Aspen Board of Education’s next step: hire a third-party consultant

Days removed from announcing it would not be renewing its superintendent’s contract, the Aspen Board of Education on Monday addressed the next steps in its plan to hire a third party to examine campus culture and climate.

“Whoever we bring in needs to be sensitive to who we are and how we do things,” said board President Sheila Wills, who relinquishes her top seat next month to board member Dwayne Romero. Wills will remain on the board until her term expires in November 2019.

The board agreed in principle at its Oct. 1 meeting that the district would benefit from a deep look at such purported campus issues as low teacher morale and a waning trust in district leadership under Superintendent John Maloy.

On Thursday, the board announced it would not be extending Maloy’s contract, which expires in June 2021. Maloy said he plans to honor the terms of his contract.

Maloy attended Monday’s board meeting that saw a fraction of the turnout as the past three public board meetings in which a number of parents called for the superintendent’s dismissal.

Six potential firms or individuals who focus on consulting and turnaround work have been contacted for the third-party job, Wills said, noting a seventh one also is being considered. Wills said she, with board member Sandra Peirce on several occasions, interviewed some of the potential consultants.

The board discussed the pros and cons of those interviewed without identifying them in the open meeting.

Peirce and board member Susan Marolt, who did not attend the meeting because she is out of town, will take the reins from Wills on the interview process. They also will rely on feedback from the Aspen Education Association, which represents the district’s educators, and plan to have the list winnowed down to three finalists by the next board meeting Nov. 12.

Timing also is a concern of the board because of the approaching holiday season.

“I think we would be missing energy or momentum if we take too long,” Romero said, but he agreed that bringing a third party into the throes of the busy season is not ideal.

The consultant could be put to work as soon as January, Peirce said.

Wills was emphatic that the third party not have strong local ties, “Because the trust level is so frayed that if anyone local might come in with a bias or an opinion or a leaning, that would be hard for some sector of our population to say that (the third party) can put that bias aside.”

In a letter the Board of Education said they received earlier this month, the Aspen Education Association called for a “comprehensive review of administration and recent concerns expressed by the public and teachers. In addition to existing procedures, we feel that performance reviews, 360 reviews, and/or an independent review, conducted by a neutral third party, would be beneficial.”

Meanwhile, of the handful of parents attending the meeting, several spoke during the meeting’s public-comments portion and praised the board for not renewing Maloy’s contract. They also, however, urged the board to hire a superintendent who not only specializes in the X’s and O’s of finance and education, but also has a leadership style that staff and faculty universally respect.

“We continue to be firm in our commitment to ask the board for a change of leadership,” said parent Jonathan Nickell, a former member of the District Accountability Committee.

Another parent, Kimberly Schlosser, said outside, third-party studies like the current one contemplated should be conducted on an annual basis.

“We failed the superintendent and the community” by not having yearly examinations, she said, adding that the past couple of months have been trying for “not only the parents but teachers, and it trickles down to the students.”

The board did not discuss costs of hiring a consultant, which also would include lodging if the third party is hired from out of the valley.


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