaping” work will implement more drought-resistant vegetation, new sidewalks and drainage improvements, Daniel said. Some of that work is already happening outside the high school, where the usual lawns had turned into a full-on construction zone.

And right now, it’s all very much in progress. A tour with Daniel, Baugh and Haselden Construction superintendent David Hanen warranted hard hats, safety glasses and close-toed shoes for a walk through the campus on July 14. Most of the campus is currently closed to the public on account of the work.

Most of the work this summer is happening at the elementary school, which is the oldest facility, and at the high school. The newer middle school didn’t have as many needs. 

Some of the work is behind the scenes (and behind the walls and concrete), with the impact more felt than seen: more efficient fuel systems, a new snowmelt system, updates to building cooling and electrical systems. 

Safety and security upgrades account for some of the work this summer too; the district had already committed $5.2 million to that category by mid-June, according to a June 13 bond update for the Board of Education. The final dollar amount spent is subject to change as projects (and their costs) shift.

It’s one of the largest chunks of the bond spending to date, third only to deferred maintenance ($18.5 million committed by mid-June) and housing acquisition, upgrades and maintenance ($15.1 million committed by mid-June). 

“It’s not a very popular topic or very popular thing, from the standpoint of taking what historically in the community has been a very open campus, but we’re in 2022, and the district … has made an extreme commitment to ensuring that students and teachers are safe,” Daniel said. 

The most noticeable safety and security improvement on campus by the start of school in late August may be entrance control at each building. At the elementary school, a new double-door vestibule with a check-in area is taking shape where previously there was just one row of doors leading into an open common area. 

The middle school already has a vestibule at its main entrance. At the high school, which has entrances on both sides of the building, Baugh said plans in the works for next summer are to redesignate the entrance near the high school parking lot as the main entrance to the school with a vestibule and check-in area. 

An audio-visual monitoring and access system is in place at the elementary and middle schools; the high school is “under review for that,” Baugh said

Bilingual signage is also going into place and other upgrades to life safety and monitoring systems are in the plans, though some components for some security systems may arrive later due to supply chain issues.

“We’re actually hamstrung based upon the supply chain relative to some of the materials that are necessary to completely integrate that security,” Daniel said.  

“Over the course of the year, we’ll finish those projects,” Baugh added. 

Supply chain issues are also impacting other work funded by the bond, according to Daniel. 

The district also is spending some bond funds on sustainability efforts, with $2.1 million committed by mid-June of this year, according to the June 13 bond update. That translates to initiatives like photovoltaic energy systems (think solar panels) and more efficient fuel systems; bond funding also supports some of the infrastructure needed for four electric school buses and some chargers that the district purchased with a grant. 

The fuel efficiency is part of Daniel’s defense of the snowmelt system, which he recognized some people might characterize as “not very environmentally friendly.” He also suggested that there’s also a carbon footprint associated with people coming up to the campus and physically removing the snow.

Some improvements don’t fit neatly into one category: New windows, for instance, check the boxes for deferred maintenance, learning environment work and net-zero efforts.

Planners conducted a “pretty thorough investigation” of the needs on campus, so there haven’t been too many big curveballs in terms of the scope of the work — “less surprises than one might think on a project of this magnitude,” Daniel said. 

But rising construction costs have been a thorn in the district’s side this year that poked at some of the projects initially suggested during the bond campaign. 

Plans for improvements to the Aspen District Theater got dinged on that front; because it’s a community asset, Daniel said there may be opportunities to reach out to the community to assist with funding improvements. 

And plans for a new building to house The Cottage preschool and district administrative offices got tabled in the spring. A modular classroom solution for The Cottage that the Board of Education approved as an alternative also got nixed shortly thereafter, when planners discovered it was “no longer a cost effective solution” when they took the cost of site development into account, Baugh said. 

So for now, the preschool is getting a fresh coat of paint and an “interior redo” in what Baugh describes as a spruce-up. 

“Inflation has really hampered our ability to deliver on a brand new Cottage, so, as of now, we’re in kind of a holding pattern,” Baugh said. “We’re doing the best we can with what we have, and, you know, we’re guardedly optimistic that things will get better”

Students bring Shakespeare to the park in Aspen this week

Young performers are bringing Shakespeare back to the park this week with continued performances of “Twelfth Night” in the John Denver Sanctuary on Friday and Saturday morning.

Theatre Aspen Education is producing the shows, which began with a 10 a.m. performance on July 7 and which continue at the same time July 8 and 9. The shows are free, with no tickets required and first-come, first-served seating on the grass of the sanctuary. Audiences are encouraged to bring their own blankets and chairs. 

The summer Shakespeare is the result of a multi-week camp for performers in seventh through 12th grade. This is the second year in a row Theatre Aspen Education has produced a play by the Bard; students performed “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in 2021. 

