Kim Martin, Aspen High School principal, on campus in the 2014-15 school year.
Kim Martin, Aspen High School principal, on campus in the 2014-15 school year. Credit: Christina Capasso / Aspen Journalism

Aspen High School Principal Kim Martin surprised many in the school community when she announced her resignation Tuesday in a schoolwide email notification.

“Before coming to AHS, I was pursuing a Doctorate in Urban Education and Policy Studies,” Martin wrote in a letter addressed to “Skier Parents.” “I have decided to return to my roots, as it were, and begin working in the area of my greatest passion. I’m very excited about the prospect of pursuing a position in a metropolitan area with opportunities for growth and professional development — and perhaps a chance to get back to work on my dissertation.”

Superintendent John Maloy said there’s “no backstory” to the move and that Martin “felt it was time to pursue other interests.” Coming just about four weeks before the end of the school year, Martin’s decision will make the summer somewhat busier for Maloy and other members of the team who will work to find Martin’s replacement.

“I’d like to have more time, but this does give us time to get the information out in terms of a state and national search,” he said.

District officials aim to post the job opening immediately, assemble an interview team that includes students, staff and parents and have a new principal in place by the beginning of the 2015-16 school year.

Martin was first hired in 2012 after a lengthy search process that included 39 applicants and followed the resignation of Art Abelmann. Before coming to Aspen, she had served as principal of Thomas W. Harvey High School in Painesville, Ohio, for seven years. When Martin steps down June 30, she will have served Aspen High for three academic years.

AHS students in hallway
Credit: Christina Capasso / Aspen Journalism

Up and downs

Martin’s tenure had its ups and downs. At one point in June 2014, teachers in the Aspen Education Association gave her a vote of no confidence, which was quickly followed by an outpouring of pro-Martin support from parents and students. Tension between high school administrators and teachers bubbled up again recently when Mark Grice, assistant principal at the high school, changed a student’s grade without first consulting a teacher.

Martin said these conflicts played a role in her decision, but the reality is that personal and professional matters elsewhere were pulling her away. First, she said, an older brother died recently and her mother is aging. On a more professional level, she has a doctoral dissertation to finish and she wants to help school reform efforts in big, urban school districts.

“I love, love, love the students at Aspen High School, but my life’s work and passion has been around issues of closing achievement gaps and working with students who come from poverty,” Martin said.

The self-described “student-centered administrator” said she’ll miss the bright and highly motivated students in Aspen as well as the parents she has come to know.

“I’ve developed a lot of really strong friendships with parents and community members, and I hope to be able to sustain those wherever I land,” she said.

The administrative offices at Aspen High School.
The administrative offices at Aspen High School. Credit: Christina Capasso / Aspen Journalism

Assistant Superintendent position changes hands

Longtime educator Tom Heald, a former Aspen Middle School principal and the Aspen School District’s current director of curriculum, will have yet another title next year.

Starting July 1, the beginning of the district’s new fiscal year, Heald will replace Julia Roark as assistant superintendent.

According to Superintendent John Maloy, Roark has been looking for several years for a superintendent position somewhere in the Colorado Springs area, and she finally found it in March. Roark will become a zone superintendent in School District 49 in Peyton, northeast of Colorado Springs. The large district is divided into several geographic zones, each with one high school and other elementary and middle schools that feed it. Roark will lead the “Falcon” zone.

Roark announced her move in March, Maloy said, and Heald came out on top in a field of about a dozen applicants. The board of education approved his new placement at its most recent meeting on May 4.

Heald’s move to assistant superintendent will leave a vacancy in his current position, curriculum director. The district is now accepting applications for that job, which involves leading the creation of district curriculum, staff development and instructional programs.

Roark came to Aspen in 2010 from a district near Albuquerque, New Mexico, and stayed in the assistant superintendent’s position throughout her time with the district.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism and The Aspen Times are collaborating on education coverage. The Times published this story on May 12, 2015.