The Sitka School Board will likely bring in outside help to assist with the search for a permanent superintendent.
At a work session on November 18, board members reached a consensus that the Alaska Association of School Boards could provide valuable support and guidance to advertise for a superintendent, screen the candidates, conduct interviews, and make an offer.
Current superintendent John Holst is serving a one-year interim contract only. He came on board on July 1 to succeed Mary Wegner, who asked to be released from her contract a year early.
Board opinion at the time was that Wegner’s resignation came too late in the spring to begin a hiring process for a top administrator — which takes about 14 weeks — so Holst stepped in as a stop-gap measure.
At Wednesday’s work session, Holst argued that conducting the hire using only district office staff would be inefficient and time-consuming. He encouraged the board to consider an offer from the Alaska Association of School Boards, which conducts superintendent searches as part of its services. The price for a search tops out at $12,500, but there are less expensive options.
Board president Amy Morrison supported the idea of bringing in the AASB to help, especially as their new director had previously served nine years on the Sitka School Board, until he joined the AASB in Juneau in 2015.
“One thing I’ll add is that our main contact at AASB is Lon Garrison, who was our school board president for a few years, and on our board for several years,” said Morrison. “I do think that’s a potential advantage for us, is someone who is from Sitka and understands our community very intimately, and knows what we’re looking for I think, and will listen to us.”
But not everyone considered this an advantage. Mike Vieira, who leads the Sitka Education Association, the union representing teachers, did not want to see too much of the hiring process conducted outside of Sitka — even by a familiar face.
“I would just like to see us retain as much local control over the process,” Vieira said, “and not just hand it over to someone because we feel like they know us, because it’s been a long time since he (Garrison) really knew us.”
Nevertheless, there was support on the board for bringing in the AASB — at least to facilitate the process — and there was interest in bringing in as many community stakeholders as possible. Board member Blossom Twitchell said she would like to see the community come together to make the hire in the same spirit it rallied in the pandemic. “We could morph that into this,” she said.
Since it was a work session, no action was taken. The board will vote on how to proceed with the superintendent hire at its next regular meeting on December 2.