Additional student productions take place later this month and in early August. 

“James and the Giant Peach Jr.” stars students in third through sixth grade; shows run July 21-23 at the Snowmass Chapel. “Bright Star” features performers in seventh through 12th grade; shows run Aug. 4-6 at the Aspen Chapel. 

Tickets for both of those productions are $20 for adults and $15 for youth age 17 and under at theatreaspen.secure.force.com/ticket/#/.

How one man’s dream benefited 25,000 Western Slope students

David Delaplane pondered a crucial question in his tiny Glenwood Springs cabin.

How could the local chamber of commerce that he managed improve education in the area? His answer was to start a college — an ambitious goal for a chamber that hadn’t recorded any education work.

Delaplane said he contacted the chamber’s education committee and “they said, ‘Well, yeah, let’s go for it.’” 

Today, Delaplane’s idea lives on as Colorado Mountain College and has shaped the lives of over 25,000 graduates since the school was founded in 1965. 

Delaplane, 94, never imagined his creation would expand across the Western Slope and eventually offer bachelor’s degrees. He sees it as one of the great college success stories, growing from two campuses to 11, covering over 12,000 square miles.

Delaplane recently reflected on getting students in rural mountain areas access to college. Here’s what he had to say.

Why did Delaplane see the need for a college?

While managing the chamber, Delaplane also served as a pastor. His path to become a pastor included education at three colleges. Higher education has been an issue he cared about deeply.

At the time, Glenwood Springs and other mountain towns weren’t the resort towns they are today. There was no ski industry, and Interstate 70 wasn’t finished. The gateway to mountain towns ran through Loveland Pass, a long journey to Denver and the Front Range.

Residents had few nearby, convenient college options.

Delaplane wanted to make it easier for students, especially the kids of ranchers and farmers, to get an education.

“I wanted to try to at least get something started where young people could at a reasonable cost go to college closer,” he said.

How did Colorado Mountain College become a school?

To start a school, Delaplane and the chamber needed to petition the Colorado Department of Education and State Board of Education for approval. They received unanimous support. Delaplane still has the letter from Aug. 13, 1965, allowing the chamber to go ahead with its idea.

Delaplane and the committee toured the five surrounding counties to ask voters to tax themselves to create a school and use the money to fund its operations. Four of the five counties voted for the measure, ensuring the school’s foundation. Delaplane and local leaders didn’t have a road map for establishing a college. The president of what is now Colorado Mesa University offered advice: First, he said, hire a president.

How has the school changed?

Delaplane and the board landed a president from Michigan. But the succeeding years of the school were marked by tragedy. The school’s first and second school presidents died in plane crashes.

David Delaplane shows the letter sent to him by the Colorado Department of Education notifying him they approved the creation of a college in Glenwood Springs.
Jason Gonzales/Chalkbeat

cmc-atd-070622-2

Early college courses included commercial art, English, data processing, welding, and agriculture. In 1971, as ski areas grew and multiplied, the Leadville campus began a one-year certificate in ski area operations. A school spokeswoman said it reportedly was the only program of its kind in the country.

What do local leaders say about the impact of the college?

The school now offers two- and four-year degrees, including jobs that connect students with the health care and the ski industries. The school also houses students, in an area where finding affordable housing is difficult.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers pointed out Colorado Mountain College as an example for its work tailoring programs to meet the needs of local industries. The school develops many of its programs in partnership with business leaders.

That’s always been the relationship the school has with the community, said Angie Anderson, Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association CEO and president.

The local tax carries on and is unusual among higher education institutions that receive the majority of their funds from the state. Instead, Colorado Mountain College receives the majority of its funding from its local tax base. 

Anderson believes that the use of local dollars makes Colorado Mountain College leaders more responsive to the community because the school must continually show it’s a worthwhile investment. And the special tax is used by the school to keep tuition low for students who live in the area.

“They work really, really hard to ensure that they’re serving the communities that are basically funding them,” Anderson said.

How does Delaplane see the impact on students?

Delaplane often wears a Colorado Mountain College hat, which he said helps strike up conversation with former students. Most recently, he found out a nurse at his doctor’s office graduated from the college, a training program he never originally envisioned in his cabin.

“It’s just wonderful to know that you’re meeting people who tell me that they got their start at Colorado Mountain College,” he said.

Read the original story at Chalkbeat.org.

Jason Gonzales is a reporter covering higher education and the Colorado legislature. Chalkbeat Colorado partners with Open Campus on higher education coverage. Contact Jason at jgonzales@chalkbeat.org.

Aspen Flight Academy aims to get every student up in the air

The Aspen Flight Academy is putting out the all-call for incoming Aspen High School students to participate this summer in the “Every Student Flies” program, which offers every student at the school an hour of free flight time. 

