Hundreds say farewell to Farrell |

Hundreds say farewell to Farrell

Jill Evans
Special to The Aspen Times

Hundreds of people gathered at the Hotel Jerome Friday evening for a final farewell to Aspen School District Superintendent Tom Farrell.

Several people took the opportunity to express their gratitude and fond memories of the 15-year superintendent and his family.

And hundreds of others lingered afterward to personally thank Farrell and his wife, Debbie. Lynn Russell, a mother of an Aspen student and a member of the Aspen Education Foundation, spoke of the community’s loss with Farrell’s departure.

“His leaving Aspen is a huge loss for our community and gain for whoever receives his gifts in the future,” she said.

Farrell will remain as head of the Aspen district until midsummer, when he plans to begin his new job as superintendent of schools in Kennebunk, Maine.

English teacher Andy Popinchalk spoke on behalf of the faculty. Joking about the superintendent’s “gander” through the halls, he said, “Tom took time in being both with us and for us, his faculty, staff, and students.”

He spoke of the connection that Farrell has with every person he meets. His connection might be a joke, a witty comment, or a sincere question, but there is a genuine concern for people. Teacher Mike Christopher said, “Tom thinks of himself as a people’s person, and he truly is a people’s person.”

His impact on the community could be felt by the number of people who attended the party, but also by the numerous invitations he had to return to the valley.

“Tom has made a bigger difference in 15 years than most people do in a lifetime,” counselor Geraldine Graham said.

Former student Bessy Carper spoke of Farrell’s efforts in drug prevention and said that his passion is truly “phenomenal.”

He began Project Graduation, a party thrown for graduating seniors the night after the commencement ceremony. The party’s aim is to enjoy great activities that keep students together and away from alcohol and drugs.

Farrell also began M.A.C., a support group for students who choose to remain drug and alcohol free throughout high school. A few years ago he started the Heroes class, in which students correspond with officers of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. This class takes an active role in the prevention of drugs and alcohol among high school students.

Students attend retreats with DEA agents and also go to rehab facilities and other high schools. He has received awards for his efforts in prevention.

Farrell said he believes the next superintendent will do great.

“The backbone of this community is phenomenal,” he said, “and there are truly wonderful staff and students.”