Wrangell Sentinel -

By Dan Rudy 

Secondary principal selected for next year


Submitted Photo

Bill Schwan

An applicant to be next year's secondary schools principal has been offered a contract.

At their Monday evening meeting members of the Wrangell Public School Board were presented with a contract for Bill Schwan, after current principal Kendall Benson tendered his resignation earlier this month. Since 2012 Schwan has been the principal of Dillingham Middle/High School. Prior to that he had been a high school principal in Powell, Wyo., and has a background in special education.

Superintendent Patrick Mayer explained he and teacher Bob Davis had traveled to Anchorage last week for its education job fair in search of a new secondary schools principal.

"Some of the interviews took place here," he said.

Eight applicants were considered, including one local candidate. Schwan was interviewed by the selection committee and chosen unanimously.

Member Rinda Howell voiced displeasure at the short notice being given the board to approve or disapprove the contract; information on Schwan was not available until that afternoon, she said.

Board chair Susan Eagle explained the timing of the interviews and the selection process had ended up making the decision seem last-minute. The board unanimously approved offering Schwan the contract. If he accepts the offer, Schwan would take over duties in July with the start of the new budget cycle. Benson will continue as principal until then.

Board members thanked Benson for the work he had done over the past year.

"We hate to see you go," said Mayer.

A contract was also approved for Evergreen Elementary School principal Deidre Jenson, as well as an addendum as counseling grant project director. Contracts for 18 tenured faculty members during the 2016-17 year were approved, as well as those for business manager Pam Roope, maintenance head Fred Angerman, speech pathologist Dave Silva, and new accounting clerk Katelyn Reeves.

In his monthly report, Mayer apprised the board of the upcoming budget. Versions of the House and Senate drafts have been released, but presently are being reconciled in committee. A draft budget for local schools has been worked on, and was to be the subject of a public work session with the Borough Assembly on Tuesday. (see article)

A revision of the current year's budget was also presented to the board for approval. The most significant changes were additions to staff travel of $3,900, $2,573 to the principal salaries line and $2,600 to professional and technical expenses. Operating capital funds were $62,224 shorter than anticipated, but with other expenditures were largely offset by $186,733 in additional Foundation Support. $70,000 was also shifted from the electricity line item to heating oil.

Facilities upkeep would also be a subject for discussion at Tuesday's workshop and Angerman gave board members an update of the school system's maintenance needs. School facilities were inspected by the Department of Education and Early Development (EED) in January as part of its periodic five-year review, a process Angerman said took about five months to prepare for with the assistance of Southeast Regional Resource Center (SERRC). The review looks at energy management, fixed asset inventory and renewal schedules, and Angerman expected a final report on the EED's findings to be forthcoming.

He identified several projects he would like to see pursued in the coming year, including door and window replacement,

sidewalk and parking lot repair, and the phasing out of

fluorescent lighting at the elementary school. Similar

projects at the middle and high schools would also need to be undertaken, as well as replacement of the latter's fire alarm system. A 10,000 gallon fuel oil tank at the high school would also need to be replaced, already pushing past three decades.

"I would say none of these are big-time priority things," Angerman added, but something to keep on the board's radar.

Board member Aleisha Mollen presented a summary of results from the survey she conducted last month, gauging the community's thoughts on how well the school district was communicating. The survey garnered about 50 anonymous replies, mostly from users self-identifying as parents. The survey indicated that emailed newsletters were the primary source of information about school activities, and that a majority of parents preferred to be contacted by email.

"While we may have some work to go, most people have said it's an improvement over last year," Mollen summarized.

One of the approaches the school board had taken to increasing communication between themselves, faculty and parents was informal, monthly sessions at the elementary school. The Saturday morning coffee talks were not well-attended however, and Eagle put it to the board to decide whether to continue with that approach.

"I know it's taking time out of board members' schedules to be there for that," she said.

On average, Eagle estimated only two members of the public attended each session. Board members ultimately decided to focus more on evening workshops instead, as needed.

"I think it was a great idea and a great gesture," said Anne Luetkemeyer, a teacher who attended a couple of sessions. "I do think it takes too much from people's personal time," she agreed.

During the persons to be heard segment, Luetkemeyer also put forward a proposal to let eighth graders start earning credit for high school courses they take.

"It's a board decision that needs to be made," she explained.

Eagle said the superintendent would respond to that after the meeting.

High school junior

Reyn Hutten also came forward with a concern about the school's shortened Mondays. Classes would be let out at 1:30 p.m. in order to facilitate in-service training sessions during the afternoons. The school district implemented the schedule change-up last fall.

Hutten said the new days were inconvenient for students, particularly those who travel weekends for extracurricular activities. Mondays are the best time for her to make up tests and catch up with work, she explained, and teachers are unable to meet after school because of the training sessions. Hutten encouraged the board to

consider having the shortened days on Fridays instead, in part because a number of students are usually already gone

traveling and because it

would lengthen the weekend slightly.

Echoing that, special

education teacher Ryan Howe suggested a later start for classes on Mondays might be another option to consider, with in-staff trainings held in the morning.


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