District 51 makes new position for ousted principal
School District 51 created a new job for a middle school principal allegedly involved in a hit-and-run crash last month and brought an administrator out of retirement to temporarily run the school for nearly $98,000 per year.
Mount Garfield Middle School Principal Hal Templeton was placed on administrative leave after he received a summons for allegedly crashing into a car carrying two women on the Redlands and fleeing the scene on Sept. 18.
He started his new job in drop-out retrieval and recovery on Sept. 30, according to documents obtained by The Daily Sentinel under a Colorado Open Records Act request.
The decision to reassign Templeton was made by Superintendent Steve Schultz and Director of Human Resources Colleen Martin, according to district spokeswoman Emily Shockley.
Templeton will earn an $81,063 salary, which is the same as his salary as principal of Mount Garfield.
His replacement, former district Chief Academic Officer Bill Larsen, will be Mount Garfield’s principal for the rest of the year, earning a $97,796 annual salary. Larsen retired from the district in 2014.
Though Larsen started work on Monday, a finalized employment agreement was not available as of Wednesday, according to Shockley.
Templeton’s job is temporary and “will be reviewed on a regular basis,” Schultz said. District officials did not provide more information about what temporary means.
“We want to be sure that we’re responding in a way that’s appropriate,” Schultz said. “Based on the information we had, we feel that a principal needs to be making sound judgments and ... we needed to do something sooner rather than later. Rather than keep him on a lengthy leave, it would be better to put him in a position where he’s adding value to the district.”
Templeton wrote letters to students and staff after his reassignment, according to documents obtained by the Sentinel.
In a letter addressing Mount Garfield staff, Templeton said he ” … made a poor decision that put me in conflict with D51’s Code of Conduct & Responsibility as an administrator. I blame no one but myself for this decision. In a single moment I have changed the course for all of us and I hold myself accountable for these actions, no one else.”
According to police reports, witnesses estimated Templeton was driving his Toyota Tacoma 80 mph on Broadway near the intersection with West Avenue when he rear-ended a Toyota Camry carrying a 60-year-old woman and a 24-year-old woman. He then pulled to the side of the road and sped off in the opposite direction, according to witnesses who spoke to police. He told police he was having a bad day because his girlfriend left him.
Templeton was ticketed on suspicion of reckless driving and fleeing the scene of an accident involving injuries. He is due back in court on Nov. 7.
Emails between district administrators and Mount Garfield staff show teachers and staff members were split on whether to show support for Templeton after he was placed on leave on Sept. 19, with some advocating for open support and others expressing “conflicting feelings.”
Before becoming principal of Mount Garfield, Templeton was a teacher at Grand Junction High School from 2007-2011 and an assistant principal at Mount Garfield from 2011-2014.
Templeton was “very successful” in those roles, and that was a part of the decision to reassign him, Schultz said.
“We have high expectations for a principal in terms of the judgments they make, but since we didn’t know all the information and still don’t necessarily, that’s why we decided to do a reassignment that would be temporary, and he knows that,” Schultz said.
The position of drop-out retrieval and recovery was cut in 2014, when former district employee John Pomaski resigned following his arrest for internet exploitation and luring of a child.
Shockley said the vacancy has caused outreach for students who are at risk of dropping out of school to fall through the cracks.
“This job was one of those things that was starting to fall by the wayside and we needed to bring this position back and have someone focus on that,” Shockley said.
Templeton’s new duties will include “contacting students who have dropped out or are in the process of dropping out, consulting with schools, analyzing student data, making referrals and talking to students about their options,” Shockley said in a letter responding to the Sentinel’s records request.
Bringing in Larsen to temporarily fill the position as principal at Mount Garfield “wasn’t because of a lack of confidence in (assistant principals),” Schultz said. ” … We wanted to be sure the building wasn’t left in a place that didn’t have experienced leadership. Our primary concern is for safety of students and staff, and we wanted to have someone with experience to go in there and carry them through, giving us time to sort out what the permanent solution would be.”
The school district will conduct a job search for a new principal in the spring, according to a letter Director of Middle Schools Terri ReQua sent to Mount Garfield parents on Sept. 28.