People waiting to hear the name of the next superintendent of the Sitka School District will have to wait a little longer.
After meeting in special session for almost four hours Monday night (3-30-20), the Sitka School Board again postponed the decision about who will serve as interim superintendent following Mary Wegner’s departure at the end of June.
At one point as many as 60 people were logged into the teleconference, but much of Monday’s meeting was held behind closed doors, with only the school board and the two finalists (separately) allowed to hear the discussion.
The only concession made by the board to written complaints from the teachers union for a more open and community-based process was to release the names of the two finalists: Former Sitka Schools superintendent John Holst, and current district co-assistant superintendents Phil Burdick and Sarah Ferrency, a husband-and-wife team who job share.
The board planned to spend 45-minutes interview each, but it went longer than scheduled. When the board finally came out of executive session at close to 10:30 P.M. they didn’t feel prepared to make a decision.
This is board member Paul Rioux, followed by president Elias Erickson.
Rioux – Didn’t we want to let the public know that we haven’t had a chance to deliberate at all? We literally just finished (the interviews).
Erickson – Yes, we went in optimistically hoping for a 45-minute timeline, and unfortunately that just didn’t come about. But, not unfortunately, because it was a really good time, we asked a number of follow-up questions to the set of questions that we went in with, and really it was the board’s only face-to-face opportunity with our candidates.
That it was time well spent was seconded by board member Eric Van Cise. He also didn’t want to rush a decision.
“We had a very good evening,” said Van Cise. “It was very productive. We feel really strongly that it’s good to digest the material, get some rest. We want to do a good job on this process.”
Board president Erickson recommended tabling the decision until the board’s regular meeting, 6 P.M. Wednesday April 1, also to be conducted remotely over the Zoom application (find the link at the www.sitkaschools.org).
“Humans do not make their best decisions when they’re tired,” Erickson said. “We’re going to push this item to Wednesday night, we’ve got a pretty brief agenda coming. So, I don’t think it’s going to be too much of a load to take this item up at our regular meeting on Wednesday.”
Superintendent Mary Wegner announced her resignation from the district in March, effective June 30. She’ll take a job with the University of Alaska College of Education.
The school board has chosen to hire an interim superintendent to serve for 1 year. Four candidates initially showed interest, but two later dropped out. Both the remaining candidates have significant experience in the district: John Holst was superintendent for eight years, from 1993-2001; Phil Burdick and Sarah Ferrency have been co-assistant superintendents in Sitka for five years, and for the five years prior to that they were co-principals of Pacific High.
In announcing Burdick’s and Ferrency’s names as candidates for interim superintendent, board president Erickson said that the board would not job share the position, and would select only one of the pair.