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Charter schools start new year amid big changes

Press Release

A local non-profit since 1970, COMPASS… For Lifelong Learning operates two public, tuition free K-8 charter schools serving 270 students in the valley: Aspen Community School and Carbondale Community School. COMPASS is pleased to welcome two educational leaders to the organization.

Michael Hayes has been hired as the Executive Director of COMPASS, following the retirement of Skye Skinner who held the post for 22 years.

“It is a sincere joy to hand the reins to someone who cares so much about small schools and educational choice. Michael has the skillset we need for the next chapter in this wonderful organization’s rich history, and he’s a good human being to boot!,” says Skinner.

Hayes has been a teacher and school leader for 20 years, including nine as a teacher at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School. Most recently he was Head of School at, and helped to start up, the new Mountain Village Montessori Charter School in Steamboat Springs.

Hayes says “It’s an honor to accept this position and to build upon the great foundation that exists. I’m inspired to work with the talented educators at our two thriving schools, and it’s an added bonus to return to this beautiful valley.”

Sam Richings-Germain has been hired as Principal of the Carbondale Community School. She has been an educator for 12 years, and was most recently Assistant Principal of Crystal River Elementary School. She has a deep commitment to Project Based Learning, a background that fits well with the experiential, progressive educational program at the Carbondale Community School.

“As an administrator and educator, I will strive to ensure the strongest and best educational opportunities for students in the unique small school environment of CCS”, says Richings-Germain.

Melanie Muss, President of the COMPASS Board, says “COMPASS is in terrific shape to make these leadership transitions successfully. The schools are educationally strong, sustainable and in high demand. The educational and administrative staff is world class. We are looking forward to having both Michael and Sam in our school communities.”

COMPASS’s roots date back to 1970 with the formation of the Aspen Community School (ACS) as a private progressive elementary school offering an alternative to conventional public education. As ACS became a successful educational model, COMPASS expanded the learning-in-community approach to a greater geographic area and wider age range of students. In 1995, after the Charter School Act passed in 1993,  ACS converted from being a private school to  a public charter school. One year later, COMPASS opened the Carbondale Community School. Both schools are high performing and in high demand.