Juneau School District Superintendent Bridget Weiss speaks during a Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018. Weiss is currently the interim superintendent, and the board members discussed next steps for selecting a permanent superintendent at Tuesday’s meeting. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Juneau School District Superintendent Bridget Weiss speaks during a Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018. Weiss is currently the interim superintendent, and the board members discussed next steps for selecting a permanent superintendent at Tuesday’s meeting. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Public invited to weigh in on superintendent search

School Board considering national search, but will consider keeping interim

Starting this Saturday, Juneau residents can start sharing feedback on what they want to see from the next permanent Juneau School District superintendent.

The district is in a bit of an uncertain place when it comes to the superintendent position. At the end of July, former superintendent Mark Miller resigned to take a job in California. The Board of Education accepted his resignation and quickly promoted Bridget Weiss (the director of student services) to the role of interim superintendent.

The Board of Education members unanimously approved a plan for the next two months to gather community input, then make a decision in January about what the next step should be.

At noon Saturday, members of the public are welcome to the Harborview Elementary School commons to share their thoughts on the superintendent search to the Board of Education. The Board of Education Superintendent Selection Process Committee (SSPC) will also soon distribute a community survey through survey site Thoughtexchange to staff members, parents, community organizations and members of the public.

After that, there will be a chance for Juneau School District staff members to share their thoughts on Tuesday, Nov. 27. On Nov. 28, members of the public will be welcome at 6 p.m. at Thunder Mountain High School to share their thoughts. At the Dec. 11 Board of Education meeting, people will once again be welcome to speak.

At that meeting, the board members will reflect on the public input. They will also examine Weiss’ qualifications, and between that meeting and the one in January, the board members will evaluate whether to hire Weiss permanently.

At the Jan. 8 Board of Education meeting, the board members will choose a path forward. This path could include hiring a search firm to conduct a national search (at an estimated cost of $40,000); conduct a national search through the Association of Alaska School Boards (AASB) (at an estimated cost of $11,000); conduct an internal search by posting the position and advertising the vacancy (at an estimated cost of up to $2,500); or vote to name Weiss as the permanent superintendent. All of this is according to the report from the SSPC to the board at Tuesday’s meeting.

The SSPC includes board members Paul Kelly, Elizabeth Siddon and Steve Whitney. It also includes JSD Chief of Staff Kristin Bartlett and Director of Human Resources Darryl Smith.

If the board members vote to undertake a national search, they’ll aim to start interviews in late March, according to a flow chart the SSPC put together. The aim, as discussed at Tuesday’s meeting, is to have a permanent superintendent in place no later than July 1.

Board Vice President Dan DeBartolo said he was a bit wary of doing the longer, more expensive search.

“I want the public to know that should we go to a national search, it potentially could add months to our overall timeline, pushing our ability to actually select finalists or a candidate close to the end of the school year, which is not desirable,” DeBartolo said.

He pointed out that the district also has to fill Weiss’ former position, director of student services, and pushing a final decision back about the superintendent would push back a final decision about what to do about the director of student services position.

Two people spoke at Tuesday’s meeting. One, Albert Shaw, also spoke at the board meeting immediately after Miller’s resignation to express his frustration with out-of-state hires who aren’t fully committed to the school district. He struck the same tone at Tuesday’s meeting, saying there should be an item in the next superintendent’s contract that the superintendent and his or her family should be required to live in Juneau.

Weiss is a 1980 graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School who previously told the Empire that she intends to stay in Juneau for the long haul.

Longtime teacher Amy Jo Meiners spoke strongly in favor of keeping Weiss. Meiners said there’s already been a difference since Weiss took over.

“Morale in our district, for the first time in many years, has taken an uptick and we have hope and we have faith that our ship has been righted,” Meiners said. “We have somebody at the helm who is fully capable of investing in the needs of students, staff and families.”

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

The Juneau Board of Education meets on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

The Juneau Board of Education meets on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

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