Bradshaw turned in his letter to the Sitka School Board at their regular meeting Thursday evening (8-15-13). His resignation will be effective at the end of the coming school year, on June 30, 2014.
Bradshaw has been superintendent in Sitka for 13 years. The average length of a superintendency in Alaska is 2.7 years.
Prior to becoming superintendent, Bradshaw was principal of Sitka High School for three years. He’s also worked many years in both Metlakatla and his home state of Montana.
Bradshaw says the key to his longevity in Sitka has been his bosses. He says he couldn’t have asked for better people on the school boards he’s worked for.
“I’ve seen a lot of boards in my 38 years now that get on there because they’ve got kind of an axe to grind. I haven’t seen that here in Sitka. It’s been about kids. It’s not that there haven’t been some who have gotten on because they think, That needs to change. For the most part, they get on and they stay on for a while.”
During his tenure, Bradshaw’s seen the overall size of the district shrink by around 400 students, but he says he’s also fortunate that state funding has gradually ticked upwards. Nevertheless, he feels there’s some work he’s leaving unfinished in Sitka.
“The dropout rate still bothers me. I don’t like to lose kids. I kind of take it personally sometimes. That’s a big issue.”
And the dropout rate, according to Bradshaw, is not an isolated problem. It’s linked to how prepared for school kids are. And that, he believes, is linked to economics.
“The number one factor is poverty. We see on television, hear on radio, read in the newspapers that the gap is widening. And I don’t think people really understand — last year we had 30 homeless students kids in this school district — in Sitka! 30 homeless children. I believe that in this country we’re losing our middle class. I’m not blaming anybody. I’m saying that’s the reality we’re faced with.”
Bradshaw also says he’s surprised by the diversity in the district, by the number of languages spoken — but immigration, though an overall positive for the community, comes with a downside.
“Parents are working two and three and four jobs just to survive. And so the time spent with children — it’s not like it was when I was a kid where mom stayed home with kids all the time. It’s just not that way anymore.”
Bradshaw has a combined 19 years in education Alaska, and 19 years at teaching or administrative jobs in Montana. He says he’s not retiring, but a new plan has not taken shape. He recently was one of eight semi-finalists for the job of Sitka municipal administrator. He didn’t get that job, but that doesn’t mean he won’t stop thinking about a new direction.
“I’m fascinated by the future. As has been pointed out to me many times, I’m pretty passionate about education, I just may look at it in a different role. I just know that it was time for me to do something different. I really have no plan set forward. I have a grandchild now in Juneau, so that may impact my wife’s and my decision. I think that whatever I do I’m hoping that it has something to do with helping kids in some fashion.”
Bradshaw’s wife Sandy is a teacher at Keet Gooshi Heen elementary school in Sitka. He says she’ll retire when he leaves the district. One thing is for sure, Bradshaw is not going to become a commercial fisherman. He says, “I’m about the worst boatsman out there!”