School board votes to keep Jenson, hire secondary principal
The Wrangell School board voted 4-0 Monday to fill two critical positions.
The board offered Deidre Jenson, interim principal of Evergreen Elementary School from early in the second semester, the same job full time. Jenson, formerly of Thorne Bay, previously said she would accept the position if it were offered. She said Monday she was happy to have been offered the position.
The board also voted to offer the position of secondary principal – the joint position for Wrangell middle and high schools – to Colter Barnes, currently a principal in the Lake and Peninsula School District on the Alaska Peninsula. Barnes is listed on the Alaska Department of Education and Early Childhood Development website as the principal of the K-12 Kokhanok School, though officials there said he was not dedicated to that school exclusively.
With the two hiring decisions, and a third hiring decision likely to be made Saturday (See Superintendent), the school system will have completed a major administrative restructuring begun after current principal Monty Buness announced his retirement, and current superintendent Rich Rhodes announced his resignation in December last year.
Rhodes said he was still receiving favorable reports about Barnes even after deciding to recommend him to the school system.
Michele Galla, a former Wrangell Teacher’s Association president and member of the hiring committee, agreed.
“I was so incredibly impressed,” she said. “I really was. It’s just a phenomenal set of things he’s done with kids.”
Barnes wasn’t at the Kokhanok School Tuesday, and calls to his cell phone went unreturned. If hired, he would move in to fill most of the duties presently held by Buness, though the school is looking into hiring a part-time activities director to avoid overwhelming a new hire.
The school board also failed by a 2-2 vote to adopt a calendar for the 2014-15 school year. The board had been considering two drafts. A draft recommended by the WTA called for students to begin classes Aug. 25 and conclude classes May 21, 2015. A second draft, favored by at least one member of the public, would delay the start of school until Sept. 2, and conclude May 28, 2015.
Brennan Eagle, who is a fisherman and port commission member with school-age children, said he favored the second draft because it would allow students who work on family boats to spend more time working before leaving to come back to school.
“We’ve got a lot of kids that are migrant kids,” he said. “The vast majority of those kids are migrants because they’re involved in the fishing industry.”
The calendar shift has made it more difficult for students to participate in the family trade, Eagle said.
“The last thing I noticed on draft two that I liked is that we started after Labor Day weekend,” he said. “The kids kind of started with a three or four day week coming back to school, and then they eased into a five-day week.”
“I really like that concept, I think it’s worked well in the past,” Eagle added.
While fishermen favored the late start, many teachers favored an earlier finish, WTA president Ryan Howe told the board, in part because the last week of school on Draft II would create three-day week between Memorial Day and a teacher work day.
“The majority of them (teachers who talked about it) said it was because they felt that after Memorial Day, the kids would come back and have a three-day week, and they would kind of be mentally checked out,” he said.
Howe and school board members said they would work to find an acceptable compromise.