Aspen’s economic struggles continue
May 14, 2002
A copy of a document request submitted to the Aspen School District last month by a local parent details a list of 15 items she and others wish to review concerning a dispute with Superintendent Tom Farrell.The request was drafted by attorneys of Aspen resident Carrie Morgridge. Morgridge cites the Colorado Open Records Act in the request, which was presented to Aspen School Board President Augie Reno on April 13.The largest item in the sizable document request is the call for three years’ worth of correspondence between Farrell, district office personnel, the district’s three principals and the five members of the Aspen School Board. The correspondences are in letter, private courier and e-mail form. Morgridge said she had a difficult time getting the e-mail records.”Mr. Farrell gave me 12 [e-mails], Mr. Smith [Griff Smith, principal of Aspen Middle School] gave me seven, and two are duplicates,” she said. “Everybody else did a really good job. [Assistant Superintendent] Joel Sheridan gave me 88. He had the most.”School district officials told The Aspen Times last week that e-mail records are the hardest to produce, since the district only keeps five weeks’ worth of electronic messages at a time.Also included in the document request:-district policies on monitoring of e-mail messages;-written minutes and tape recordings of all school board meetings and executive sessions dating back three years;-school board standards for evaluation of certified district personnel;-all evaluation reports for Farrell, “including written improvement plans, and strengths and weaknesses in performance, without limitation as to dates”;-records of evaluations of the three principals – Kendall Evans of Aspen High, Smith and Barb Pitchford of Aspen Elementary – dating back five years;-records of the search and hiring processes, as well as the appraisal of contract extensions, for the superintendent;-all contracts, “employment and otherwise,” pertaining to Farrell, again without limitation to dates;-any and all “settlement agreements” pertaining to Farrell;-correspondence, reports and records from specialists called in to aid in the search and hiring of the superintendent;-Farrell’s attendance and absence records dating back five years, as well as the reasons for each absence;-monthly financial reports on all district funds, dating back five years;-annual audits of the district’s financial statements, dating back five years;Some items, including improvement plans included in Farrell’s evaluation, the evaluations of the district principals and Farrell’s attendance record, are not subject to disclosure, a school district attorney said. The rest of Morgridge’s request, an estimated 15 boxes worth, has been turned over in the past few weeks.Morgridge declined to comment Monday on what she has received from the district so far, or whether she’ll add to her request in the near future. Instead, she said she was sorry to see that the matter had become front-page news recently.”We never intended for this to be a public issue, anyway,” Morgridge said. “All we’ve asked for is open documents.”She also said she would continue to represent “the silent majority” in the community – “people that feel this way [about the district] and can’t come forward” – as she began reviewing her requested documents.