Parents discuss Schafer decision

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Tearful questions and pointed demands marked a special Hayden School Board meeting held Wednesday night to discuss high school Principal Nick Schafer's resignation.

About 30 people packed a middle school classroom for the meeting, with some spilling out into the hallway where they listened as parents and students addressed the board.

"I feel the School Board has not done their job in dealing with issues in a timely manner. ... It would be in the best interests of our children to rectify this matter," said Tina Fry, who opened the public comment session.

Fry was among those who argued that students have not been made the priority in all parts of the district and that Schafer's resignation May 28 reveals deeper problems in the Hayden school system.

Differences in opinion with Superintendent Scott Mader and issues that arose throughout the school year were key influences in Schafer's decision to leave, he said last week.

He has taken a principal position at La Veta Junior-Senior High School in Southern Colorado.

Mader and Schafer were present at the meeting. Mader and the board mostly listened to residents' comments, then retired into a private meeting.

Schafer said the outpouring of support has overwhelmed him.

"It's been that way for about two weeks now. ... I had no idea it would be such a huge upheaval of support," he said after the meeting.

Despite several near pleas for him to change his mind, Schafer said it is in the best interest of the school that he leave. He confirmed his decision with the board before the meeting, he said, noting that he is leaving with no hard feelings.

Still, some parents questioned whether the board might have done more to prevent his resignation.

"I am really troubled by the fact that the board knew there were troubles going on between Mr. Mader and Mr. Schafer but that it got to this point," parent Ann Willingham said.

Fry was among many parents who said Schafer's firm but compassionate leadership kept their children on the right track.

Administrators and parents have said Schafer's drug policy was among the programs that helped turn around truancy and other problems in the school before his arrival.

Former student Shai Engle, who graduated from the high school in May, was among students hit hard by Schafer's resignation.

"I couldn't have made it without Mr. Schafer," she said, tears welling in her eyes.

Engle was concerned about losing the drug policy. "What's going to happen to what we developed?" she asked the board.

Parents said dissatisfied teachers and a school budget that doesn't provide enough textbooks or an elementary physical education teacher were among the issues that needed the board's attention.

Parents have scheduled a tentative meeting to discuss concerns at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the school.

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