Juneau School District Superintendent Mark Miller speaks during a Board of Education meeting on Friday, July 27, 2018. The board unanimously voted to release Miller from his contract after he submitted his resignation Wednesday. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Juneau School District Superintendent Mark Miller speaks during a Board of Education meeting on Friday, July 27, 2018. The board unanimously voted to release Miller from his contract after he submitted his resignation Wednesday. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

School board begins search for superintendent replacement

Four internal candidates stand out for interim position

With just three weeks left until the school year starts, the Board of Education is looking to move fast to replace departed superintendent Mark Miller.

Miller submitted his resignation Wednesday and is heading to Sonora High School District in Sonora, California. The Board of Education held a special meeting Friday night to accept Miller’s resignation and discuss a plan for its superintendent search.

The board members unanimously accepted Miller’s resignation, and unanimously agreed that they would pursue an interim superintendent from within the Juneau School District. This interim superintendent, they agreed, would serve through this next school year and the board would then begin a search for a permanent superintendent.

For the interim superintendent, the board agreed they would focus on JSD employees who have a certification to be a superintendent. Board President Brian Holst said during Friday’s meeting that the district’s human resources department identified four JSD employees who have superintendent certifications: Thunder Mountain High School Principal Dan Larson, Director of Human Resources Darryl Smith, Director of Student Services Bridget Weiss and Dzantik’i Heeni Principal Molly Yerkes.

At the close of the meeting, which took place at Juneau-Douglas High School in front of a small group of JSD employees and members of the public, Holst laid out a tentative plan for how the next couple weeks will work.

A district-wide email will go out as soon as possible to see if anyone else in the district has a superintendent’s certification. Holst hopes to have responses by this coming Wednesday, and have a public meet-and-greet the following day where candidates can interact with and answer questions from community members.

Ideally, Holst said, interviews would happen as soon as Monday, Aug. 6, and by the end of that week the board could meet and make a decision. This expedited schedule would allow for the interim superintendent to have time with Miller — who leaves Aug. 15 — to ease the transition. This would also get the interim superintendent in the job for about a week before school begins Aug. 20.

Board clerk Andi Story — the only board member who remains from the board that selected Miller as superintendent in 2014 — said it’s imperative that the community is involved as much as possible in selecting a new superintendent.

“Having been through a couple superintendent processes here,” Story said, “they are so important to be done really thoroughly well with the community with deciding, what are we looking for? What do we envision happening under that person’s guidance?”

All four of the people in the district with a superintendent’s certification have been contacted, Holst said, even though two were out of town at the time of Friday’s meeting. All four, Holst said, expressed interest in the job.

‘A horrible year’

Board members lamented the fact that they have very little time to select a replacement, but by and large understood Miller’s desire to be closer to his family in California. Board member Steve Whitney said the pressure of balancing a budget has taken its toll on everybody at the school district, and he’s seen it take a toll on Miller.

“It’s been a really, really rough year,” Whitney said. “We’ve had a horrible year. The budget’s been rough on the district and the students and the teachers and the staff and I can speak personally, it’s given me a lot of heartburn. It hasn’t been a fun year, and Mark’s been the point person and taken the brunt of that.”

Members of the public spoke frankly about their frustrations with Miller’s tenure and departure.

James Housley, who was a teacher for 24 years and a parent of two children who have attended JSD, said he was unhappy with decisions Miller has made. Housley pointed to the fact that the district laid off 10 teachers this spring when there was a drop of enrollment by 54 students.

“I found that to just be really appalling,” Housley said.

Housley mentioned that Miller is headed home to California, and that he believes Miller doesn’t see Juneau as his home. Albert Shaw, another community member who spoke, said the board should learn something from the hire of Miller, citing the fact that Miller’s wife remained in California while Miller moved up to Juneau.

“My comment in all of this is I would like to see the board adopt as part of the contract that the superintendent and family must live in Juneau or the contract is void,” Shaw said.

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

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