Sitka school superintendent candidates Laura Rogers, Frank Hauser, and Jeff Ritchley. (SSD image capture)

Update, Monday, February 22, 2021: The Sitka School Board has announced that Frank Hauser has accepted the job of district superintendent.

Original story:

The Sitka School District should have a new superintendent in the next few days.

Three finalists met with the Sitka School Board on Friday morning (2-19-21), for 60-minute job interviews. The interviews were conducted in public session.

Frank Hauser was the first to answer the board’s 23 questions. Hauser is the principal of Service High School in Anchorage, the State of Alaska Principal of the Year in 2019, and the former director of Music for the Anchorage School District. He was asked how he saw Sitka’s diverse population as a benefit.

“It’s important that our school is reflective of our community,” he said. “I think bringing in, and having that diversity represented is such an important part of respect, of tolerance. Really bringing people together in a diverse community just adds to the richness, and what I think is the beauty, not only of a school, but of the community.” 

Hauser also said he did not consider trauma-informed practices and social-emotional learning to be programs — rather, they were core beliefs in his work.

Jeffrey Ritchley is the only out-of-state candidate in the final three. Ritchley is the director of Alternative Education in Willits, in Northern California. Over the past 20 years Ritchley has been building principal for the middle- and high schools both in Willits, and in neighboring Needles, California.

Ritchley was asked to define equity, and to explain what systems he would put in place to ensure that it was present in Sitka’s schools.

“I would have to say that to define equity, it would be that every student has an equal chance to go through school,” he said, “when it starts in kindergarten and all the way through. And when they start getting to be a bit older, directing them to their strengths, and not forcing them to go to college if they don’t want college, and building programs that they can do besides the traditional high school path.”

Ritchley said that he would try and eliminate expulsion, and that he had witnessed the huge benefits of having a school dog.

Laura Rogers is the third finalist for Sitka superintendent. She’s currently on her second tour as assistant principal of Blatchley Middle School, having first arrived in Sitka in 2015 to serve in that role, before moving over to the high school to work as principal for three years, and then returning to Blatchley.

Rogers has been credentialed to be a superintendent since 2003, having worked many years as a principal in New Hampshire. She had a slightly different take on equity.

“I think equity — and I deeply believe this — means giving kids what they need in order to be successful,” Rogers explained. “It doesn’t mean that every kid has the same remedy. It means that you offer an opportunity to everyone, but that opportunity may be different.”

She illustrated her meaning by pointing to the Saturday School she put in place during her tenure at the high school. All students received tutorial support, but some also got transportation, additional time for school work, and a safe space away from home to catch up on studies.

Rogers said that she believed in a bottom-up paradigm, and that a superintendent “works for everyone else, not the other way around.”

 All three candidates were comfortable in the spotlight. The formal interviews were the fourth time they had appeared before the public. Prior events included a forum with community stakeholders on Friday, February 11, plus a forum with staff members. Two days before that, the candidates held a forum with the Sitka Tribe of Alaska.

A fourth finalist, Stephen Vigliotti, withdrew his application prior to the forums.

The Sitka School Board will convene on Saturday, February 20, to make a selection for superintendent.