Job of Roaring Fork School District chief up in air after board election

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The superintendent involved in firing a popular Glenwood Springs principal now finds her own job in jeopardy after the election of a new Roaring Fork School District board majority.

A standing-room-only audience showed up at a special meeting Monday morning to offer varying views on Judy Haptonstall. The board then met several hours behind closed doors but took no immediate action. Board members say they will issue a statement this morning.

Earlier this year, at Haptonstall’s recommendation, the board decided not to renew the contract of longtime Glenwood Springs Elementary School Principal Sonya Hemmen. Hemmen had been suspended for unspecified reasons.

Three board seats were up for election this fall. Two incumbents didn’t seek re-election, and a third, Myles Rovig, was defeated. The winners — Matthew Hamilton, Daniel Biggs and Terry Lott Richardson — had voiced concerns about Haptonstall’s leadership, both in connection with the Hemming matter and more generally.

Basalt parent Stacey Craft told the board Monday that a “climate of fear” is pervasive in the district, with teachers and even parents being intimidated about speaking up.

Jenny Cutright of Glenwood Springs contends that the public isn’t happy with the leadership of the administration or previous board.

“I believe the voters of this district have spoken,” she said.

But many spoke Monday on Haptonstall’s behalf.

“Judy has done an amazing job allowing me to voice my concerns even when inappropriate and finding time to sit and talk and look at other options. I encourage you to do the same,” Carbondale Middle School Principal Rick Holt told the board.w

Jhon Penn, executive director of field services for the state Department of Education, praised the district’s accomplishments under Haptonstall. He commended what he called “bold and innovative” initiatives that have boosted academic achievement, and asked the board “to always weigh the impact of sudden change on systems.”

Haptonstall recently was signed to a two-year contract. Phil Weir, who ran unsuccessfully for an open board seat this fall, questioned the wisdom of the district having to spend $300,000 to pay off the contract if it fires Haptonstall.

Cutright said the board would have heard from more unhappy parents had Monday’s meeting not been held during work hours. In an interview, Hamilton, the board’s president, said its statement would reflect its desire “to hear from the community.”

Haptonstall could not be reached after Monday’s meeting for comment.


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