Two principals leave amid subtance-abuse allegations

District withholds further comment on same-day departures

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Two Douglas County elementary school principals left their positions Dec. 7 following allegations of substance abuse violations.

Ally Berggren, principal of Buffalo Ridge Elementary in Castle Rock, and Alan McQueen, principal of Heritage Elementary in Highlands Ranch, both reportedly violated Douglas County School District policy on substance abuse, according to letters sent to the parents of students at both schools.

Berggren resigned, and “is receiving treatment with support from the district,” according to the letter.

The letter about McQueen’s departure said only that he “will no longer serve … due to the violation of Douglas County School District policy regarding substance abuse.”

Because they are personnel issues, district officials said they cannot comment further on the departures.

News of McQueen’s dismissal was shocking for Chris Cingrani, former Heritage Elementary Parent Teacher Organization president and member of its School Advisory Council.

“Any time something like this comes out, it’s very unexpected,” said Cingrani, who said he could not comment on any specifics surrounding the decision. “He’s definitely going to be missed. He was a great leader and a visionary for Heritage.”

Cingrani said he heard complaints from some parents that the district’s letter announcing McQueen’s departure provided either too much or too little information.

“I think it was handled as best it could be handled,” he said. “It’s a no-win situation. It’s a very unfortunate set of circumstances for all parties — for Alan and his family, for Heritage, teachers, staff, kids.”

The focus now is on the future, including the selection of McQueen’s successor.

“We need to move ahead as a community at Heritage,” Cingrani said.

A Buffalo Ridge Elementary spokeswoman said the school could not comment on the matter.

The district’s substance abuse policy requires immediate suspension and allows for termination if an employee is “knowingly in the possession of or under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance” while on district property, at any school-sponsored or sanctioned activity off district property, and on the way to work.

“In appropriate circumstances and at the district’s discretion, disciplinary sanctions may include the completion of an approved drug or alcohol abuse assistance or rehabilitation program,” according to the policy. “However, the District is not required to offer rehabilitation in lieu of termination or other discipline to any employee who has violated this policy.”

Assistant Principal Alisa Pauley will serve as Heritage Elementary’s leader until an interim principal is named for the remainder of the year. Lynn Bisesi, building resource teacher at Buffalo Ridge, will lead that school until an interim principal is named.

The story was broadcast on Denver television stations Dec. 8. A 9News representative said the information came to them through a news tip from someone close to the situation, and not from the school district.

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