After four years in his position, Juneau School District Superintendent Mark Miller resigned Wednesday and is taking a superintendent job closer to his family in California.
Miller is taking a job as the superintendent of the Sonora Union High School District in Sonora, California, he said. His first day there is Aug. 20. Sonora is located about two hours southeast of Sacramento, and about two hours from Miller’s previous home in San Ramon, California.
In an interview Wednesday, Miller said he didn’t want to leave Juneau for just any job.
“There are lots of jobs in urban California that can grind you up and spit you out, so I took something that was more rural, more Juneau-ish, if you will,” Miller said. “When Sonora came up, I said, ‘You know, it’s closer to home. A lot closer to home.’”
Miller said his wife actually remained in San Ramon when Miller moved up to Juneau in July 2014, and she still has their house there. His daughter lives in the area too, Miller said, and he’s hoping to spend more time with his aging father as well.
Miller, 56, is still on contract until July 1, 2019. There’s a slight pay cut with the new job, Miller said, because there are many fewer students in Sonora. The setting will be a bit more low-key than Juneau, he said.
“It’s going to be a little bit slower,” Miller said. “I won’t be the superintendent in the capital city, and so I won’t be called to testify before the Senate and the House on a minute’s notice.”
The Board of Education is holding a special meeting at 5 p.m. Friday in Room 206 at Juneau-Douglas High School to begin its planning process for the upcoming job search. The board members are expected to accept Miller’s request to be released from his contract, and then they hold a private meeting to talk about the next steps in selecting a new superintendent.
Though there is only one person still on the board from the board that originally selected him in 2014, Miller said Wednesday that his relationship with the board is not a factor in his decision to leave. He said he got along with the original board members who selected him and gets along even better with the current board members.
In a statement, Board President Brian Holst wished Miller well for the future.
The job of superintendent is fairly temporary in its nature, Miller said. With school board members changing every year, he explains, superintendents come into a job knowing that their bosses will be different every year and that relationships could sour. That’s part of the reason his wife didn’t move up to Alaska, Miller said, is that the job was never expected to be a permanent one.
“It’s a highly political position that reports to a political body that changes with every election,” Miller said.
Miller said he expects his final day in Juneau to be Aug. 15, which is a day after the Board of Education’s regular August meeting. He’ll be on a 5 a.m. flight the next morning, he said. He’ll then attend his daughter’s wedding two days later and start his new job two days after that.
This was Miller’s first superintendent job, as he was previously the assistant assistant superintendent of the Hayward Unified School District in Hayward, California and was a human resources director in two California school districts before that.
He said he was pleased with the way the school district has navigated some “thorny issues” including hazing on the Juneau-Douglas High School football team, a school book about Alaska Native boarding schools that was seen by many as offensive and the consolidation of the district’s two high school football teams.
Graduation rates have risen in the district, he said, especially among Alaska Native students. He mentioned that the graduation rate at Thunder Mountain High School for Alaska Native students the past two years has been at 100 percent.
Despite the successes and experiences in Juneau, Miller is looking forward to heading home.
“I just felt like it was time to move into that chapter of my life,” Miller said.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.