by Sandia Belgrade
Michelle Hashbarger, the Principal of Moffat School who was asked to step down by Charles Warren, the former Superintendent, is back on the job, after having to decide between a job in Denver and returning to Moffat. The school staff and community have expressed excitement that she has agreed to return.  Hashbarger let the school know of her decision on Friday January 15, but Linda Stagner and Karen Hazard, the school Business Managers, who had been named as the temporary interim co-superintendents, were still in the process of renegotiating the terms of her contract with the District’s attorney. Hashbarger has been reinstated as the overall principal until the end of the year, at which point all District contracts are reviewed. Several events led to this turnabout.
When the School Board convened on January 4, they accepted the resignation of Reynold Bean from the Board, which leaves Michelle Olson, Stacy Schellabarger and Sage Godfrey on the board. Sitting with them at the meeting were Karen Hazard and Linda Stagner.
The dialogue with the audience began with a conflicting tone. Teachers and community residents, caught in a vacuum with no leadership, were understandably frustrated. They asked the Board whattheir process was to find a Principal and Superintendent. Why were they going so far afield to find replacements? Several were not happy with names that were being floated.  They challenged the Board to bring Hashbarger back since she had been purged by Warren, and had been a victim so to speak. They asked if there was there any consideration being given to her. And why had no one asked former Superintendent Eli Dokson, or talked to him—residents urged the Board not to dismiss him, especially since Eli and Michelle had worked harmoniously.
A crucial momentum shift
Then in a palpable way, the mood shifted. Sandi Lockhart, the Reading First coach addressed the Board in a low key but cogent way. After all, it was Hashbarger who had done so much to help the reading program, she said. Peggy Godfrey said the priority should be to get the District functioning and on even keel. The students are feeling up and down. For the sake of continuity, bring in those who know the system to get us through the rest of year. Please listen.
Linda Stagner, one of the acting superintendents, addressed one of the issues: whether as acting co-superintendent, she and Karen Hazard could name a principal. Sage Godfrey replied that Hashbarger’s contract could be worked out—what she signed didn’t keep her from coming back. Stagner also talked to Eli to see if he would consider coming on in some capacity, perhaps as a consultant. Although prompt action is desirable for school stability, there are procedures a school Board must follow.
Catching up on key grants
It was discussed at that meeting that in many ways that are invisible to the general public, the school is in a bit of difficulty. The school is not in compliance with Title I. These funds affect any child needing remedial help. Record keeping  of children has not been done since Hashbarger left. Also of significance, the school could be missing out on huge funding opportunities; there are important grants that need to be completed and submitted. The Board gave approval to participate in the Race to the Top grant money which helps struggling schools with evaluation, standards and assessments, alignment with state standards, and improvement of teacher effectiveness. Ironically, just the day before Hashbarger’s return, President Obama announced  that he will seek a $1.35 billion expansion of his signature Race to the Top initiative for improving public education, including provisions that will allow individual school systems to compete for the coveted federal grants. It involves a cutting edge data system to track progress, which will really assist Moffat.
Dokson’s return
As for Dokson, no decision can be formalized until the Board meets again on January 25, since only the Board, which is charged with the responsibility of finding a superintendent, can make a decision. Dokson had met with Stagner and Hazard, but given all that’s happened, he was unwilling to conjecture. However, he said he is willing to return in any capacity. At this point there is a strong possibility he’ll return either as a consultant or as an interim Superintendent. In his words, he’ll do whatever will help the school get back on track and provide a foundation for them to move ahead.
Those who made a difference
Karen Hazard and Linda Stagner surely deserve kudos. Stagner is a part-time and Hazard is a full-time Business Manager who deserve praise because of the additional responsibility they took on in helping the change come about. They’ll probably go back to their regular jobs, but their extra work as interim co-superintendents and their role in this transition have earned them praise.  The fact that the Board was willing to listen to the teachers and rescind what was clearly a decision based on biased reports to them, also earns them high marks.