District plans survey as it seeks new Aspen High principal
ASPEN – The search for a new Aspen High School principal will be exhaustive, if a public meeting Tuesday night is any indication.
About three dozen teachers, district administrators and parents, as well as one student, gathered for close to two hours to discuss what they would like to see in the school’s next leader.
The decision to include input from all “stakeholders” came from Aspen Superintendent John Maloy after Art Abelmann resigned abruptly for “personal reasons” after only 16 months on the job.
Abelmann’s tenure at AHS and his departure were not discussed Tuesday. Rather, those assembled were asked four general questions: what is working at Aspen High School; what do you value at AHS; what are unmet needs/challenges at the school; and what attributes should the next principal have?
Attendees worked in small groups to create lists of answers to these questions – anywhere from two dozen to more than 30 responses per question – which will be turned into a survey to be sent to all AHS parents later this week.
The first two questions were met with like responses, with most everyone praising the school’s rigorous academics, its dedicated teachers, the diversity of programming, and its exceptional students.
“These students actually take advantage of every opportunity for education. They are taking the bull by the horns and using everything we are providing them with,” said Phyllis Cron, intervention specialist at AHS. “That’s a testament to every teacher and administrator.”
When addressing the school’s challenges, issues such as the school calendar, cultural integration and respect among those within the school community topped the list.
Parent Roger Moyer translated this into what is necessary in the school’s next principal: “We need to continue to think outside the box,” he said. “As we look at the person we are going to bring into this school, we need to find a person who can lead some very difficult characters – characters who are entrenched, almost inflexible, but bright enough to be flexible.”
One group of teachers summed it up this way: “We would appreciate a person who can deal effectively with difficult students, parents and staff, and who can build relationships with a variety of students and parents.”
Others in attendance called for a principal who is a “strong academic leader,” and who can “model what it means to be an educator.”
It was also said, several times, that the person hired to replace Abelmann must be ready to embrace the Aspen culture.
“This person must be adaptable to the unique culture in Aspen and have a willingness to learn about the district and be part of this district,” said teacher and parent Andre Wille.
Moyer agreed: “When a person comes to Aspen, there’s a reality here that’s not like the rest of the world. We have to understand it’s not easy to fit in.”
For her part, student Loui Smith implored district administrators to find a principal who not only will work well with teachers and parents but also lead the school community in “appreciating the accomplishments of all students – academically, artistically or athletically.
“Individual students need to be acknowledged for their individual achievements.”
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