AHS

The Aspen School District has budgeted $10,000 to $12,000 for a consultant who will study climate and culture on the campus.

Teachers will be well represented in discussions with a consultant hired to study climate and culture in the Aspen School District, talks that are scheduled to begin today.

That’s not a bad thing, said school board president Dwayne Romero on Monday during the board’s first meeting of the year. The meeting was held the same day the district’s students returned to school for the semester.

“There is a bias that teachers do matter most,” Romero said, after Kathy Klug, director of college outreach and the annual college fair, pointed out that the steering committee would be heavily represented by teachers, while other district sectors such as facilities, transportation, administration and support services were ignored. Klug teaches a college-preparation class at the high school.

“Teachers will drive this system by pure majority,” she said Monday. “To stack the deck in favor of classroom teachers is leaving out too many voices.”

Interviews with members of the board of education begin today with the consultant firm Wilson Foxen, board member Susan Marolt said. Last month the board voted 4-0 (with one absence) to contract the services of the Denver-based consultant, represented by principal Elizabeth Wilson. Between $10,000 and $12,000, plus travel expenses, are budgeted for the survey’s first phase.

Marolt said the steering committee would initially include four teachers, a principal and possibly an assistant principal, as well as a representative from the District Accountability Committee.

“We would like to have a classroom teacher from each of the schools,” Marolt said, adding committee members have so far expressed their desire to keep the process positive.

“What I hear from them mostly is they want to be looking forward. How can we do better? How can we make our work environment better?” she said.

As now envisioned, the committee will include 12 to 15 people. There are concerns about the board’s size becoming unwieldy, but that it also represent myriad interests, including people outside the district proper.

Board member Sheila Wills noted that the business community saw the culture and climate study as something they believed was of interest and one in which they’d like a say.

“We’re trying to get involvement from every constituency,” Wills said.

That will come at a price of $150 per hour for interviews, which is Wilson Foxen’s rate for nonprofits. The initial contract shared by the district priced out 20 interviews, which would cost $3,750 and 40 interviews at $7,500.

The climate survey was spawned by multiple incidents since last summer, including a parents group who became more active after revelations about human resources director Elizabeth Hodge’s past. She was disbarred as an attorney in Missouri and served probation for a misdemeanor conviction related to fraudulent work activities. Hodges was removed from her position in December but has contested the decision. Ginny Haberman has been named interim human resources director.

Hodges’ possible dismissal followed the school board’s decision in October to not renew Superintendent John Maloy’s rolling three-year contract beyond June 2021.

Romero stressed that the steering committee is “not a decision-making body. It’s designed to build more buy-in, trust and cohesion in the process.”

The committee’s primary task will be to determine follow-ups and assessments. The consulting firm had recommended a survey used by the Littleton Public Schools, a “Comprehensive School Climate Inventory,” as a possible tool.

Warren Klug and wife Kathy have grandchildren in the district schools, and he said Monday he was pleased at the direction the board is taking on the survey and that it would focus on “what it’s like to go to school here.”

“It’s a snapshot of today, not 10 years ago [or] five years ago,” Klug said.

Earlier, he spoke of the need for the consultant’s expectations to be clearly outlined. And like Wills, Klug asked that the consultant review “unsubstantiated claims and charges against the superintendent.”

Madeleine Osberger is a Contributing Editor for Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at madski@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @Madski99