School board candidates address tension at high school

Aspen Journalism
Lee Mulcahy
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism and The Aspen Times have asked the five candidates for the Aspen School District Board of Education to answer five questions leading up to the election. We are publishing their answers to each question over five days. The five candidates are vying for two four-year seats. The newly elected board will then appoint a third two-year seat after the election.

Q. For years, tension between teachers and administrators has existed at Aspen High School resulting in high turnover in the principal’s position and unhappiness registered on staff surveys. Does this concern you, and, if so, how should the board act to resolve the tension?


The perceived tensions between teachers and administration at the high school should be recognized. How teachers are supported in their roles as educators is paramount. The board can provide acknowledgment and validation of concerns. Teacher collaboration with administration and peers is essential. The supportive administrative leadership of the new high school principal is seemingly valuable, helping promote and move towards a school culture of trust.

Teachers are responsive to positive change and can collectively collaborate with peers and administration to find solutions and tools to improve the teaching and learning environment.


The quality of culture is important throughout the dstrict and extremely important to me. The board made a commitment to improving the culture in the high school by committing to a national search firm to find a new principal and by requiring an open, transparent and cooperative selection process involving staff, students and parents. I believe that commitment and process have resulted in the hiring of a knowledgeable, organized, personable new principal, who has demonstrated strong communication skills and who appears to be very well-liked by his staff.


If elected, I’ll canvas with current Board Members Bob Glau and Susan Marolt to elect one of them as president. Regarding recent criticism of the teachers, Susan flat out stated “I don’t buy it. I think they’re talented and passionate and they certainly deserve an inspiring leader.”

Whereas incumbents Sheila and Susan are cheerleaders for a superintendent whose record is concerning and whose administration expenses have ballooned. Everyone knows I’ve had experience with a bullying-style management. The community should thank the Peirce family for their service, time and domination of the board for 16 of the last 20 years; but the time has come for change.


The current school board must hold itself and the superintendent accountable for these failures. The board must assume leadership and it cannot cede responsibility to the superintendent. The board must support the administration with proper funding to attract and retain the best administration and faculty. Like any working environment, cooperation and empowerment of the staff comes through leadership, transparency and accountability.


The current board of education expects the organizational culture of the entire district to be one of professional support, courtesy and collaboration. In September 2014, the board revised policy OE-8 to clarify the standard for the district’s organizational culture. The subsequent changes at the high school have been numerous. A new leadership team consisting of teachers who want to be more involved in school governance; a new academic integrity committee; a principal search committee made up of over 30 staff, students, parents and community members; and the installation of a new high school principal and vice principal all have contributed to a very positive start to this school year. If elected, I will continue to focus on the positive development of the district’s organizational culture.