When these three seats on Aspen’s Board of Education were up for re-election in 2017, the Aspen School District was facing turmoil within the administration and struggles in the classrooms. Less than a year after that election, there was a no-confidence vote in the superintendent whose contract was not renewed in October 2018, a heavy undertone of faculty distrust in the administration, and concerns over reading scores at the elementary level.
Four years later, the district has refocused and has had a dramatic change in leadership, from the top with a new superintendent, as well as new principals at all three schools on the campus. The district has turned a corner, but it still has challenges ahead with climate and culture issues, discussions of equity, pandemic-related learning loss and mental health struggles among students, and the recruitment and retention issues plaguing school districts across the country.
To help the Aspen School District continue on its current path addressing and improving these areas, we endorse incumbent Susan Zimet along with Christa Gieszl and Stacey Weiss for the open seats on the Board of Education.
Zimet has four solid years on the board and knows that if teachers are not happy kids, won’t learn as well; Weiss brings classroom perspective but has said she won’t be a rubber stamp just for the teachers; and Gieszl acknowledges she is the “new kid on the block” but her work as a doctor on the board of health and getting testing to the district shows she’ll jump right in to an issue.
Aspen is fortunate to have a field of six candidates who all are vested in the district as parents of current or former students, and all have their strengths. During our one-on-one conversations with all of the candidates, as well as gauging how they performed at the Candidate Forum on Oct. 14, we feel the mix of retaining Zimet along with adding Gieszl and Weiss will help the district to keep moving forward in the next four years.
Zimet’s role the past four years has helped the district turn a corner. She comes to every meeting and conversation well prepared, has a great understanding of the policies of the district and has built a solid rapport with new Superintendent David Baugh.
She was the top vote-getter in the 2017 race when five candidates, including three incumbents, were on the ballot. She campaigned then saying the district was underperforming academically against the backdrop of high teacher turnover and low staff morale.
While Zimet did not get the endorsement of the Aspen Education Association that represents teachers this fall, she knows pay and affordable housing are big elements to teacher retention and she has continued to push on those fronts. The 2020 bond question, which earmarks millions of dollars for housing, was passed on her watch.
Adding that classroom perspective to the board is where voting for Weiss will be a good investment for the district. There’s no recollection of a former teacher serving on the board, and her insight after three decades of teaching and understanding our children would serve this board well as it navigates the work to improve teacher satisfaction.
Weiss brings incredible institutional knowledge, which will be good to not only look back on but to have content for making decisions going forward.
If your children attended the district even for one year before Weiss retired, you and your children likely had the opportunity to interact with her and know her passion for teaching music and fostering a “whole child” approach to education.
Considering candidates from a community perspective, the work Dr. Gieszl has given to the Pitkin County Board of Health and her work with local veterans shows she is committed to Aspen and the valley. While she and her family have lived here for less than five years after leaving Montrose, she has jumped right into the education system and immediately worked on the District Accountability Committee, and now serves as the DAC’s vice-chair.
Gieszl had a major role in getting COVID testing to the district in 2020 so students and teachers could get back into the classroom safely.
Aspen is extremely lucky to have a deep field of candidates in terms of backgrounds and qualities and strengths they all have. We have six candidates willing to put in the time and efforts without any financial backing. To learn more about each of the candidates, go to aspentimes.com/election.
The Aspen Times endorses Dr. Christa Gieszl, Stacey Weiss and Dr. Susan Zimet as the top candidates to join board members Katy Frisch and Jonathan Nickell (who are up for re-election in 2023) to continue Aspen School District’s push to get past the pandemic and develop a campus we’re all proud of.
The Aspen Times editorial board is comprised of publisher Samantha Johnston, editor David Krause, managing editor Rick Carroll, reporters Scott Condon and Carolyn Sackariason and copy editor Sean Beckwith.