Aspen principal given $30K severance upon resignation | AspenTimes.com

Aspen principal given $30K severance upon resignation

Art Abelmann

ASPEN – Former Aspen High School principal Art Abelmann was given a severance package worth more than $30,000 upon his abrupt resignation Nov. 18.

Abelmann, whose contract was to run through June 30, 2012, left his post with no formal prior announcement, citing “personal and family reasons.” A note mailed to close friends and associates on his last day of work said, “I would have liked to have had the opportunity to address you, speak with you and share more with you about what has transpired over the past 16 months, but at this time this is not an option.”

According to Aspen superintendent John Maloy, the severance given to Abelmann was a “compromise” that provided approximately 50 percent of what was remaining to be paid on his contract.

Abelmann’s contract for the 2011-12 school year was for a salary of $99,000; the payout – which totaled close to $31,000 plus moving expenses – will be stretched over a period of three months, according to Maloy.

“I am very much aware of the past, current, and future budget challenges that the district has faced and is facing as I have been one of several instrumental figures in helping shape the resolutions which have addressed the district’s budget shortfalls,” Maloy said, responding to the fact that taxpayer monies are being spent to resolve the matter. “The severance package actually will save the district dollars even when considering the hiring of an interim principal. This is possible as I will serve in the principalship for a period of time and the interim principal may serve on a part-time basis and will probably not be needed for the entire six month period.”

Maloy said last week that the search for an interim principal is under way with the goal of appointing someone after the Christmas break; he hopes to hire a new principal by July 1.

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Under the Aspen School District’s model of policy governance, Maloy is charged with the hiring and firing of administrators such as Abelmann; the Aspen Board of Education oversees only Maloy. As such, Maloy was the person to sign off on Abelmann’s separation agreement and severance package.

“It is common practice in the industry to offer a severance package for some separation agreements, especially when multiyear contracts are ended prior to the fulfillment of the contract,” he said. In Aspen, the use of severance agreements has been “situational in nature”; a severance package was offered to assistant Aspen Middle School principal Steve Nelson when he resigned several years ago.

Still, some in the school community question the real reason for the behind-the-scenes dealings.

“Our litigious society is the most likely reason Art Abelmann was forced to leave without any proper goodbyes to his students, parents and his faith community. When disagreements, money and contracts are involved, there can be unfortunate consequences,” parents Carmen and James Dowley wrote in a letter to the editor. “We all are aware of the low rates of pay for educators, and we would bet that the only way the financial aspects of Art’s contract were going to be fulfilled, necessitated his speedy departure from Aspen.”

Others agree that Abelmann might not have left the district for personal reasons, as stated in his official letter of resignation.

“I am a friend of Art’s and he told me he resigned. But I don’t care how many times he says he resigned for personal reasons, I know he was pushed out the door,” said Thomas Kosich, whose son attends Aspen High. “Anyone who knows Art Abelmann knows he didn’t resign, and anyone who knows Art will tell you the same.”

Maloy has said Abelmann was not fired; Abelmann said he had “no comment at this time” regarding his departure. He said he was returning to New Hampshire, where he was a teacher and later a school administrator, but did not elaborate on his plans.

jmcgovern@aspentimes.com