With culture survey complete, Aspen School District eyes next steps | AspenTimes.com

With culture survey complete, Aspen School District eyes next steps

What the Climate and Culture Survey said

Below is a sampling of the responses given to that Aspen School District staff members gave to a survey they answered last month.


I have the opportunity to do what I do best everyday.

Answer Number of responses

Agree 139

Neither agree nor disagree 14

Strongly disagree 21


Senior District Leadership focuses on ensuring ASD students reach their full potential.

Answer Number of responses

Strongly agree 16

Agree 73

Neither agree nor disagree 38

Disagree 22

Strongly disagree 10

Not applicable 13


Senior District Leadership notices and appreciates progress and the effort it takes to get things done well.

Answer Number of responses

Strongly agree 10

Agree 44

Neither agree nor disagree 35

Disagree 39

Strongly disagree 12

Not applicable 9


There is someone at work who encourages my development.

Answer Number of responses

Agree 118

Neither agree nor disagree 30

Disagree 26


Senior District Leadership shares the right information, at the right time, with the right people.

Answer Number of responses

Strongly agree 7

Agree 23

Neither agree nor disagree 53

Disagree 45

Strongly disagree 29

No answer 13


Source: Wilson Foxen

The real work begins now for leadership at the Aspen School District after an examination into the faculty and staff’s sentiment regarding workplace climate and culture, a result of a stormy fall semester at the campus’ administrative offices.

With Denver firm Wilson Foxen’s study complete, the five-member Board of Education is tasked with deciphering mounds of data the survey yielded, some of which was presented to the public last week at Aspen High School.

As is the case with data — consider the phrase Mark Twain popularized: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics” — it can be open to interpretation.

“I think the community is going to have to digest what got said before jumping to any conclusions,” said parent John Galambos, who attended the meeting.

The Wilson Foxen study included input from an advisory committee, one-on-one meetings with district employees, focus-group discussions and a survey sent to staff and faculty before a chunk of its findings were unveiled at a public meeting Tuesday. Some aspects of the survey were kept confidential to protect the identity of employees who made comments in the survey; however, they were discussed last week among board members and Superintendent John Maloy in executive session.

Results of the survey were mined from the answers given by employees at the Aspen elementary, middle and high schools. The Aspen Community School in Woody Creek, which is part of the school district, did not participate.

The survey had a 69.9 percent participation rate, with 211 out of the district’s 306 employees offering responses, while 58 percent (176 staffers) answered all of the survey’s questions. Those participation and response rates, the study noted, put the margin of error at 5 percent.

Leading the study was Liz Wilson, a partner with Wilson Foxen. In an interview Saturday, Wilson said one of her chief takeaways is that Aspen is a community of highly driven, competitive people who often are at odds about what’s best for the community, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

“No matter what the many sides people could be on,” she said, “there really is a passion in this community around children and around excellence, and you don’t find that everywhere.”

The survey’s results offered a mixed bag. For the most part, employees said they felt supported by their direct supervisors and receive encouragement for their career development.

Other findings, however, showed 55.2 percent of the responses either disagreed or strongly disagreed that “senior leadership can be relied upon to do the right thing even when it’s challenging or difficult.” (More answers are available with a fact box that accompanies this report on A7.)

Said Wilson: “The fact that I did this project is indicative that there is an opportunity for improvement, and bringing in someone from the outside is often a really good way to get to the next layer.”

Wilson led last week’s 70-minute public presentation of the findings at Aspen High School. She and board members revealed them to staff members and others earlier in the week before the public meeting.

“Clearly there is a lot of additional work that’s going to be rolling forward with us, and it will take some time for us to digest,” board President Dwayne Romero told the roughly 30 people in attendance. “This is not something to absorb in one sitting, frankly, and definitely not an hour. We’re going to have to have some additional time.”

Wilson’s presentation was anchored by reams of survey data she broke down to the attendees, which included four school board members and Superintendent Maloy, whose job performance was publicly called into question in the fall by a group of parents, which played a part in the board’s decision to not renew his rolling contract past its June 30, 2021, expiration date.

Maloy supporters wanting him to stay aboard longer have said certain parents and media organizations have unfairly portrayed the superintendent, who has been at his post since March 2010. Advocates speaking publicly on his behalf have included faculty and staff members and education board members Sheila Wills and Sandra Peirce, who served as the board’s respective president and vice president until Nov. 12 when Romero and Susan Marolt took their places as part of a formal process. Wills and Peirce’s terms expire in November.

“I would say we’ve certainly seen improvement in board leadership,” parent Anna Zane said. “I see definite improved leadership — it’s been responsive and communicative and dramatically improved (since Romero and Marolt took the board’s top posts).”

Galambos, however, said he felt some of the parents’ complaints about district leadership last fall “came out of left field, and I want to know what’s going on and why there are these issues. On the whole, we’ve been very happy.”

As of Friday, the Board of Education wasn’t ready to publicly draw any conclusions about the study. They opted not to answer Aspen Times questions seeking individual responses from the board’s five elected officeholders. Likewise, Maloy said he would follow the board’s cue and elected not to respond to any questions for the time being.

The superintendent did, however, send an email to parents Wednesday in regards to the study and survey.

“I want to reassure you that I am taking the results very seriously,” Maloy’s email said. “Please know, I have already started a conversation with the leadership team around what actionable steps we can take to immediately begin to work collaboratively to build trust within our schools, the district and the community.”

In an email to the Times, Romero explained that “as a board we have consistently presented to the community and our employees that we will work hard to ensure this process is as thoughtful and thorough as possible. Allowing our first observations (including Dr. Maloy’s views) to occur together in the next board meeting appears to be the best approach to support this goal.”

Those next steps begin at the Board of Education’s next regularly scheduled meeting Monday. A 30-minute talk is scheduled among the board members following other school-related matters. The meeting is set for 4 p.m. at the district’s board room in the administrative wing. Romero will not be able to attend because of a family matter.

Wilson’s presentation described the district’s climate as “the effects on students, including teachings practices, diversity and the relationships among administrators, teachers, parents and students.” It deemed culture “the way teachers and other staff members work together and the set of beliefs, values and assumptions they share.”

Currently, the school district’s tab to Wilson Foxen stands in the $25,000 range, Romero said, adding a final estimate should come later this month.

“One of the primary goals coming out of this thing is not to put this study on the shelf and admire it,” Romero said at last week’s presentation. “We clearly want to develop some next steps.”


Editor’s note: The original version of this story incorrectly reported that Board of Education member Suzy Zimet is up for re-election in November. That inaccuracy has been removed.