Aspen High School students start online petition in support of principal Kim Martin
The Aspen Times
Aspen High seniors Kelcie Gerson and Ryan Scheidt had a unique opportunity to get to know their school principal, Kim Martin, in April when they visited Tennessee and Mississippi as a part of the Aspen School District Outdoor Education program.
When the two students read an article Saturday in The Aspen Times concerning an Aspen Education Association meeting that took place Thursday to render a vote of confidence or no confidence toward Martin and Vice Principal Mark Grice, they were outraged at what they read.
Gerson, the 2014 senior class valedictorian, saw that sources claimed the majority of Aspen High teachers at the meeting gave a vote of no confidence to Martin and Grice, and she couldn’t believe what she was reading.
“When (Scheidt and I) read the article from Saturday’s paper, what bothered us the most was it only expressed the teacher’s perspective on the issue,” Gerson said. “I can’t pretend to know the issues between the teachers and the administration because I’m only a student, but we didn’t think it was fair for Kim to only be represented by one biased view. That’s why we started a petition to get parents and students to sign in support of her. We’re hoping the community members can form an opinion of Kim based on the student’s perspective as well as the teacher’s perspective.”
Gerson brought up how helpful Martin was with scheduling issues during her junior and senior years. She said she helped her find the best classes to advance her academic potential and further her education.
Gerson will be attending Columbia University this fall.
“She’s done that with a lot of students I know,” Gerson said. “That individual help she gives students to maximize their education is a real important trait for a principal to have.”
In her four years at Aspen High, Gerson had three different principals. She said all three brought unique strengths to their job, but of the three, Gerson felt Martin was the best at trying to connect with her students.
“I feel completely comfortable walking into her office with any concern,” Gerson said. “She’ll give whole-hearted, genuine advice. I trust her in the same way I trust many of my teachers. I just don’t want to see Kim unjustly represented.”
Gerson is hoping the teachers keep in mind the students aren’t trying to say the teachers are wrong; the teachers’ opinion is as valid as anyone’s, but the students’ opinion is equally valid.
Scheidt said getting to know Martin on the trip to the South only reinforced his positive opinion of her. He couldn’t understand how anyone would question Martin, whom Scheidt said he admires for her care and compassion toward both students and faculty.
“I was shocked because I thought everyone loved Kim,” Scheidt said. “My mouth dropped wide open. I’ve never really heard anything negative about Kim. I texted her right away and told her that she’s had my back for the last two years and I had hers now.”
Scheidt said he knew of some minor issues that some teachers were unhappy about but had no idea that there were bigger issues at play. In his opinion, something shady is going on that the students are unaware of.
“I’ve talked to a few teachers that were out of town last week that would have supported Kim,” Scheidt said. “The story last weekend said a majority of teachers voted against Kim, but we don’t know the numbers involved. I know Kim well enough to know if she received a list of complaints, she would do her best to fix them in a reasonable fashion. I want to see this list of complaints.”
Scheidt plans to attend a school board meeting Thursday at 9 a.m. and is encouraging other students to attend and voice their opinions concerning Martin.
Scheidt said he’s looking for fair representation.
“I want to hear both sides of this situation,” he said.
Gerson and Scheidt set up an online poll Sunday evening to allow interested parties to refute the no-confidence vote. As of Tuesday, more than 200 people responded to the poll.
“I’m sure there are a few responses that aren’t valid,” Scheidt said. “But I know a lot of the names are legitimate. There’s a lot of student support for our administrators.”
When Martin was reached on Tuesday, she was shocked that the students were responding to the recent Aspen Education Association meeting.
“I didn’t know this would become a student issue,” Martin said. “I’m humbled by the support I’ve received from the students and from many parents. The reason I became a principal was that I wanted to help students get the most out of their education. I’m a student-centered administrator. I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad, but it’s a fact. My goal is always to do what’s best for the students. If I decide to stay here as principal, it’s because of them.”
Kyra Ryan had a personal story to share concerning the help Martin provided during a difficult time for her. Ryan was on track to graduate from high school with the class of 2013 but suffered from seizures every two hours during her junior and senior years at the high school.
She fell behind in her classwork but continued to attend school. As a senior, Martin helped Ryan set up a 504 Plan.
Section 504 is an anti-discrimination, civil-rights statute that requires the needs of students with disabilities to be met as adequately as the needs of the non-disabled are met.
Martin worked with Ryan’s counselor to set up a plan and worked with the teachers so they would understand Ryan wanted to be in school.
“Kim let the teachers know that as long as I was communicating with them, I could turn in late assignments,” Ryan said. “Some teachers didn’t want me in their classes because they thought I would be a distraction, but Kim insisted they find solutions to make my attending work. She gave me the support and confidence I needed to address those instructors. She didn’t gang up on me or the teachers; she wanted us all to be accountable for our responsibilities.”
Ryan ended up being a few credits short of graduating with her peers in June 2013, so Martin had Ryan return in the fall to get the required credits needed to graduate. Because Ryan didn’t really know the students in the class of 2014, she told Martin she was planning to skip their June graduation ceremony.
“Kim wasn’t having any of that idea,” Ryan said. “She had me get a cap and gown, then had me attend a January school board meeting. She told me to invite friends and family and had the board recognize my graduation. She really went to bat for me, big-time.”
Like Gerson and Scheidt, Ryan was shocked and angry when she read about Martin receiving a no-confidence vote last week from the teachers of Aspen High School.
“Kim has instituted many positive things that encourage order and accountability throughout the school,” Ryan said. “She’s someone I trust and admire. I don’t know about the teachers, but I have the utmost confidence in her as a true leader.”
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