Meeting set to discuss Haptonstall’s contract |

Meeting set to discuss Haptonstall’s contract

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A special Monday morning meeting of the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 Board of Education has been set to consider the contract of district Superintendent Judy Haptonstall.

“It’s not fair to anyone involved to create an unsettling environment within the school district, and unease for our employees,” said new school board President Matt Hamilton of the quick scheduling of a special meeting. The question of Haptonstall’s contract came up Wednesday when he and two other new board members were sworn in.

At that meeting, Haptonstall questioned Hamilton and fellow new board members Daniel Biggs and Terry Lott Richardson, who now represent the board majority, if they intend to reconsider her current two-year contract, which expires in spring 2013.

The trio of new board members were elected to the school board Nov. 1, joining sitting members Bob Johnson and Richard Stettner.

“The bottom line in all of this is respect,” Hamilton said. “That’s how I operate as an individual, and I believe it’s how this board, three days in, wants to operate as well.”

Monday’s meeting is slated to begin at 11 a.m. at the Re-1 District Office, 1405 Grand Ave., in Glenwood Springs.

It will include an open forum to start, allowing anyone who wants to comment on the matter to speak their piece.

“We do want to hear from people, wherever their feelings may lie,” Hamilton said. “I am comfortable listening to as many comments as people have, and setting a proper example that we need to deal with this thoughtfully and sensitively.”

After the public portion of the meeting, the board intends to convene in executive session to discuss Haptonstall’s contract. That will include a conference with the school district’s attorney.

“This is a decision and conversation that’s part of our personnel responsibility, and it needs to be handled in a respectful manner,” he said. “We also have to understand both the legal and financial consequences of any decisions we may make.”

Hamilton was hesitant to say for sure if any decisions would be made on Monday.

During the recent school board campaign, questions were raised about school district leadership, including concerns about communications between the District Office and staff, as well as the general public.

Much of that grew out of a decision last spring to fire popular Glenwood Springs Elementary School principal Sonya Hemmen. Both Biggs and Lott Richardson cited that decision as one reason they decided to run for the school board.

In May, the school board agreed on a 3-1 vote to extend Haptonstall’s contract for two years. Former board member Debbie Bruell was opposed, instead favoring a one-year renewal.

In the recent school board election, Biggs unseated incumbent school board member Myles Rovig, who had openly supported Haptonstall. Biggs won with 66 percent of the vote.

Lott Richardson, by a 54-46 percent margin, defeated Phil Weir for the open board seat being vacated by Bill Lamont, who had endorsed Weir for his replacement after one term.

Hamilton was unopposed in his election to the board, replacing Bruell, who also stepped down after one term on the board.

While some of the new school board members have questioned if Haptonstall should remain as superintendent, she has had strong support from Re-1 school principals in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.

At the time Haptonstall’s contract was renewed, several of the principals commented that her leadership is crucial as the district continues to implement instructional changes, such as the Moving On levels placement for district students.

In addition to the special Monday meeting, the board is also slated to meet on Nov. 29. Hamilton said that meeting will likely be devoted to discussions about “how best to support teachers and principals, and how to effectively implement those programs.”