Farrell: Woman hampers school’s opening | AspenTimes.com

Farrell: Woman hampers school’s opening

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen School District Superintendent Tom Farrell said Friday that a local woman’s attempts to obtain district records are hampering efforts to get the new high school open and operating by fall.

Laurie Michaels, an Aspen resident who has been highly critical of Farrell’s management style, has made increased requests to obtain records and school-related e-mails in the past few weeks, Farrell said.

“It’s extremely frustrating for me, not so much giving her the records – I could care less about that – but we’re trying to open a brand-new school in a month and a half,” he said. “It’s taking all the time of our business office to deal with it.”

Farrell said the head of the technology department has had to field Michaels’ requests for e-mails while also trying to deal with technical aspects of the new high school.

“They’re saying they’ll send someone up here to go through it all, but some of the records are confidential, so we need someone there,” Farrell said. “And they’ve said they’ll pay for her time, but when she’s already working 14 hours a day, money is not the issue. We’re having a stressful summer, and the hours are difficult.”

Michaels and Aspen resident Carrie Morgridge first began airing their complaints about Farrell at a February meeting of the Aspen School Board. Both say they represent a “silent majority” of Aspen residents who would like to see Farrell ousted from the school district.

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As part of their campaign, the women have launched a personal investigation of school district records to take a closer look at Farrell’s job performance. In May the women were billed just over $2,000 by the school district, the cost of fulfilling a document request containing 839 photocopies made in April.

Farrell hasn’t said much publicly of Michaels’ and Morgridge’s investigation into his job performance. But he said now that the records request is interfering with a hefty load of work this summer, he’s ready to speak up.

“In my opinion, it’s interesting that no one has had the decency to come here and talk to me, or ask me one single question. It’s all been behind my back,” he said. “It’s the most hateful thing to do to any human being, I think. If they want specific information, I’m more than willing to give it to them. But they’re asking for document after document, and knowing how pressure packed this summer is, it’s just not fair. I don’t think the [Colorado Open Records Act] was intended for this. It’s a form of harassment now.”

Farrell said he has met once with the two women, to discuss how to improve the local schools, but the women did not seem interested in his suggestions.

“I’ve kept my mouth shut, I’ve taken the high road, and I’ll continue to do that,” he said. “But there comes a time that I have to say the kids have to come first. I sure hope they’ll consider that because it’s getting way too close to the school year.”

Attempts to reach Michaels and Morgridge for comment were unsuccessful.