Aspen parents group wants to ‘take back our school’ | AspenTimes.com

Aspen parents group wants to ‘take back our school’

Some Aspen parents handed out this flier last week at Back to School Night. They plan to meet Tuesday.

A group of parents plan to gather Tuesday to collect feedback on what they consider to be a broken Aspen School District that has alienated teachers through self-interest and nepotism, while the superintendent said the initiative comes from "good intentions" but runs counter to open dialogue.

Parents Marla Butler and Anna Zane are behind the fliers that were handed out to parents at last week's Back to School Night at the elementary school. The group, called the Aspen Parent Action Committee, will gather at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Butler's residence.

Butler and Zane declined to go into what their ultimate goal is. It is the first of what they said will be a number of meetings among parents who are worried about what they say is teacher dissatisfaction.

"We feel that we need some change in the district in a positive direction," Zane said. "We would like to get together and figure out how we can do that. We're worried about the culture in the school."

Teacher morale at the school is low, and a number of educators have lost confidence in the administration but lack the means to address the issue publicly, Butler alleged.

"Are you tired of hearing about the fear of repercussion?" states the flier. "We must empower ourselves to speak out and demand change."

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Superintendent John Maloy, in an email response to The Aspen Times seeking comment from him and the Board of Education, said he and the board learned of the circular after it was handed out "to a select group of parents and teachers, including the Teachers' Association, which I was informed as an organization is declining to participate."

Maloy's email said he and the board support open engagement from the parents, but he questioned the new group's approach.

"The Board of Education and administration agree wholeheartedly with the select group of parents' desire to prioritize the needs of our children and create a safe work environment for our teachers and students," Maloy said. "The flier states that the ad hoc parent group wants a 'collaborative and transparent working environment' yet the flier states they want to 'take back our schools' and 'demand change' through a process whereby one must email to learn of the group's location and those leading this initiative. Finally, the picture they have chosen for their ad hoc parent group is a fist or strong arm which seems counter to the group's stated objectives.

"As always, members of the Board of Education, building and district administration, and teachers would continue to welcome the opportunity to meet with any individual or group of parents to foster an open and honest dialogue for the benefit of all students in our schools."

The meeting comes after recent newspaper reports that the school district learned in July that its director of human resources, Elizabeth Hodges, had been disbarred in April by the state of Missouri over estate-planning for a couple in her previous career as a lawyer.

A Missouri grand jury also indicted Hodges, who took the school district job in July 2016 following on-the-job training, for a felony in February 2016, a charge to which she pleaded down to a misdemeanor for deceptive business practices in December 2016.

The criminal conviction and disbarment were related to the same incident, while Hodges has said she didn't fight the disbarment proceedings because she didn't have the money and wanted to move on from a situation that was spurred by vindictive relatives of the deceased couple she represented.

Maloy and Board of Education Chair Sheila Wills have stood behind Hodges, but the district recently opened what it said is a second, more expansive background check into Hodges.

This week's meeting will address "more of the bigger picture" at the school district, Zane said.

"The Hodges thing is the icing on the cake that lit the fire under a lot of people and helped them realize this is now or never," she said.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com

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