Marolt, Romero and Zimet top vote-getters for Aspen school board

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
A candidate forum for the Aspen School District Board of Education was held Oct. 1 at Aspen High School and recorded by Grass Roots Community TV. Candidates debated several topics varying from standardized testing, financial struggles within the school district and culture and climate. Candidates pictured left to right are Margeaux Johansson, Susan Marolt, Jonaathan Nickell, Dwayne Romero, and Dr. Susan Zimet.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

The Aspen school board will see the return of two incumbents and the addition of a newcomer.

With 26.2 percent of the ballots cast in her favor — 1,909 votes in all — challenger Susan Zimet was the top vote-getter in Tuesday’s contest for three open seats on the Board of Education, according to unofficial results released at 10:29 p.m. by the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s Office. She will join Susan Marolt, who reeled in 1,692 votes, or 23.2 percent, and Dwayne Romero, 1,649 votes, or 22.7 percent, for the next four years.

With 759 votes, or 10.4 percent of the ballots cast, Margeaux Johansson lost her bid to return to the board, while challenger Jonathan Nickell, 1,271 votes, or 17.5 percent, also fell short in his first campaign for a board seat.

“I think the Aspen Board of Education is in very good hands going forward,” Johansson said in an email to the victors.

Zimet and Nickell, both members of the District Accountability Committee, had campaigned on the platform that the school district is under performing academically against the backdrop of high teacher turnover and low staff morale.

“I think that my message of raising the bar really resonated with this community,” said Zimet, who is an internist. “And I really hope and have confidence that the board will address those issues for the betterment of our students’ education.”

Marolt, who is a CPA, said that making herself available to voters by listening to their concerns was a big part of her re-election.

“I’ve heard two sides,” she said. “There are definitely people who are concerned and want to make sure we are performing well on statewide testing compared to other districts. But there’s definitely another voice that wants to make sure that we’re looking at the whole child and all different measures of success.”

The election brought out a number of differences and debates over what residents and parents expect from the school board.

“I don’t want the district to suffer because of an election,” Marolt said. “The election should be the way to have a conversation and move forward from there. We need to make sure we address all the things that were brought up during the election, and that’s something we will focus on.”

Leadership on the board also needs to be a priority, Romero said.

“We need to exercise a broader and more collaborative-based leadership model that is more receptive and inviting,” he said. “It’s more about building better solutions together and really mobilizing pieces and parts of the community.”

Despite having differences on the campaign trail, Zimet said she feels good about working with Marolt and Romero in the future.

“I’m so confident that Dwayne and Susan Marolt and I will work in harmony,” she said. “I’ve seen them move to the data side (during the campaign) and we have work to be done and we could be serving our students better.”

The trio will be sworn in by roughly Dec. 4, or no more than 10 days after the election is certified.