Haptonstall done at end of school year
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The Roaring Fork District Re-1 school board voted 3-2 at a special Wednesday night meeting to terminate the contract of Superintendent Judy Haptonstall, but not until after this school year.
Haptonstall, who is in her fifth year as the school district’s superintendent, will be allowed to continue in her current position through the end of June.
However, that’s one year short of the original two-year contract extension awarded to her last year by the previous school board.
The board’s vote fell along the political lines drawn with the November election of three new school board members who had been critical of district leadership during their campaigns.
“This has been a long process during which we have been looking at a lot of feedback and information,” said new board member Daniel Biggs, who made the motion to end Haptonstall’s contract after this year.
“We come to this decision based on the entire body of input and concerns, both positive and negative,” he said.
Fellow new board members Terry Lott Richardson and Matt Hamilton, the board president, joined with Biggs in the vote.
“I want to thank you for your years of service,” Hamilton told Haptonstall before the vote was taken, though it was apparent where it was headed at that point.
“I look forward to the next six months as we put the district in the best position possible,” he said.
Board members Richard Stettner and Bob Johnson cast the dissenting votes, and said it was the wrong move.
“This is not the ideal situation in any case to make this decision,” Stettner said. “Judy has put a lot of heart and soul into this job. I am disappointed with this decision to say the least.”
Haptonstall declined to comment on the decision, as did a handful of supporters, including some district principals and fellow district administrators, who had stuck it out for the board’s decision, which came shortly after 9 p.m.
At the start of Wednesday’s meeting, the board added to its long list of comments regarding Haptonstall’s performance, some in her support and others questioning her leadership amid the significant educational reforms that are being implemented in Re-1 schools.
Glenwood Springs High School Principal Paul Freeman broke his public silence on the so-called “Moving On” standards-based student placement methods now being used by the district, of which he said he has been a critic.
“It is with reluctance that I stand here this evening, because I feel it’s best to have these conversations in private,” Freeman said, adding he has an alternative view of Moving On from other district principals who have expressed support for the reforms.
Freeman said there are ample studies that support “socially promoting” students based on their age, even if they haven’t shown grade-level proficiency on standards-based tests. That can be especially true of high school-aged students, he said.
Moving On is designed to assess a student’s ability in reading and math and place them in classes based on their level of proficiency, rather than automatically advancing students based on grade level.
Studies cited by Freeman suggest that method of student advancement is “minimally effective” and “profoundly negative” to a student’s ability to succeed, especially at the high school level.
He said he’s been on the “losing side” of the debate in Re-1 for the past three years as the new assessment and levels-based placement methods have been developed.
Former GSHS teacher Bob Brooks shared similar concerns.
“There are problems when you try to innovate without fully understanding all of the consequences,” he said.
And, there has been a long-standing reluctance among teachers and others in the district to be openly critical with district leaders regarding instructional changes, Brooks said.
“I do feel there is a climate of fear in the district, and a lack of respect for teachers,” he said.
However, Maria Bagby, a new teacher this year at Crystal River Elementary School in Carbondale, said this has been her “favorite year in education” after more than 20 years, partly because of the challenges in implementing the new system.
“I would ask that you look at the process of change before any big decisions are made,” Bagby urged the school board. “As for myself, I’m not afraid to talk in this district, because I do feel honored and respected.”
Longtime Basalt Middle School teacher Allyson Bella-Dodds also spoke in support of Haptonstall.
“There have been times when we have disagreed with each other,” she said. “But, no matter what, we have always been respectful of one another.”
Haptonstall’s $146,000 annual contract calls for her to be paid any salary through the current academic year, had she been terminated immediately.
However, with the official termination to come after the current year ends in June, she is not entitled to any pay or additional benefits beyond that, according to the contract agreement.
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