Meetings begin over Aspen School District’s climate, culture |

Meetings begin over Aspen School District’s climate, culture

Aspen Middle School.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

The climate and culture study at the Aspen School District is underway with a Denver firm that has been hired by the Board of Education.

Board members last week met with Liz Wilson of the Denver firm Wilson Foxen “to lay the foundation for the scope, processes and communication regarding the climate and culture study,” according to an ASD announcement made Friday.

The meeting comes after a tumultuous fall semester at the school district’s administrative offices, resulting in the exit of its human resources department’s director and assistant, and the board’s decision not to renew Superintendent John Maloy’s contract past its expiration date of June 30, 2021.

Some parents have contended the school district’s performance is slipping, staff morale is low and leadership is lacking. Others, however, have maintained Aspen schools continue to outperform other schools, the critical parents are misguided and Maloy is getting an unfair rap.

Enter Wilson Foxen, a consulting firm the board hired to suss out what ails the district, if that actually is the case. The hiring has attracted some criticism from those who are skeptical the examination will unearth any issues of substance that the board will actually address.

In its informational announcement about the study, the board said it is a “priority” to provide updates to the community as they develop. The study is expected to be complete in March, provided an advisory committee begins its work this month. The intention of the advisory committee is to provide input to the board.

“For example, we plan to provide multiple avenues for people to give input, so we expect to use a combination of surveys, focus groups and confidential interviews to gather input,” the board’s announcement said. “Since the main focus of this project is workplace culture, we are committed to providing all employees with the opportunity to share their personal opinions and experiences. The advisory committee will provide input, in this example, as to how the process and content will be most effective.”

The advisory committee will be comprised of a “cross-functional, cross-level combination of individuals,” the board said, amounting to 10 to 12 people. Board members Sandra Peirce and Susan Marolt will serve as liaisons to the committee.

At a board meeting Tuesday, Marolt said the advisory committee is expected to have its initial meeting next week, and “they will represent all areas of staff.”

Principals at the district’s schools will appoint faculty members to the committee, and at least one member of the District Accountability Committee also will participate.

Other individuals will be allowed to have their voices heard in the study, including non-district employees. Wilson, the consultant, also will have private, confidential discussions with participants as part of a data-gathering effort.

“The main priority is to ensure that we have a culture that supports the mission of the district: educating our students to their full potential,” the district said. “This project will focus primarily on one aspect of a district’s culture: the employee experience at all levels and in all functions. There are several areas we have identified regarding culture and climate that we will focus on: trust, leadership culture and the workplace culture.”

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