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'To Rebuild Trust,' Aspen School District Looks To Reflect Community In Superintendent Search

Feb 4, 2020

Credit Molly Dove / Aspen Public Radio

The Aspen School District is currently searching for its next superintendent, and the Board of Education has made community outreach a priority in the process. 

Consulting company Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates worked with the district to create a leadership profile outlining what the community would like to see in the next superintendent. 

The profile found that students, staff, parents and other Roaring Fork Valley residents want to see more communication, better educational opportunities and more trust. Morning Edition host and reporter Molly Dove talked with Aspen School District Board of Education President Susan Marolt about how the district is using the leadership profile to inform the decision on who will be the next superintendent. 

Why do you think the community is making trust and clear communication a priority? Is it because of the controversial exit of previous superintendent John Maloy?

"When we did our climate and culture study last year, trust was a big part of that. So to rebuild that trust and create trust, I think that is very important to the staff and to our community."

What are some ways the board wants the new superintendent to build that trust and improve the district’s culture again?

"I mean, I think transparency is a big one, and communication. And that’s what the board is trying to do through this process, and then we want to certainly continue that as the new superintendent starts. So it’s just having really clear policies and communicating those well to staff, and to parents and students and to the community. And just being open and willing to talk about things and make sure everybody is all on the same page about what’s going on."

Susan Marolt, Aspen School District's Board of Education president.
Credit Aspen School District

So now that the board is finishing up first-round interviews this week with eight candidates, how is the board using this leadership profile when selecting which candidates to interview and move forward in the process?

"I mean, it’s really nice to have this because it’s basically gathered information from our community, which is who we want to serve, and boiled it down to some characteristics that we’re looking for. So, it’s going to, I think, make it easier for us to evaluate candidates based on what it is our community really values."

Why focus so much on community outreach? It seems like the district and the board is really interested in getting all community voices engaged in the process. 

"I think that is our main job, honestly, is to make sure that we’re reflecting what our community wants. Our community is obviously the students, those are our biggest priority. That’s who we’re serving. But those students, I think, represent what their parents think and also what our staff believes, and just in general, the values of our community. 

So I think it’s important to make sure that we are listening to all of those people and that we’re trying to find someone who will be able to fit in in our community and jump right into Aspen life as it is and be present out in the community. We have community partners that we currently use a lot of resources for the school district, but we even want to expand that more. I think we have a lot of potential places where we can interact with the community more. So I think that will be nice to have a new superintendent out there and using those opportunities."