Wrangell Sentinel -

By Dan Rudy 

New principal sets up shop, school setting up to start


Submitted Photo

Bill Schwan

With school set to start on August 25 staff at Wrangell Public Schools have returned from their summer hiatus and are preparing for registration of students.

Incoming elementary school

students can be registered anytime between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. next Tuesday through Thursday. Those enrolling kindergarteners are advised to bring along copies of birth certificates a nd immunization records. High schoolers likewise can register for classes on Tuesday, with middle schoolers doing so on Wednesday.

At Wrangell High and Stikine Middle schools to meet them will be new secondary principal Bill Schwan, formerly of Dillingham. He formally began on Monday, though he has been in town settling in for three weeks.

"I'm loving every minute of it. It's definitely been a good transition," he said in an interview Tuesday. "I got to meet some of the kids, stopped by cross-country practice."

Schwan has also begun meeting the schools' staff and faculty, and going over scheduling and plans for the coming year.

"My overall goal is to make

this a blue ribbon school. We've got all the ingredients," he said, noting students' academic achievements and available programming as positives. "Underneath that would be to increase the access to students taking

undergraduate classes, earning college credit."

Schwan would like to continue working closely with University of Alaska Southeast, which last year moved its tech prep office to the high school's campus. The school's industrial arts offerings and on the job training opportunities also fit into a focus on developing post-graduate skills.

"That's one of the things that drew me to Wrangell, was the strong foundation," he said.

These things in mind,

Schwan expressed an interest in working to improve upon Wrangell schools' assets in order to enhance students' learning experience. Part of that will be working with teachers to see that their needs are being met, be that outside grant funding or support in the


"I'm a resource provider.

If my teachers get what they need they can do a better job. If my kids get what they need they can perform. It's all hand in hand, and it's a team effort in my mind," he said.

The other step forward

will be to make better use of data collected from the standardized Measures of Academic Progress testing, which students have been taking for

several years. Triangulating that information with students' classroom performance, Schwan hopes to more accurately pinpoint and address areas where improvements can be made.

Toward that end, several new academic offerings will be available to students this coming year.

"This year we're going to have the option of eighth graders taking Algebra I," explained Superintendent Patrick Mayer. Students interested in taking the higher-level course will need to pass a standardized assessment, as well as receive a referral from their mathematics teacher.

"We have to make sure,

before they move on, that they possess the skills in order to ensure they are successful," Mayer mentioned.

He pointed out the push to encourage students to take higher level course work earlier on is part of a broader national trend.

Another exciting addition will

be a Tlingit language and culture class, with one period to be offered

each at the high and middle schools. Johnson O'Malley Program coordinator Virginia Oliver will be working with IEA program instructor Lu

Knapp in presenting the state-certified course. As well as learning the language, students enrolled in the class

will take on a cultural comparison course, receiving a more comprehensive look at the Tlingit and Haida

cultures within the wider gamut of Alaskan and Pacific Northwest Native peoples.

Mayer said the school system was also continuing talks with the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program, an accelerated summer learning program which this year will be transitioning into a full-year school curriculum. Its Acceleration Academy will begin admitting students in the Matanuska-Susitna area this fall,

but the program has expressed interest in building a residential center for students statewide, possibly in

Wrangell. The city is also engaged with ANSEP in this initial process, with the Borough Assembly last month approving the formation of a steering

committee to keep abreast of the program's progress.

As well as a new principal,

the school district will be adding a new counselor to the high school, Carrie Nordstrom. Her husband, Bill Bradley, is currently being considered to fill the role of activities director. Title I specialist Mikki Angerman will be working

at all three school campuses, moving between sites to work with various educators.


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