Dr. Mary Wegner (at right), with school board president Elias Erickson, at the board’s Wednesday meeting where Wegner announced her resignation. “The nature of the work and the hours required to do the work of being your superintendent, have taken a personal toll on me that I am no longer willing to accept,” she said. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

Sitka Schools superintendent Mary Wegner has resigned.

Wegner submitted her letter to the Sitka School Board at its regular meeting on Wednesday, March 4 — during the agenda item “superintendent evaluation.”

Note: The Sitka School District will accept letters of interest for the job of interim superintendent, from anyone who holds a Type B administrative certificate, through 4:30 P.M. Friday, March 13. A special meeting will be held at 6 P.M. Monday, March 16, in the district office board room to select a candidate.

The Sitka district superintendent for the past six years, Wegner recited an impressive list of accomplishments for the district — a full two pages.

But an emotional Wegner told the board that the enormous workload had finally become too much.

“As much as I have truly enjoyed being your superintendent over the years — and yes, despite any challenges I make that statement — I have recently learned that the impact of the intensity and stress, in both the nature of the work and the hours required to do the work of being your superintendent, have taken a personal toll on me that I am no longer willing to accept,” she said, holding back tears.

Wegner asked the board to release her from her contract two years early, and the end of June of this year. The board unanimously agreed. 

Read the full text of Wegner’s resignation letter.

Wegner’s resignation was not unexpected. The board offered their thanks for her service through some extraordinarily difficult times.

“Well I just wanted to take an opportunity to thank Dr. Wegner for all her hard work over the years,” said Paul Rioux. “Certainly, it’s an extremely difficult position, being wedged between the board and staff. It’s certainly one of the most demanding in town. Thank you for all your hard work on behalf of the students and staff of this district.”

In her resignation letter, Wegner said that one of her proudest accomplishments was collaboration with the Sitka Tribe. The board has made closing the achievement gap between Native and non-Native students one of its top priorities under Wegner.

Board member Dionne Brady-Howard recognized Wegner’s efforts in this area.

“You know, being able to have those tough conversations, and being willing to take our district somewhere when not everybody understands the necessity of the work, is something that I will just say is — as someone whose family and whose population has sometimes been the kids who are casualties of drowning in that achievement gap — that I really appreciate your willingness to take a hard look at that and have those conversations, ask those questions, to take this work forward,” said Brady-Howard.

The timing of Wegner’s resignation puts the district in a pinch: A superintendent hire typically takes longer than the four months between now and the end of June. Board president Elias Erickson said that he and Wegner had consulted the Association of Alaska School Boards — and the district’s legal counsel — for a  recommendation on how to proceed. They suggested appointing an interim superintendent from among the administrators already within the district, to hold the position for all of next school year, to allow for a thorough hiring process.

Erickson said the plan made sense, and would help the district manage its priorities.

“And to me, that’s focusing on who our long-term superintendent is going to be. Making that a process that includes everyone in the community who collaborates with staff. And in that year, having someone who can keep us on track towards what we’re pursuing already.

Read the School Board’s response to Wegner’s resignation, and proposal for an interim superintendent.

Board member Eric VanCise proposed opening up the interim hire to administrators who were not currently employed by the district. His amendment passed, with Paul Rioux and Amy Morrison also in favor.