Aspen School District Board of Education: Meet the candidates, Part 2 | News | #education | #technology | #training


Editor’s Note: In this final installment of a two-part series with the Aspen School District Board of Education candidates, the slate of six vying for the three open seats discuss the role of technology in the classroom, the current Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan and why voters should elect them in November.  



Name:  Lawrence Butler

Current occupation: Self-employed investor

Aspen Daily News: As COVID-19 transitioned so much learning to virtual platforms, what role do you think technology has in the classroom and curriculum moving forward?  

LB: If there wasn’t too much technology in our children’s lives before COVID, there sure is now! Technology, like it or not, has a huge role in the classroom and everywhere else. It needs to be embraced and managed so that it doesn’t totally take over our children’s lives. Reading real books, face-to-face learning, outdoor ed programs, sports, the arts, are all more crucial to students’ learning experiences and mental health than they have ever been. Time away from screens is nourishment to our children and to all of us. 

ADN: The Aspen School District has grappled with questions surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion and is moving forward with a plan to address these things. Do you agree with the current path? What, if anything, would you like to see the district do differently?  

LB: I know that the ASD has formed an equity task force that has made recommendations to the school board. It is unclear whether some or any of these recommendations have been accepted. Therefore, I’m not sure we are on a “path” to dealing with diversity, equity and inclusion. As a board member, I would like to review and understand the recommendations of the equity task force and help adopt a reasonable set of principles that we can follow going forward. I can tell you that I love the sound of “diversity, equity and inclusion” being part of the language used in our schools.

ADN: Why should voters elect you in November?  

LB: I should be elected because I have broad business and community interests that will make me an active and valued board member. I have strong opinions but believe in civilized discourse and consensus building. I have lots of “skin in the game” with three children, including one with special needs, attending Aspen public schools.






Name: John Galambos

Current Position: Architect and Owner of Galambos Architects Inc.

Aspen Daily News: As COVID-19 transitioned so much learning to virtual platforms, what role do you think technology has in the classroom and curriculum moving forward?

JG: When possible, nothing is as good as in-person learning. The teachers have been amazing in their ability to adapt their lesson plans to virtual formats. But there is so much to a teacher’s job outside of lesson planning that happens in interactions with students. We do need to use whatever tools we can to provide the best education we can to all students. Some do well virtually; many do not. Access to technology also exposes inequalities. We need to address economic impacts to students as well when we consider the next new thing. Our teachers certainly know more than I do how to leverage technology for the best educational experience. My role on the BOE is again to listen to our superintendent, administrators and teachers (the experts) and allow them to do what they do best.

ADN: The Aspen School District has grappled with questions surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion and is moving forward with a plan to address these things. Do you agree with the current path? What, if anything, would you like to see the district do differently?

JG: Discussions about diversity, equity, and inclusion are important, and we need to understand how these topics impact the Aspen community. We are a public school with an obligation to teach every kid who walks in our doors in a completely equitable way. We have to understand our biases in order to reach every kid. We have some serious economic disparity in this town. This needs to be addressed as well. I think the district needs to spend some more time learning about the diversity, equity and inclusion impacts specific to our community. From there, we can take steps to ensure that ASD is meeting its mission of creating an educational environment where every student can thrive. 

The district should also spend more time defining diversity, equity and inclusion in our community. Diversity, equity and inclusion are hot-button words. Depending on who you ask, you’ll get differing interpretations of their meanings. We need to define them collectively as a local community and research how other districts are addressing these issues.

The role of the BOE is not to micromanage groups like the equity team at ASD. The BOE’s role is to seek input from this team, community members, teachers and staff, as well as students to inform policies and decisions going forward.  

ADN: Why should voters elect you in November?

JG: I don’t see this as a particularly issue-oriented election. I see this as a leadership and vision election. As I have previously stated, my platform as BOE candidate is based on creating stability, building bridges and restoring community. I will work to create stability in this district. We need stability for our staff and administration and kids need stability in order to thrive. We need stability in the curriculum. We’re implementing IB for all grades — a good decision that will need time in order to see the benefit. I like the direction of the schools, and I will work at ushering in a period of stability where we create an environment that trusts our administration and teachers to equip our students to excel. 

