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Housing pushes school official out of Aspen

Paul Conrad/Special to the DailyOutgoing assistant superintendent Bev Tarpley shuffles paperwork while at her Aspen School District office.
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ASPEN ” Aspen’s assistant superintendent will be leaving at the end of the week, another refugee from the town’s burgeoning housing crisis.

Bev Tarpley’s going back across the Continental Divide to take a job near Colorado Springs in large part because she could not find adequate housing in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Nothing remarkable about that, one might say, expect for the fact that Tarpley has worked the past two years as second in command at the Aspen School District, pulling down a respectable annual salary of $101,000 and living in district-subsidized housing.



And still she has been unable to find housing she can afford in a place she feels is comfortable enough and near enough to her job.

“We’ve got to solve this problem,” Tarpley said in a recent interview, noting that she is in the same boat as teachers coming into the district.



“There’s nothing affordable for those young families coming in,” she declared, in spite of the fact that Aspen has the highest starting teacher starting pay in the state ” $40,000 per year, a level she said is tied with a district on the Front Range.

Tarpley, 58, said she is leaving the district reluctantly, and complemented “the most incredible staff” of teachers and administrators, as well as the district’s educational and experiential program. She also praised the school board members, whom she said are “bright … committed [and] take their job seriously. They hold our feet to the fire.”

She said the Aspen student body is remarkable in many ways, but especially in the way the students are confident and easygoing with teachers and administrators.



But despite the accomplishments, she said, with only eight years for her to go until retirement age, she and her husband need to settle where they can afford a home. After selling their home in Woodland Park, outside Colorado Springs, she said, the two have been watching the money they made on the home appreciation “dissolve” because they have been unable to buy a home here.

At least eight teachers, she said, have told her they are similarly “losing ground” and are “not far behind us” in making plans to leave the district.

One possible solution to the district’s housing dilemma, she said, would be for the city to require that all “accessory dwelling units” built as part of new residential development be occupied by local workers, including teachers.

She said a survey had shown there are more than 250 such units in town, almost all vacant. When the district tried to reach out to the owners last year to see if any could be rented to teachers, they got only two positive responses.

In some cases, she said, the property owners offered to rent them for $3,000, which the owners considered a bargain, “But I told them, they [the teachers] don’t earn $3,000 a month, and thanked them for their help.”


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