Aspen Times endorsement: Katy Frisch and Jonathan Nickell for Aspen School District Board of Education
For more than a year, the Aspen School District has taken its lumps.
While the teachers and school administrators worked to keep our children focused, the top leadership struggled on the campus and in the community.
There was the no-confidence vote in the superintendent whose contract was not renewed in October 2018, the revelation that the district’s human resources director had a criminal conviction and was disbarred as a lawyer before moving to Colorado, and the abrupt resignation of the district’s finance director after 11 years. Not to mention a heavy undertone of faculty distrust in the administration and concerns over reading scores at the elementary level. It seemed so dire that a third party was brought in to do an in-depth study on the district’s climate and culture.
This brings us to the Board of Education election, which the results will be known Nov. 5. Ballots have been mailed out and should have arrived in voters’ mailboxes by now.
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Who fills the two open seats will play a vital role in selecting the district’s next superintendent, working on the district’s strategic plan, and wrestling with an abundance of issues ranging from teacher compensation to mental health at the schools.
The community is fortunate to have a choice among six well-meaning, well-intentioned candidates who have a deep interest in the district, with either children enrolled now or graduates of the district in recent years. For the two open seats (due to term limits), The Aspen Times endorses Jonathan Nickell and Katy Frisch to help the district move forward in a positive and effective way.
The Times attended all three candidate forums this month, and members of our editorial board have had sit-down discussions with each of the six candidates in the past two weeks.
We have found that each candidate brings fresh ideas to improve on what is in place. They see the challenges ahead, from finding the right leader to being more transparent and open to the community. The three board members not up for re-election have made strides in some areas, and the addition of Nickell and Frisch will help further those efforts.
At one forum, Nickell suggested floating a bond issue to voters for funding to build or acquire housing for teachers. We are not sure whether that’s possible, but municipal bonds can be used for capital projects such as building schools and other public buildings, so why not look at it for building teacher housing?
Just being bold enough to suggest that major of a step shows Nickell is open to looking at all options.
The Aspen Times endorsed Nickell in 2017 when there were three open seats. He finished behind current board members Dwayne Romero, Susan Marolt and Susie Zimet.
His commitment is demonstrated through his work on the District Accountability Committee and his role with the teachers’ association in their salary negotiations. Nickell, the CFO of an international company, has a strong command of the numbers, from finances to standardized-test scores. We also appreciate his level-headed approach to divisive issues — his calm yet firm demeanor would be an asset to the board.
Frisch brings with her a no-nonsense approach to school matters and a background that more than qualifies her for the BOE. Her local board experience includes her current role on the executive committee of the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, of which she once was president, vice president and treasurer. She also sat on the board of the pre-K Wildwood School in Aspen and is a current member of Aspen Public Radio’s board of directors.
Frisch runs her family’s manufacturing business and understands finances, demonstrated by her 10 years on the district’s Financial Advisory Board. Worth noting, however, is that board met just once in the past two years.
Frisch explained to the Times editorial board that behind the scenes, she brought her concerns about the board’s near-dormancy to the district’s elected leaders but they did not gain any traction. The situation was indicative of other issues at the district that senior management wasn’t addressing, Frisch said.
That’s part of the reason Frisch is running for the board — to root out problems that have frustrated members of volunteer organizations such as the District Accountability Committee and the Financial Advisory Board.
As members of those committees, both Frisch and Nickell experienced ongoing difficulties accessing basic information, like finances, from the district. As future BOE members, the two will be able to relate with district stakeholders who have experienced those same challenges, including getting the board’s attention on matters of importance.
We’re confident that Nickell and Frisch at the table will be most beneficial in making one of the board’s biggest decisions in decades. Finding the right superintendent in the next year is critical. Nickell and Frisch’s business background — both have MBAs — make them ideal for these two board openings.
If you haven’t mailed in your ballot, make sure to do that sooner than later. Remember, Election Day is Nov. 5, and vote Katy Frisch and Jonathan Nickell for the Aspen School District Board of Education.
The Aspen Times editorial board is comprised of publisher Samantha Johnston, editor David Krause, managing editor Rick Carroll, and reporters Scott Condon and Carolyn Sackariason.
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