I will build bridges. This implies compromise. As an architect my job description is best described as being a “creative and collaborative problem solver.” That means listening, asking questions, finding consensus and making policy that is always in the best interest of our kids. And I will work at building community. We are a small town and a tight community. We need to welcome new people in and embrace new ideas, but we can’t lose our sense of place. We are so much more than a college preparatory school. We are a district, informed by our mountain environment, where all kids learn how to think critically and become their own unique citizens of this world. 



Name: Christa Gieszl

Current occupation: Primary care physician, Veterans’ Administration, Board-certified in Internal Medicine

Aspen Daily News: As COVID-19 transitioned so much learning to virtual platforms, what role do you think technology has in the classroom and curriculum moving forward?

CG: One of the surprises of the pandemic was how quickly we adapted to using technology in every aspect of education and our working lives, simply because we had no choice. Technology is an indispensable part of how our children interact with the world — and for some students, in fact, virtual learning was preferable because it allowed them to work at their own speed and without the distractions of classmates.

My top priority is to have our children attend school in classrooms, but technology can be used selectively in beneficial ways. Access to online classes and other resources can open up a universe of opportunities for our district’s students, expanding their choice of classes far beyond what our small district can offer. The integration of technology into the learning process is a key part of the International Baccalaureate program, which emphasizes collaborative learning, interdisciplinary projects, and a spirit of inquiry and innovation.

Of course, utilizing technology in thoughtful ways is beneficial and necessary. Let’s just make sure that when we put technology to use in the classroom, it’s because we have made a conscious decision that it represents the best option, and not just the easiest one.

ADN: The Aspen School District has grappled with questions surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion and is moving forward with a plan to address these things. Do you agree with the current path? What, if anything, would you like to see the district do differently?

CG: These are politically fraught times, and the stresses of COVID coupled with political polarization have sometimes divided our community. My preference is always to bring people to the table to talk through our differences, set aside politics, and work toward solutions that we can agree on. As co-chair of the Aspen School District Accountability Committee since 2018, I introduced open committee meetings and invited key stakeholders to attend, fostering better communication with the public and ensuring that different voices were heard. As a longtime doctor with the Veterans’ Administration, I often treat patients with very different politics and world views than my own. But I always try to find common ground with them — we all want good health, we all care for our families and we all hope that our children and grandchildren will have opportunities that we lacked.

These are the qualities I bring to my candidacy for the school board. Only through embracing diversity, forging compromise, and ensuring that all voices are heard can we rebuild our community and practice the values of tolerance, equity and inclusion that we teach our children.

ADN: Why should voters elect you in November?

CG: As a doctor, a lifelong advocate for public health, a passionate believer in public school education and the mother of three children, I bring a unique skillset to my candidacy for Aspen school board. Our children deserve the opportunity to pursue their dreams, whatever their starting points, and I will work hard to make that so. I ask for your vote so that I can:

  • Advocate for ALL students at all levels of ability to receive the support and enrichment they need — whether they are gifted and talented, require special education services, or occupy the space in between where it is easy to be overlooked;

  • Pursue policies based on science that will keep the members of our school community healthy, both mentally and physically;

  • Prioritize investments in housing and other programs so that our excellent teachers can continue to live and work in our community;

  • Foster a climate of compromise and inclusivity so that, working together, we can begin to heal our community and move forward.



Name: Stacey Weiss

Current occupation: Retired public school teacher, independent piano instructor.

Aspen Daily News: As COVID-19 transitioned so much learning to virtual platforms, what role do you think technology has in the classroom and curriculum moving forward? 

SW: Technology has been an integral part of learning at ASD for many years and will continue to be important because we are educating our students for the future. During the pandemic, online learning and digital platforms offered a viable alternative that allowed us to continue school safely while dealing with an unprecedented situation. However, virtual platforms are not the ideal way for teachers to teach or for students to learn in the long run. 

