Aspen Middle School hires new principal with background in climate, culture
With any new job, there’s a learning curve, but at least Eva Allen can say she’s gotten to know a good number of people involved with the Aspen School District before she gets to work, and also has a background in climate and culture.
Allen, who has a doctorate in educational leadership from Duquesne University in Pennsylvania, recently accepted the job as Aspen Middle School principal after a series of interviews and conversations that began in May with school staff, parents, administration and others.
“Aspen has been kind of on my radar for the past several years,” Allen said Tuesday, noting that she and her husband, Eric, heard about the Aspen School District from a colleague in Pittsburgh who used to work at Aspen schools. “We heard about all of these amazing things that were happening out there.”
Allen accepted the district’s job offer June 4 and will start work sometime in July. Her husband also has taken a job as a special education teacher at the high school.
She replaces Craig Rogers, who submitted his resignation Jan. 24 after five years as principal. Rogers, who previously was an assistant principal as well as a teacher, is scheduled to stay with the middle school through the end of this month.
“Craig’s transition efforts and professional leadership have put the district in a good spot for this succession,” said Dwayne Romero, president of the Aspen School District Board of Education.
In February, the school district started the process of hiring a new principal. Focus-group meetings with residents, students and staff were held “in order to allow all stakeholders the opportunity to share the leadership values and dispositions they felt were needed in a principal to lead Aspen Middle School,” according to interim Superintendent Tom Heald, who made the announcement of Allen’s hiring last week.
On May 10, the district’s interview team, after interviewing Allen, determined she “was considered a ‘best fit,’” according to Heald.
She visited the district again at the end of May, and on May 31, a 27-member group — all school district staff — unanimously voted to offer Allen the job, according to Heald.
Not only will Allen have begun relationships with the staff before she starts the job, she also comes to the district with a background in climate and culture, which the Aspen schools addressed during the spring semester.
The study, conducted by a Denver firm, examined staff and faculty sentiment regarding leadership and other aspects of the district.
“I embrace the challenges that I’ve read about in the newspaper regarding culture and climate,” Allen said, “and I think that is certainly an area I tend to gravitate to. It’s my background and experience. It’s what I did my research in. Having that connection to culture and climate is an asset, although it may be seen as a challenge.”
Allen said it’s vital to accept feedback from all of those who are part of a child’s education.
“I think it’s important and imperative to be a listener and to involve stakeholders,” she said. “I think having a fair process is very much part of my leadership style and approach.”
She added, “My focus has always been on creating connections and building community and that is where my heart lies, based on my experience. The time I’ve spent so far with the families and the community, and not just school but district as whole, has been an amazing experience.”
Allen will leave her job as principal at Pittsburgh Liberty Elementary school in Pennsylvania. She also has been a literacy coach and classroom teacher. She and her husband are parents to four sons, including three who will attend Aspen schools.
Allen received her master’s in elementary education in 1998 from California University of Pennsylvania, and her bachelor’s of arts from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
“My roles as a teacher leader, an administrator, and as culture and climate specialist implementing district initiatives, in combination with my experiential knowledge involving equity, diversity and inclusion would be an asset to, and assist in, meeting the goals and mission of your district,” she wrote in her cover letter to the district.
Allen will earn an annual salary of $122,000, according to Heald.