Sitka School Board member Tom Conley stepped down Tuesday night after 13 years of service.
That is an unusually long tenure for a Sitka school board member and one that Superintendent Steve Bradshaw says has served the district well.
“Having board members that have been on a long period of time helps not only me get answers from them, but helps the community feel very comfortable in going to see a board member,” Bradshaw said.
Conley spent much of his time on the board as one of the district’s strongest voices in Juneau. Bradshaw says Conley’s frequent trips to the capital city involved hours of lobbying before state lawmakers, often about the finer points of complex education policy.
“One of the things that anybody that’s met Tom understands is that you’re talking to somebody that’s on an IQ scale in the top 1 percent of people in the nation,” Bradshaw said. “It’s not easy for anyone that doesn’t have a legitimate argument to debate with Tom, because Tom researches the things he’s going over to lobby for. He knows the information, and it’s difficult for any Legislature to try to smooth over things that they don’t know that much about.”
But Bradshaw says Conley also has kept administrators on their toes – asking hard questions about district policy. He credits Conley with keeping student-teacher ratios pretty low in Sitka.
“Tom has been a strong advocate of that over the years,” Bradshaw said. “Every student situation that reaches the board level, whether it’s coming from me, or coming from one of the principals, or coming from a teacher, we better have our ducks in a row, because Tom is there to protect the child.”