The Sitka School District is updating how it tracks student information. The new electronic record-keeping system will be more sophisticated, though slightly more expensive.

The Sitka School Board on Tuesday (4-3-18) approved spending just over $25,000 on the PowerSchool Student Information System — using money already earmarked in the current district budget.

PowerSchool will replace Schoolmaster, which costs the district roughly $18,000 a year.

Co-assistant superintendent Sarah Ferrency gave a litany of reasons why moving to PowerSchool was needed — from its data-handling and reporting capabilities, to the fact that 44 other districts in Alaska were also using the software.

Ferrency also knew the bigger price tag was a tough sell for a school board already facing budget cuts.

“We’re in very difficult budget times, and in the terrible position of cutting teachers. If there’s anything you can do to make a teach more efficient so that they’re wasting less of their time — while it does not alleviate the challenge of losing teachers, it does show a little support I think for what you’re asking of the teachers who remain.”

Implementing PowerSchool is a multi-year process. After the first year, which includes training — the costs decreases over the next three years of the contract, but still averages around $2,500 more than the Schoolmaster system.

After questioning Ferrency on the security of the system — which houses data in servers at the company, rather than in schools — the school board unanimously approved the purchase.

In unrelated district business, Superintendent Mary Wegner informed the board of a personnel matter that many in the community will find nothing short of devastating.

“And I have one sad note to share: Our dear Laurie Seehafer, my right hand, is moving out of Sitka and this will be — hopefully! — her last school board meeting.”

Laurie Seehafer has been working in the Sitka School District office for 21 years. Although her district duties are too numerous to mention here, we know that over her career Seehafer has delivered countless board packets to Raven Radio and the Daily Sitka Sentinel, scheduled countless meetings, and returned countless reporter phone calls — for all of which we are very, VERY grateful!

Seehafer plans to move to Boise, Idaho, for what she’s calling her “next adventure.”