Now that we’re back to in-person learning and a more normal school environment, technology will continue to be incorporated where appropriate, as one of many tools that educators can employ to deliver curriculum effectively. One thing we can agree on is that students learn best when physically present with their teachers and peers and we should approach educational technology with that in mind. 

ADN: The Aspen School District has grappled with questions surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion and is moving forward with a plan to address these things. Do you agree with the current path? What, if anything, would you like to see the district do differently? 

SW: To empower every student to reach their unique potential, I support the work of the district’s equity team to promote opportunity, access and inclusion. This means acknowledging and welcoming the diversity of students’ backgrounds, languages, talents, challenges and identities. We must ensure that every student feels safe and valued, and has the resources they need to learn, thrive and be successful. 

I think we are on the right path because supporting every student by matching resources to meet student needs across the spectrum will lead to success in the classroom and in life. The equity team made a good start on this initiative, but there’s more work to be done. Moving forward, we should revisit the July 2020 draft resolution on equity, pass it and adopt policies that support its goals.  

ADN: Why should voters elect you in November? 

SW: As a career educator with more than 30 years of teaching experience, I believe that I am uniquely qualified to offer a perspective that has been missing in the boardroom for too long. I understand how board policies affect learning in the classroom and can bring balance to the board’s decision making process. I have strong interpersonal skills and will strive to be a role model for respectful discourse and cooperative problem solving. As a teacher, a parent and a passionate advocate for public education, I am dedicated to our students’ educational welfare and will work hard to achieve the goal of providing educational excellence in Aspen. If you agree that we need a classroom perspective in the boardroom, I ask for your vote on Nov. 2.



Name: Anna Zane

Current occupation: First and foremost, mother of four children, co-owner of Zane’s Tavern. 

Aspen Daily News: As COVID-19 transitioned so much learning to virtual platforms, what role do you think technology has in the classroom and curriculum moving forward?  

AZ: Technology is one of life’s “can’t live with it, can’t live without it” dilemmas. Technology was a saving grace, facilitating virtual meetings for adults and virtual classrooms for students without the risk of COVID exposure. But excessive screen time related to technology’s overuse by children was already well documented before COVID, impeding their social-emotional development, communication skills, fine motor-skill abilities and academic performance.

To maximize technology’s benefits and mitigate detriments, we must carefully consider when to use technology — for example, employing it when meeting in person isn’t practical (as with traveling student athletes and unwell children best kept at home) — and to assure our students have the technology awareness and skills (typing, computer, coding, robotics) to thrive in the 21st century. The younger the student, the more carefully we should limit technology use. By middle and high school, appropriate use of technology combined with the district’s digital citizenship programming, can assure that our kids successfully use and navigate technology in order to thrive in their future pursuits.

ADN: The Aspen School District has grappled with questions surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion and is moving forward with a plan to address these things. Do you agree with the current path? What, if anything, would you like to see the district do differently? 

AZ: I support ASD’s efforts to identify areas in our school that might impede a student’s success or deny them access to opportunities. The district is committed to cultivating a climate both in and out of the classroom that is free of intolerance, bigotry and discrimination where students and staff feel respected and valued. I commend the board’s hiring of Bill de la Cruz to help achieve these goals by facilitating mutual respect and good communication.

Achieving true equity and inclusivity requires lifting each student to their fullest potential, regardless of race, religion, disability, language, body type, political orientation, social class, or financial resources. Not only do we need a “COVID Recovery Plan” for students whose growth has been stymied during the pandemic, we need to channel resources toward identifying the causes for student underperformance and intervene to help them advance. 

The results of the “equity survey” administered to high school students revealed a healthy school environment, which is a credit to ASD staff who must be encouraged to continue promoting the dignity of difference, fairness, and equality for all while promoting free inquiry, civil discourse and the accumulation of knowledge.

ADN: Why should voters elect you in November?