Participants may even get the chance to do it in airplanes that still have that “new car” — er, airplane — smell. According to Aspen Flight Academy’s Board of Directors Chairman Michael Pearce, the program just took in the delivery of $1.2 million worth of new aircraft. Two brand-new planes join one more that was already in the wings. 

“These kids will be learning in some of the newest technology there is,” said Jeff Posey, the president of the Aspen Flight Academy. 

The program usually gets two new planes every year and sells the two older ones, but they’re currently holding onto one of the two previous planes to bolster teaching capacity, according to Pearce. 

“We’ve kept our other aircraft for the time being as more of a test, because our student base has grown so much, and the amount of flight training we are doing has grown … and then what probably will happen is, as the years go on, we’ll change our deliveries from two (per) year to three (per) year,” Pearce said.

There are currently 104 students signed up for the fall aviation program, Posey said. The academy is a nonprofit organization that offers an elective course at Aspen High School, training for students seeking their pilot’s license and training for anyone interested in aviation. 

Posey said the program is already working on getting midvalley students involved as well, and the five-year goal is to expand downvalley into Garfield County, too. 

The way Posey described it, the academy could create a pipeline for students to pursue a career in aviation that brings them right back to the runway in Aspen. 

“Right now we’re producing about 10 private pilots a year, and we think that number over the next five years could be anywhere from 20 to 25 private pilots a year,” he said. 

High schoolers from the valley train with certified flight instructors from Purdue University’s aeronautics school; after graduating high school, those students could even end up at Purdue, then later might return to the flight academy as instructors, “then move up through the ranks,” he said. 

“We’re just trying to move these pilots, these young pilots through this program into large airlines, regional airlines,” Posey said. “And at some point, within the next five years, you’ll hop on a plane in Aspen — it’ll be an Aspen graduate flying a regional jet, you know, out of Denver, or wherever.” 

The Every Student Flies program has also involved some student interaction with the parts of flight that take place on the ground; before the COVID-19 pandemic, students would pop up into the control tower, too. Students may get a taste of aviation and then explore careers in the mechanical world or in the control tower, Pearce said. 

“Every Student Flies has trickled into all kinds of professions out of this one hour of flight instruction that they all get,” Pearce said. “That part has been very cool, and it’s been rewarding to see it be so successful, and create a career path for so many.”

kwilliams@aspentimes.com

Young Writers’ Institute of Aspen gathers in Woody Creek

 The Aspen Community School in Woody Creek hosted this week’s Young Writers’ Institute of Aspen, a program that aims to foster a community of young writers from the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond. The weeklong program began June 20 and runs through June 24; registration was open to students entering second through ninth grade.

Slam poet Jovan Mays and children’s book author Kathleen Pelley were this year’s guest writers.

“Finding your writer’s voice is a need. … Can we bring joy to that process?” said program organizer Elizabeth Maloney.

With contract extension, Aspen’s school board hopes superintendent will stick around until retirement

On June 27, the Aspen School District Board of Education unanimously voted to extend Superintendent David Baugh’s contract from 2023 to 2027, with added retirement benefits designed to serve as a retention bonus.

In the past, the board has extended its superintendent contract one year at a time; that was the case when John Maloy was at the helm. Why the long runway with Baugh?

Katy Frisch, the president of the Board of Education, said in a phone call on June 16 that the goal was to keep Baugh around through the end of his superintendent career amid “a lot of turnover in the administrative offices” and the awareness “that there are a large number of superintendent openings throughout the state.”

“We wanted to reward the hard work and dedication and incentivize it to continue,” Frisch said.

The extension through 2027 is based on Baugh’s target retirement age. Frisch said the aim was to “encourage” Baugh to stick around but that there wasn’t any worry or concern that he would leave earlier.

“We have to incentivize people to (stay), which I think we tried very hard to do at the teacher and staff level” via an agreement with the Aspen Education Association to introduce four new salary schedules with higher base pay as well as other details on additional compensation for teachers and other education support staff, Frisch said.

“We needed to do that (incentivization) in the administrative offices as well, so given that it is so competitive to find staff, it goes for the superintendent, just as well as it goes for the fifth grade homeroom teacher,” Frisch said.

As superintendent, Baugh is the only employee who officially reports to the Board of Education, which is why the board was the group that decided on these incentives; for the rest of the administrative staff, Frisch said incentives are under Baugh’s purview, not the board’s. “Our job is to approve the (agreement) with teachers and staff and to compensate the superintendent,” Frisch said.

ON THE MONEY
District staff have wondered in both interviews and board meetings this spring about the retention component to the district’s “attract and retain” efforts; district officials have so far emphasized housing, pay and addressing climate and culture through policy and procedure.
That agreement Frisch referenced raised some staff’s salaries by thousands, while others who were already paid above the scheduled rates or had lots of extra educational credits saw minimal raises of less than $1,500. And, as one Aspen Middle School teacher said at a June 1 board meeting, “it’s not just about the money.”
The district has sent out some exit surveys for departing staff to complete. Stephanie Nixon, the president of the Aspen Education Association teachers union, requested at a June 1 board meeting that the district share a synopsis of the questionnaires so the district can better understand why staff members are leaving.

