Aspen superintendent John Maloy announces retirement at school board meeting
In an emotional yet firm statement to the Board of Education at its meeting Monday, Superintendent John Maloy announced his retirement from the Aspen School District in the aftermath of a tumultuous year for the administration.
The last day for Maloy, who has been the superintendent since 2010, is June 30. He earned $193,032 for the current academic year, according to school district records.
Maloy closed his two-page statement with remarks of appreciation and encouragement, while also choking up.
“I would like to thank my administrative team, past and present Boards of Education, parents, faculty, staff, students and community members who have supported me during my tenure in the ASD and especially my family, who have had to endure the challenges of me serving in such a public position,” he said. “In closing, I encourage all parents and the community to become more engaged in maintaining our exemplary schools and I would encourage them to ask questions, seek to understand what is happening in our schools, take time to learn about the issues, and seek solutions that serve the best interest of our students.”
Maloy’s exit comes after the Board of Education announced Oct. 25 it would not be renewing his contract past its expiration date of June 30, 2021. The decision was the result of the board’s annual review of the superintendent’s three-year rolling contract, which dates back to June 7, 2010.
Behind the scenes, Maloy had been in talks with the board about his future and whether he would serve out his contract. The superintendent, who handed out diplomas Saturday to graduating seniors at the high school’s commencement exercises, had said he wanted to complete the terms of his contract, while his more outspoken critics called for a swifter departure.
Part of Maloy’s contract states his employment agreement can be terminated, without cause, by compensating the superintendent for the remaining portion of his contract if fewer than six months remain. If more than six months of employment remain on the contract, the district could buy out Maloy for half of the amount he would be due for the remainder his contract.
Maloy would have had two years remaining as of June 30. By retiring, however, he will have a cleaner break from the district, whose board of education agreed to pay $70,000 for one additional year of service, on Maloy’s behalf, to the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association, according to BOE President Dwayne Romero. That will entitle Maloy to greater pension benefits through PERA, Romero said.
The School District also will cover two extra months of health care insurance for Maloy and his wife, which equates to $3,400, Romero said. The district will provide him with one additional month at his district housing, through July 31, as well as an additional month’s use of a school district-owned vehicle.
The BOE likely will name Assistant Superintendent Tom Heald, through a vote at its next meeting June 17, as interim superintendent, Romero said.
“We are organizing that transition plan and have asked him to assist as the interim superintendent,” Romero said.
The board will next hire an executive search firm to find a new superintendent, he said.
“We expect that process to take several months,” Romero said, saying it is plausible that a superintendent will be hired midway through the 2019-20 academic year, which would put it sometime around early January.
Maloy’s retirement caps off an academic year that saw the forced resignations of the school district’s chief financial officer and human resources director.
In mid-January, after being placed on paid administrative leave for more than one month, Human Resources Director Elizabeth Hodges resigned in the wake of a school background review that came after her criminal background and disbarment in Missouri came to light.
In an Aug. 24 story in The Aspen Times, Maloy and BOE member Sheila Wills, who was board president at the time, said Hodges’ previous legal issues had no bearing on her job as HR director. They said Hodges, who joined the district July 1, 2016, had proven herself as a viable HR director and that her job was safe.
That didn’t sit well with a number of school employees — some of whom rumbled about Hodges’ access to their private information — as well as parents who argued Maloy was going easy on an executive-level employee serving probation for a misdemeanor conviction for deceptive business practices during her legal work for a couple as their estate planner.
Momentum built against Maloy, and last fall during start of the 2018-19 school year, the superintendent was dogged with criticism by a group of community members who said he lacked the appropriate skills to lead the district.
A parents group started online and paper petitions calling for the superintendent’s removal, saying his handling of Hodges, who remained in her position until her suspension and subsequent resignation, was the latest episode in a string of leadership failures.
Critics blamed Maloy for what they called a “toxic” culture among faculty and staff at the School District and said the school’s academic performances and standards were slipping. Maloy’s management style also wasn’t universally liked among the faculty, while others accused him of managing the district through intimidation and fear, resulting in the early resignations of teachers and others who were afraid of speaking out because of the fear of retaliation.
Others, however, spoke admiringly about the superintendent and his leadership style, often claiming his critics were over-exaggerating, angry, disgruntled and playing ugly.
In October, the BOE began taking steps to have a broad look at the district’s climate and culture by using an outside, neutral party to conduct an examination. The results of the study were released in April by Denver-based consulting firm Wilson Foxen, which began its work in January, focusing on the sentiment of faculty and staff, as well as other district stakeholders. For example, 24 percent of those staff members who took the survey said they did not find senior leadership — defined as the superintendent at the BOE — as being “effective.”
As for the school district’s CFO of 11 years, Kate Fuentes resigned in March. School district officials were mum about what led to her resignation, but she came under fire after she failed to file a deed of trust regarding a $30,000 home loan Hodges received from the district in March 2017. The district learned about the failure to filed the deed, which would have made the loan a secured debt, through Hodges’ bankruptcy that she declared in February 2018.
The district has hired a new HR manager and is seeking a new CFO; it currently has an interim CFO.
Wills and Sandra Peirce, BOE members both supportive of Maloy, reacted to his retirement with statements of appreciation for his leadership.
Peirce hugged Maloy after she spoke, and later Angela Rittenhouse, Maloy’s administrative assistant, gave him a round of applause, which led to a standing ovation from most of those gathered.
Maloy, who has worked a total of 12 years for the district, said he was proud of his accomplishments that included helping get Aspen and Snowmass voters to pass a respective sales tax and mill levy to support the schools. He also noted his work that led to expanded college counseling services, increased teacher salaries, a doubling of the district’s inventory of employee housing, a more robust curriculum, new playgrounds at the elementary and middle schools, and accolades that included U.S. News and World Report, in 2012, naming the school district No. 1 in the state and No. 59 in the country, among other achievements.
“Leading the Aspen School District has been a wonderful chapter in my career and life,” he said. “I will cherish the memories and hope that the district and students elevate to even greater heights in the future.”
Last Friday, the Aspen Art Museum capped its second annual ArtWeek with a big fundraiser. The proceeds will help fund art education and accessibility for the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond.
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