Mary Wegner was hired as the Sitka School District Superintendent in 2014, serving four years as Assistant Superintendent. (Photo courtesy of Mary Wegner)

Sitka Superintendent Mary Wegner is getting a raise.

Last night (01-31-17), the Sitka School Board met in executive session to perform their annual evaluation and negotiate Wegner’s contract. After four hours behind closed doors, they determined Wegner would receive a 1.5% pay raise – effective July 1st. That would bring her salary from $123,627 to $125,454. They also extended her contract by three years, with salaries in the second and third year open to negotiation.

Last year, Wegner refused a raise in lieu of contract language that would allow her to bank more unused leave days. This year, Wegner said, she felt a raise was appropriate. “This year, I was not going to ask for more contract language, so I felt that getting the same raise that all other certificated staff got was a fair ask.”

The School Board approved a similar 1.5% raise for certificated teachers, in negotiations with the Sitka Education Association. The raise will go into effect next year. Paraprofessionals and ancillary staff, represented by the Sitka Educational Support Professional Association, will receive a 1% increase over the next two years. 

The Sitka School Board is also developing their budget for next fiscal year, with a deficit of $96,000. Board member Tom Conley says it’s likely the district will lose two teaching positions to attrition.

As for Wegner’s evaluation, Conley says she received high marks on several fronts – from ethics to finances to juggling new projects. “There had been some concern last year that she was taking on too many projects at one time. We had a fear that it would burn her out in the position,” Conley said. “But it appears from last year, with more projects being taken on, that she is such a high energy person that she is capable with handling multiple tasks at one time.”

Wegner says she’s honored to be Sitka’s superintendent, praising students and staff and thanking the board for their support. “I’m here. I’m committed to being here. We’re in this together. We’re going to do great things together for our students. I’m just honored to be in that position. Although it’s a lot of work and a lot of hours and a lot of responsibilities, I really do like the work. I’m enjoying to continue to work in my skillset and my ability to be effective in the position,” Wegner said.

Wegner also wanted to thank Senator Lisa Murkowski for listening to Alaskans on education issues. This week, constituents  have been calling on Murkowski to oppose to nomination of Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education. DeVos, a Michigan billionaire, has been a champion of school choice and vouchers.

“Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearing process showed that she possesses very limited knowledge about the rights of students to a free public education, and consequently her appointment could negatively impact our work here in Sitka, as well as around the state,” Wegner said. “I commend Senator Murkowski for taking a stand in support of public education in Alaska.”

APRN’s Liz Ruskin reports that Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan plans to approve her nomination. While he shares Murkowski’s concerns, Sullivan believes DeVos cares deeply about children and will return decision making to the local level.

The Sitka School Board will hold a community budget hearing on Thursday, February 9th in the Sitka High School Library at 7 p.m.

In a previous version of this story, Raven Radio misstated that all staff would be receiving a 1.5% next year. That error has been corrected.