A 360-degree review conducted by the consulting firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates was “a critical part of the process” that informed the board’s decision to renew Baugh’s contract, Frisch said. It was a blind interview process, meaning the people who weighed in didn’t know who else also weighed in to prevent any meddling in the process.

The Aspen Times left two messages with Hazard, Young Attea and Associates; a representative declined comment Tuesday.

Baugh wrote in an email on June 15 that because he was the one being evaluated, he wouldn’t know exactly who was on the interview list and that “in fact, most of the other interviewees would not know either,” but he did have an inclination of who was involved.

“I believe that many of the leadership team were interviewed, (as well as) principals, cabinet members, and AEA (Aspen Education Association) and some parents,” Baugh wrote. “I believe many of the board were interviewed.”

It was “one data point of many” in the conversation about contract renewal, he wrote.

“The overall evaluation, and my contract amendment, was based on progress on my annual goals, with measurable goals and progress on most metrics,” Baugh wrote. “The climate and culture survey was another data point, as was the fact that we have done a significant amount of work in a global pandemic, including opening safely this year for the entire year.”

The climate and culture survey conducted this year indicated that educators felt empowered and valued but also grappled with “unhealthy” amounts of stress and cited a need for better communication and more transparency.

kwilliams@aspentimes.com

Guest commentary: Bond measure is paying off for Aspen School District



Dear Aspen School District community,

It’s been about 18 months since voters approved a $94.3 million bond measure to fund Aspen School District’s highest priority capital facility needs, and just over a year since those funds were made available to the district.

The district is excited about the progress being made, especially given the many benefits tied to these necessary improvements:

— Attracting and retaining quality teachers and staff by providing expanded affordable housing options

— Making our schools healthier, safer and more secure

— Extending the useful life of our existing school buildings

— Reducing costly and disruptive emergency repairs

— Improving energy efficiency and sustainability

— Addressing instructional space needs

The following is a detailed summary of the types of capital improvement projects being undertaken, the status of those improvements, and estimated costs:

Affordable employee housing

To date, more than $13 million has been allocated to new housing acquisitions and subsequent improvements. An additional $700,000 has gone toward upgrades and maintenance to existing housing stock. An additional $36 million from the bond proceeds is budgeted for employee housing, which may include the construction of new housing.

Safety and security upgrades

About $4.6 million is being invested in important safety and security upgrades districtwide this summer and fall. The upgrades will facilitate more informed and timely security decisions and help provide a safer learning environment.

Replacing outdated plumbing, HVAC systems and roofing.

To extend the useful life of the district’s existing facilities, approximately $18.5 million is being allocated to deferred maintenance projects. There will be a big push this summer to address many of these projects, with some of the first upgrades to include the Aspen District Theater and work in every building on the Aspen School District campus.

Improving classrooms, science labs, libraries and performing arts spaces.

Minor renovations in each building will occur this summer and into fall as the district works to update and improve instructional spaces. The work occurring for the balance of 2022 will be a partial expenditure of approximately $6 million, which is also shared with creating flexible and adaptive learning environments.

Flexible and adaptive learning environments

Cuningham Architects is working closely with school principals and staff in planning for instructional space upgrades, including replacing outdated furniture at each school, beginning in the summer of 2022. Approximately $933,000 is allocated for the furnishings ordered for this year alone. Many classrooms will be affected positively by this investment.

Energy efficiency upgrades

As a part of various sustainability initiatives, an active study to provide photovoltaic (PV) panels on our building roofs, over parking areas, and in open spaces is underway. That work could begin as early as this fall with ongoing improvements installed through 2023. The district has purchased four electric buses and new charging stations at the bus barn. Through a grant from AltFuels Colorado, a partnership between the Colorado Energy Office and Regional Air Quality Council, about 87% of the cost of the buses and charging stations will be reimbursed. This will help further stretch the bond proceeds.

Space needs at the preschool

The district and its partners could never have projected the extent to which construction costs would increase as a result of supply chain issues and other factors. As a result, the district has had to make hard choices on what to scale back. One project that has been put on hold is the complete rebuild of the Cottage preschool. In the meantime, the district will be working to identify funding solutions to deliver on the promise of a new early childhood education facility.

The district is committed to continuing to provide project updates and addressing any questions you might have regarding the 2020 bond projects.

We appreciate your continued interest and support as we work together to provide our students with the best possible learning environments.

David Baugh is superintendent of the Aspen School District and Katy Frisch is president of the Board of Education.