Nine years since he last occupied the superintendent’s office of the Sitka School District, Steve Bradshaw is back and eager to challenge what he considers the state’s failure to adequately support education.
Bradshaw signed a one-year contract with the Sitka School Board to serve as interim superintendent, while the board searches for a full-time replacement for Frank Hauser, who left in July to take over Juneau’s school system.
At his first regular board meeting on Wednesday (8-9-23), Bradshaw didn’t pull any punches, and said there was nothing to prevent him from being an outspoken advocate for increasing the amount of money the state spends on schools – sometimes referred to as the “foundation formula.”
“Most of the superintendents I worked with when I was here before are gone,” Bradshaw told the board. “A lot of the superintendents have to worry about the political arena and keeping their job, I think. I don’t have to worry about that. And so as a board, if you need to rein me in sometimes when I say some things, feel free to rein me in or at least attempt to rein me in. Because – as people will tell you that I’ve worked with – I’m pretty passionate about public education. And I believe that not increasing the foundation formula is killing school districts in this state…. We have got to continue, first politely, to ask for an increase, and if politeness doesn’t do it, then we’re going to have to start pounding on doors. And I know our representative, and I know Mr. Stedman – I believe they will help us get there. But this school board, it’s critical as a board that you speak out.”
Bradshaw served as the superintendent of schools in Sitka for 13 years, beginning in 2001. He returned to Montana, where he began his career in education, for a final six years as superintendent there before retiring.
His one-year return engagement in Sitka has been generally well-received by staff, however the climate on the board has changed. Twenty years ago, the Sitka School Board had a tradition of long-serving members and relatively low turnover. The current board has two appointees, only one of whom has filed for a full term in the upcoming municipal election in October. Barring a successful write-in campaign, the school board will have to appoint two additional members after the election.
Bradshaw says that to build a strong program in schools, “consistency on the board is critical.”
“So I encourage members of the community that haven’t run for the board before to consider running for the school board,” Bradshaw said. “But consider it as a five- to 10-year type of term. Because to be on there for a couple of years, it’s not always the best thing. We’ll take whatever people are willing to give and volunteer, because this is not an easy job, being on a school board. You pay me to have people yell at me. Okay, I can handle that. But you don’t get paid for that. And when you have to go through tough times, it’s not easy. And then when you go to the grocery store, and somebody else beats up on you, it makes it even more difficult. But it’s critical to have a consistent board that’s just as passionate about education as any employee or any community member that we have.”
Bradshaw told the board that the district administration was working full speed to prepare to open the doors to students later this month. The first day for teachers is August 15. The first day for students is August 22. Bradshaw said his top priority in the coming year would be working on the budget.