Aspen Board of Education will not renew superintendent’s contract

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
John Maloy

The Aspen Board of Education announced Thursday it will not extend the contract of school district Superintendent John Maloy.

After meeting in executive session Thursday, the board issued a statement saying it had opted not to extend Maloy’s employment agreement that keeps him at the helm through June 30, 2021. However, Board President Sheila Wills, in an email to The Aspen Times, said the decision is not necessarily final.

“The board has the ability to reconsider almost any of its actions at any time,” Wills said.

Maloy said he plans to remain superintendent until his contract expires.

“I am committed to honoring my contract,” he wrote in an email to The Aspen Times. “I look forward to fulfilling the mission of the district and accomplishing the board’s goals and priorities through collaboration with all stakeholders.”

The announcement came after the board met privately, in executive sessions, at least three times over the past month to evaluate Maloy’s job performance.

Maloy said the board formally notified him of its decision during Thursday’s meeting, which was attended by members Sandra Peirce, Dwayne Romero, Sheila Wills and Susan Zimet. Susan Marolt was out of town.

Maloy came under fire from community members at the start of the school year when it was reported that he and Wills were supporting the employment of district human resources director Elizabeth Hodges upon learning that she was criminally convicted and disbarred from Missouri because of her unethical behavior as an estate-planning attorney.

Rumblings about Maloy’s leadership style and approach, however, had been ongoing among some educators and staff members for years, although he had the support of the Board of Education, which had annually renewed his three-year rolling contract when he became superintendent in March 2010.

And in an email Maloy sent staff members Wednesday, the superintendent reported that a recent staff survey, which had a 67 percent response rate, showed less than 1 percent of the respondents “were ‘uncomfortable approaching’ the district office regarding concerns and/or issues. Although this is a very small percentage, we value all staff members and are committed to looking at options that work for everyone.”

Maloy earned $183,403 for the 2017-18 academic year, and he is positioned to draw $193,032 for the current academic year, according to school district records.

Members of the upstart Aspen Parent Action Committee filled the Board of Education’s past three public meetings in an attempt to persuade the board to oust Maloy.

Describing the school district’s climate and culture with such loaded words as “toxic” and “poisonous,” the group, which also launched an online petition to remove the superintendent, accused Maloy of managing the district through intimidation and fear, resulting in the early resignations of once-content teachers and others who were afraid of speaking out because of the fear of retaliation.

Maloy had a number of supporters, and some accused the parents of behaving in a “mob-like” manner and distorting their concern with loaded rhetoric. Maloy said he should not have initially dismissed their concern. He sent an email apologizing to staff members and parents last week.

“I was initially defensive and needed time to separate my emotions and feelings from the feedback to be able to listen and find opportunities for improvement,” he said Thursday. “There is great community and parent interest in the schools and I have an opportunity to open more lines of communication.”

The Aspen Parent Action Committee said in statement that “we believe the board has made the right decision in the non-renewal of John Maloy’s contract, but understand that this is the first step in many to come. APAC is looking forward to establishing a working relationship with the Board of Education, improvement in climate and culture, and to new leadership for the Aspen School District.”

A byproduct of the parent-filled board meetings was the board’s decision to bring in a third party to assess the climate and culture at the Aspen schools. The board addressed that matter in its announcement, as well.

“In response to the varying views expressed in the recent comments made by parents, teachers, staff and community members we, as a board, have committed to an in-depth study of the district’s climate and culture,” the statement said. “The purpose of the study will be to benchmark the current climate of the district and to develop a roadmap for improvement going forward. The study will involve all stakeholders of the district including students, parents, teachers, staff and community members. In light of the upcoming study and considering the input from our community, the board has decided not to extend the superintendent’s contract of employment beyond its current expiration date of June 30, 2021.

“The board has been encouraged with Dr. Maloy’s recent outreach to faculty, staff, and the ASD community at large, expressing his sorrow and regret regarding any role he might have played in creating what some staff and community members have described as an oppressive work environment. To that end, the BOE is looking forward to the open and honest analysis of the district’s culture and the identification of a path forward to create an exemplary culture and climate.”