AZ: When all is said and done, my time with the Aspen School District will span over five decades, including my time as a student, as well as that of my four children. I know firsthand what happens in the classroom and the struggles and successes that our children, teachers and staff experience daily.

I hope people will look at my proven track record of identifying and addressing needs by creating common ground. I did this by leading the effort to recruit new district leadership, by the role I’ve long played on the District and School Accountability Committees to address declining academics by making curricular changes including “IB for all,” to the supportive roles I’ve played in my kids’ classrooms. I want to focus on paying teachers what they’re worth and support their housing needs so we can attract and retain our teaching talent.

To be effective in these roles working with other people, I’ve tried to remain steadfast to our common goals, to communicate in an honest and straightforward way, to project positivity as we work together, and to understand that we’re all human and that we should judge people not on their worst moment, but on their intention and effort.



Name: Susan M. Zimet

Current occupation: Recently retired Aspen internal medicine physician

Aspen Daily News: As COVID-19 transitioned so much learning to virtual platforms, what role do you think technology has in the classroom and curriculum moving forward?

SZ: I believe we have learned that most of our students prefer classroom learning to remote learning in this district. However, if —  due to COVID or student preference —  we’re going to use technology for teaching, we need to make sure that it is equitably resourced. One of the things that has pained me during the COVID pandemic has been learning about kids who didn’t have adequate technology, and that’s not fair.

There is also concern that if kids know that the class is being streamed and recorded on the internet, they might adjust their behavior and refrain from speaking and participating because they don’t feel safe.  We want our students to be able to participate freely in classroom discussion, and so while virtual classrooms seem like a good idea, there are additional potential drawbacks to consider. Hybrid classrooms — in-person and remote simultaneously — present different challenges, all of which need to be weighed in the balance. 

These are children. A majority would choose to be around other children — and that’s how most kids learn best. 

ADN: The Aspen School District has grappled with questions surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion and is moving forward with a plan to address these things. Do you agree with the current path? What, if anything, would you like to see the district do differently?

SZ: We know that kids who can’t read by 3rd grade have a high rate of dropping out of high school. We need to identify students at a young age who need targeted intervention, whether it’s due to a language barrier, a lack of specific resources, or family issues. 

I agree with one of our principal’s definitions of equity: “ensuring that all students have what they need to be successful.” We may need to pay more on targeted training for teachers to address issues of equity for our kids. We need to: be certain that all kids feel welcome & included at our schools; monitor our progress; and identify areas where improvement is needed.

A recent Aspen High School survey showed that of the 19% of students who reported having felt discriminated against, the top two forms of discrimination were based on body type and political views; gender and class were the next two reasons. We should be vigilant about addressing these concerns as well as other types of discrimination that may be under-reported such as among the marginalized. We should consider annual comprehensive surveys to be sure these issues are improving, and  provide ongoing training to prevent them going forward. Our newly formed equity team could assist and help direct this work in conjunction with teachers and administration.

ADN: Why should voters elect you in November?

SZ: I am proud to run on my record. I feel like I’ve worked hard and we’ve accomplished a lot during the past four years:

  • Hired a new superintendent, who hired a new administrative team and spearheaded a Master Teacher Agreement

  • Increased teacher pay

  • Conducted a curriculum audit and made curricular changes in response

  • Conducted facilities/plant audit and began deferred maintenance including safety and security measures

  • Closed on $114 million bond issue after positive vote by the community

  • Commenced buying additional teacher housing stock

  • Provided responsible leadership during COVID

I hope the voters give me another four years to see through to completion the work I’ve started:

  • Continue to upgrade our curriculum

  • Purchase more housing stock for our teachers

  • Attract and retain excellent teachers

  • Make sure our kids are prepared to go to college if they so choose

  • Have students make annual yearly progress to help reach their individual potential, goals and dreams

  • Be sure all students feel included and welcomed at school    

I hope that the voters will see me as a safe choice, a good steward of this precious community asset, and someone who will deliver to our kids the best educational experience they can get. Thank you for your consideration.



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