Parents question principal’s e-mail handle
CARBONDALE Roaring Fork High School parents are wondering why Principal Dale Parker uses the name of a prominent German general from World War II as his e-mail handle.Some see the situation as emblematic of what the principal’s critics describe as Parker’s difficulties with staff and students.Recent articles in the Valley Journal and other newspapers have outlined charges that Parker’s administration is the cause of everything from the flight of high-achieving students to a yearly loss of staff.The Aspen Times’ story May 9 about student protests over the departure of popular Spanish teacher Jill Knaus referred to rumors that 10 teachers are planning to leave, although Parker told the newspaper he knows of only three who have formally resigned. Stories have cited discontent and the school’s difficulties in retaining teachers, and a growing concern that too many students are opting to attend other schools rather than stay at the only public high school in town.”There are some very, very angry parents,” said Jenni Roeber, who has a daughter at Roaring Fork and a son who recently graduated.”Why, as a principal of a high school, would you choose something with that negative a connotation?” she asked about Parker’s use of the name of Gen. Heinz Wilhelm Guderian as his e-mail (email@example.com) the only handle on the school’s website that is not in some way directly related to the staff person’s real name.Parker, a history teacher with 35 years of experience who teaches “Conflicts in U.S. History,” says his choice of e-mail name is merely a reflection of his specialized knowledge as a historian, and of the likelihood that no one else would think of it. Therefore, it would provide greater security for his e-mail communications.Plus, he said, he originally intended the name as his password to his first account at the University of Wyoming. But he typed the name into the wrong field on the computer screen, and it became his e-mail name. He said it was too much trouble to change it, and he has stuck with it out of convenience ever since.”If it had been William Tecumseh Sherman,” he said, “somebody would have been mad at me because he burned down Atlanta.”It has become his habit, he said, to pick the names of historical generals for passwords.As for whether it occurred to him that the name of a German World War II general might cause comment and concern, he said, “using it as a password? No.”But as his online name, he said, it has occasioned some comment over the years, although he claimed that when he explained the matter “I’ve never had someone say, ‘Oh, my gosh!'”Probably in the 20-some years that it’s been an address for me, I’ve had probably 10 people e-mail me about it,” he said, though he said no parent has ever complained directly to him about it and he never has felt the need to change it.He said at least one Roaring Fork parent, Becky Young, recently lodged a complaint with the school district, and said that if necessary, “I’d be happy to change it. It’s no big deal. It’s not been any statement or anything that I’m trying to make with it … from a historian’s point of view, it’s just part of history.”Parker said he could understand that some might be upset if he’d chosen Nazi leader Adolph Hitler or Heinrich Himmler, leader of the feared SS troops – “That would be something different.” He said he is not a Holocaust denier, calling such people “pretty far out there.” He also noted that Guderian was not a member of the Nazi party, though he was a highly respected military theorist and credited with the creative theories behind the Panzer tank battalions and the blitzkrieg style of attack.Young, however, views Parker’s e-mail address as an indication of deeper problems.”It just seems especially appropriate at this juncture, that that’s his e-mail handle,” she said, maintaining that distrust and bad blood with teachers, students and parents have marked Parker’s tenure as principal.She termed Parker’s performance “worse than poor in establishing relations between the administration and his teachers, and in terms of accountability to the parents and the students.” Efforts to reach Roaring Fork School District Superintendent Judy Haptonstall for comment on the matter were unsuccessful.John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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