New school official up to the challenge
ASPEN John Maloy knows his job as assistant superintendent of the Aspen School District will have its challenges, but his track record as a school administrator proves he’s not afraid to face tough times head-on.Maloy, 49, replaces former assistant superintendent Bev Tarpley, who moved to the Colorado Springs area to take a job at a school district there. Maloy was selected from a field of 34 applicants from around the country.Maloy’s most recent stint as a school administrator was as superintendent of a district in Indiana; his tenure ended after four years with his resignation under fire.Maloy said last week he believes his work in Indiana helped improve the district he worked for, and says he’s up to the challenge of his new job. Aspen School Superintendent Diana Sirko said she believes Maloy will prove to be an asset to the district.Maloy has 26 years of education experience, both in the classroom and at different levels of administration. Born and raised in Indiana, he holds degrees in history, secondary education, administration and leadership, including a doctorate earned through a dual major of educational leadership, and curriculum and instruction.He took the Aspen job after a year as the chief operating officer of a nonprofit organization that provides alternative education for kids who have trouble in traditional educational settings.Prior to that, Maloy spent four years as the superintendent of the Monroe County Community School Corporation, as school districts are called in the Bloomington, Ind., area, and before that he was superintendent of schools in Michigan City, Ind.Maloy readily admitted that he ran into some trouble in Bloomington, and that he resigned under pressure in 2005.Asked about the source of the trouble, he said, “It depends on who you talk to.”According to dozens of articles in Bloomington area newspapers, Maloy’s style of administration earned him the criticism and ultimate opposition of numerous teachers in the district.One headline read, “Tough love, or too tough?” and articles regularly quoted teachers (almost always anonymously) accusing him of intimidating tactics, as well as a bullying style of management that he used against teachers and administrators alike.At the end of his tenure, according to news accounts, the local teachers union called for his ouster and he resigned.Maloy said that when he was hired by the MCCSC board, the district was facing “a tremendous need to reduce our expenditures by over $4.5 million to get into the black.” And because 90 percent of the district’s budget was spent on personnel, that meant reducing staff.
He acknowledged that the result was “some adversarial relationships” within the district, and some public criticism.But, he said, test scores were on the rise, and “we were doing more with less. There were a lot of great things that were happening.”But as the pressure against him mounted, he said, “It became an issue of whether I was going to stay on and deal with a faction of the community who were unhappy that their neighbors and peers had been reduced, or the district was going to buy me out.”The choice was for him to go, with a settlement of $421,000 in lieu of the two years he had left on his contract.”I felt it was the best thing for the district for me to move on,” he said. He added that “the most telling thing about any leader, it’s not a resume that they’re building,” but the “sustainability of what they’re trying to do.”And, he said, “If you looked into it, you would find that probably 95 percent of the things we put in place [in the MCCSC] are still in place.”One aspect of his legacy that did not survive was an administrative reorganization plan that his successor, a retired veteran educator and former superintendent of the district, abandoned as soon as he took over, according to news accounts.Maloy’s successor, Jim Harvey, called Maloy’s plans “incomplete,” possibly because of the atmosphere of hostility and confrontation in the time leading up to Maloy’s departure.Maloy called the reorganization “more of a business model” he wanted to introduce into the administrative hierarchy of the district. He said the schools had been operating “as islands unto themselves” prior to his arrival, and that the duplication of services and functions was “costing too much.”For example, different schools had independent computer and technology systems. He said he was trying to improve efficiency by making all schools use the same software and hardware, and to centralize the administration and management of that system, which meant some people lost their jobs. He stressed that he was “not trying to stymie any creativity [or] flexibility on the part of schools.”Rather, he said, he wanted to “develop some continuity and consistency in our instruction.”At Bloomington, Maloy oversaw a system of 21 schools with 11,000 students, with a general population of 110,000. He said it was the 14th largest district in the state.At his prior job, where he oversaw education for “a very high-need population” of primarily blue-collar families devastated by the pullout of the town’s main industry, the Pullman Coash railroad car company.
