No action taken on Haptonstall contract |

No action taken on Haptonstall contract

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Judy Haptonstall remained as superintendent of Roaring Fork District Re-1 schools Monday, after the Re-1 school board took no action on her contract at a special mid-day meeting.

The board intends to issue a public statement today explaining the “next steps” in its review of Haptonstall’s status, which came under question after three new school board members were elected earlier this month.

“I feel we had a good, productive conversation today,” new Re-1 Board President Matt Hamilton said after the meeting. “We will have more to say about the next steps in the process, once we’ve had a chance to prepare a statement to issue to the press, district staff and the public.”

At the specially called meeting, the board heard more than an hour’s worth of public comments, followed by a lengthy closed-doors discussion with Haptonstall and consultations with legal counsel.

“The board wanted to provide as much time to be thoughtful and deliberative as we could, and I believe we did that,” Hamilton said.

The special meeting was called after Haptonstall raised the question about her future with the district at the Nov. 9 school board meeting. Hamilton and two other new school board members, Daniel Biggs and Terry Lott Richardson, were sworn in at that meeting.

The trio, at different times during their campaigns, were critical of district leadership and what they said was a lack of open lines of communication between district administration and other district staff and the public.

They also questioned the handling of a decision last spring to fire popular Glenwood Springs Elementary School Principal Sonya Hemmen.

Many of Hemmen’s supporters who showed up at a similar meeting last April when her job was on the line were among the 60 or so people gathered in the room Monday to speak to Haptonstall’s future.

“I believe the voters in this district have spoken, and they’re obviously not happy with the administration and the leadership in this district,” said Glenwood Springs parent Jenny Cutright.

Carbondale parent Erin Rigney said the previous board should have employed a peer and community review process, as she and some others suggested last spring when Haptonstall’s contract was renewed for two years.

“We need to have a well-rounded evaluation process in a 360 style that includes people not hand-picked by Judy herself,” Rigney said. “I am not saying Judy is a bad leader, I am saying that we as a community deserve to have leadership of our school district be transparent and open to feedback.”

Some of Haptonstall’s detractors, as well as a few supporters, chose to offer their comments in confidence with the school board after the public session, to which the board was agreeable.

Several Re-1 principals, district staff, former school board members, and even representatives from outside the district, spoke of Haptonstall’s positive leadership both within and beyond Re-1.

“On behalf of the commissioner of education, I want to commend the work you and your staff have done to improve the education of your students,” said Jhon Penn of the Colorado Department of Education.

Said Meeker School District Superintendent Susan Gettel, “We look to the Roaring Fork School District, under Judy’s leadership, for guidance and support in education reform. You are moving in the right direction here.”

Glenwood Springs Middle School Principal Sandy DeCrow said the uncertainty about Haptonstall has been unsettling for teachers and staff who remain focused on implementing the Moving On student placement model in local schools.

“Any unease is coming from the fact that all that work may be negated,” if Haptonstall were to be let go, DeCrow said.

Sopris Elementary School Principal Kathy Whiting discounted any perceptions that district staff aren’t listened to by Haptonstall.

“I was a teacher in the district for 30 years before I became a principal, and I’ve never felt a fear to express anything, even to respectfully disagree,” she said. “I am concerned about a new board coming in with an agenda.”