Parents petition for Aspen School District superintendent’s removal
An Aspen parent group's effort to oust Superintendent John Maloy has taken form through a petition drive that went online this week.
"We respectfully request the school board fulfill their elected duty to serve the people and oversee the district," concludes the petition's message from the upstart Aspen Parent Action Committee. "We no longer have confidence in Superintendent John Maloy's ability to lead our district, and we ask that you immediately take the steps necessary to bring new leadership to the Aspen School District."
Posted on the website Change.org, the petition drive marks the committee's latest pressure play on the Aspen Board of Education, a board of five publicly elected members, to not renew Maloy's contract when it comes up for review in October.
"There's a real gap between who knows what's going on and everybody else," said Bettina Slusar, a member of the parents group, on Wednesday. "Unfortunately, the way that Maloy has run things, it's just created a situation where the people who are most affected are afraid to speak out."
Slusar said the goal of the petition drive is to collect at least 1,000 signatures and present them to the board at its next meeting Oct. 1.
Maloy did not respond to email and telephone messages Tuesday or Wednesday, and he didn't publicly address parents who spoke critically about his performance as superintendent at the Board of Education's meeting Monday.
Maloy became superintendent of the Aspen School District in March 2010, originally signing a three-year rolling contract that is subject to review and renewal each year by the school board. His current contract, approved by the school board in October 2017, is good through June 30, 2020, with a base salary of $183,403.
The superintendent was made the center of attention of the beginning of Monday's board meeting, when its public-comments portion was seized by a spill-over crowd of parents decrying the state of affairs at the school district.
With about 75 parents in the crowd, some of the chief concerns expressed included sliding academic performances, turnover among teachers and low teacher morale. No teachers spoke publicly to affirm the conditions those parents alleged; however, parents said that was because they were afraid to air their grievances. Two teachers spoke favorably of the district, while former college-counselor director Kathy Klug, a supporter of Maloy's, and her husband, Warren, urged parents to take a positive tact.
"I think if there are legitimate concerns, and obviously there are, if you're unhappy with your teachers or what's going on, there are ways to present those issues positively, and I have to believe this board, this administration, including our superintendent, are happy to listen to input," Warren Klug said. "But let's make it positive, and let's remember that the picture is much, much better than looking at schools that are rated way, way down the list."
The call for positivity, Slusar said, "is great but I'm not sure how you do that."
She said the petition's intention is to show the Board of Education that "this isn't just a bunch of senile vigilantes making up these accusations."
"Teachers and faculty who have expressed their concerns have been reprimanded and/or fired," the petition reads. "School performance is down, morale is low and the free exchange of ideas is nonexistent. Having a healthy, positive, and respectful working environment for our teachers and staff is the foundation of providing an exceptional education for our children. Given the superintendent's history (a reference to Maloy's former superintendent job in Indiana) of dividing the schools he has led, we have come to the conclusion that the situation is beyond repair."
At the meeting, board President Sheila Wills said she would call for a work session in October to address the perceived morale problem among staff members.
"There were some great comments about collaboration and keeping it positive," board member Dwayne Romero said at the meeting, "but there is clearly enough body of evidence here … to see that there is something amiss.
"And I appreciate the president's recognition and the willingness to conduct a work session. I want to make sure (the parents committee) understand that this is not a one-and-done. And when the community gets engaged, I think that's super important. We serve you, not the other way around." The divide has taken on a war of words, as well. The Parent Action Committee's flier for its first meeting, which was held Sept. 11 at a private residence, accused the district of engaging in self-interest and nepotism, among other allegations. Another flier, in an apparent attempt to mock the parents group, said, "We must empower ourselves to speak out and demand more problems. Life in this valley might seem like a fairy tale, but we know better!"