He said that in that district, he was dealing with a student body that was nearly 40 percent minority students, as well as generally impoverished, and that six of the 14 schools in the Michigan City district were on academic probation when he took over. By the time he left, all of the schools were off probation and the community was rallying in support of the schools, he said.”A lot of progress was made in Michigan City,” Maloy said with obvious, if understated pride.Maloy said he applied for the job at Aspen, in part, because he and his wife are “empty nesters” (their daughter is a sophomore at Indiana University) looking for a better quality of life. In addition, he wanted to work for what he called “an outstanding school district with high expectations.” Aspen, he said, fit that bill, as well as being “quite spectacular” in environmental terms.He views his new job as “a position of support … to support the teachers and support the administration in helping them reach the goals they have set.”He is versed in standards-based testing programs, such as the Colorado Student Assessment Program. The Indiana version, mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, is known as “ISTEP+,” which stands for Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus.His job will be to oversee the testing program for the district, including interpretation of the results, as well as responsibility for the district’s technology programs, special education, “and whatever else is designated,” he said with a smile.Compared to previous administrative jobs, he expects this one to be no less challenging than, say, heading up a district that grew by 500 to 600 students, or roughly 10 percent every year, as he did in Michigan City.Aspen is somewhat like Indianapolis, he said, where the biggest employers were the health-care industry and education, whether in the public schools or at Indiana University, which meant the population was generally well-educated and had high expectations from its public school system.His impression of Aspen, he said, is similar, in that parents are very involved in the school district and the students are “high achievers.”Overall, he said, “I’m just delighted to be here. I’m looking forward to being here quite some time.”Superintendent Diana Sirko, who selected Maloy from the large field of candidates, said she was impressed by his record.”His qualifications and expertise quickly rose to the surface” among the field of applicants, she said.She said she was aware of the controversy that surrounded Maloy when he was superintendent of the Monroe County schools, but that she believes his qualifications overshadowed those issues.
“I certainly looked into those,” she said, but added that “there can be differences of opinion in how something should be done,” particularly where a large school district and huge amounts of money are concerned.And, she said, when she checked with the Michigan City school district, they told her “very, very positive things there.”As for Maloy’s departure under pressure, she said, “It really occurs fairly commonly. I have known many educators who have reached termination agreements” over differences in how to run a district.”That, in and of itself, isn’t a deciding factor” in her decisions on whom to hire or whom to pass by, she said.”There’s lots of political things that have to do with whether or not that person is successful, that have nothing to do with his qualifications,” she concluded.School enrollment on par with last yearAspen’s public schools will start the school year with a slightly larger student body, according to estimates given to the Aspen School Board on Monday night.Aspen Elementary School Principal Doreen Goldyn told the board her school’s student count stands at 109 in kindergarten, 100 in first grade, 97 in second, 107 in third grade and 103 in fourth, for a total of 516. That compares to 497 kids in the school last year, she said.At Aspen Middle School, new Principal Tom Heald said workmen are scrambling to finish the new school in time for opening day on Aug. 28. City officials issued the certificate of occupancy for the school on Aug. 17, officials said.Heald said the school is expecting 104 students in the fifth grade, 118 in sixth, 87 in seventh grade and 125 in eighth. That is a total of 434 students, which is close to the number of students that attended the old school last year and well within the new school’s design capacity of 450 (with room to expand to accommodate 600).At the high school, Principal Charlie Anastas said, “I think we’ll be pretty close to where we were last year,” at 525 students, noting that the school usually picks up additional students in the first weeks of the school year.Anastas also said he has hired 18 new staffers, including 15 certified teachers and three paraprofessionals to assist the teachers, which amounts to about a third of the school’s entire staff of 55.The district’s student population will not be confirmed until Oct. 1, which is when the district must report enrollment numbers to the Colorado Department of Education, although district Superintendent Diana Sirko said she expects to know the final numbers by mid-September.