Juneau City Attorney Robert Palmer, left, swears-in new school board members Paul Kelly, Kevin Allen and Elizabeth “Ebett” Siddon on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018, at Thunder Mountain High School. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau City Attorney Robert Palmer, left, swears-in new school board members Paul Kelly, Kevin Allen and Elizabeth “Ebett” Siddon on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018, at Thunder Mountain High School. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Three join school board, new superintendent search starts

Baton passed for three at Board of Education, district looking for new superintendent

Three new members of the City and Borough of Juneau Board of Education took their seats at a Tuesday meeting at Thunder Mountain High School library.

Paul Kelly, Ebett Siddon and Kevin Allen all ran uncontested in the Oct. 2 municipal election, taking the seats of outgoing board members Emil Mackey and Andi Story — who left to run for higher office — and Josh Keaton, who did not run again.

The board also formed a subcommittee to search for a new superintendent.

City attorney Robert Palmer swore in the new board members before a TMHS library packed with family and friends of the new and old board members.

Kelly is a programmer with the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF). Siddon is fisheries biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. Allen, the youngest member of the board, is only two years out of high school. He graduated from TMHS in 2016 and now takes classes at the University of Alaska Southeast.

Allen, 20, who had twice previously ran for school board, jumped at a chance to participate from the start, seconding the approval a consent agenda — a routine item of board business — in about half a second.

“Nicely done,” board president Brian Holst said.

Running uncontested for the seat, Kelly didn’t have to make his case to voters. He told the Empire he hopes to prove his worth through his work on the board.

Siddon told the Empire that the three new board members have their work cut out for them getting up to speed.

“I just have so much to learn about what the breadth of our role is,” Siddon said.

The board voted to reinstate President Brian Holst without objection. Vice President Dan DeBartolo was elected board vice president, taking the place of Keaton, the outgoing VP.

Super search starts

Former superintendent Mark Miller left his position at the head of the Juneau School District in July, and since then, interim superintendent Bridget Weiss, formerly the director of student services, has filled the role.

A search for a permanent superintendent began Tuesday as the board formed a subcommittee to plan recruitment. The issue at hand is the search’s scope: the district could look within Alaska or nationwide, said JSD Director of Human Resources Darryl Smith. A statewide search would take about $10,000 and a few months, Smith said, while a national search would take five to six months and cost between $30,000-$50-000.

When last searching for a superintendent in 2014, the district spent about $44,000 on a nationwide search, said Kristin Bartlett, district office chief of staff. Much of that was spent on advertising and the hiring of recruitment firms, Smith said.

At least one candidate is local, Holst said, as Weiss is in the running for the position.

The three-member committee will be chosen by Holst sometime after Tuesday’s meeting and will consist of board of education members who express interest in the role. It will return to the board in November with a few recommendations on how to find the new superintendent.

“That committee won’t be making any decisions, they will be giving us a few options,” Holst said.

Story, Mackey, Keaton honored

At her last meeting, Story earned two different awards for her 15 years of service on the board.

Lisa Skiles Parady, executive director of the Alaska Council of School Administrators, presented Story with the Don MacKinnon Excellence in Education Award from the Alaska Superintendents Association. Former Rep. Justin Parish also presented Story with a commendation from the Alaska Legislature.

In her last meeting with the board, Story earned a standing ovation from the group gathered for the meeting.

“You have been an inspiration to all of us,” Holst said.

Story has sat on a long list of school site councils and board committees in her time in education politics.

Rather than run for another term, Story, a Democrat, chose to run for a seat in the Alaska House of Representatives. She’s up against former CBJ Assembly member Jerry Nankervis, a Republican, in the Nov. 6 statewide election.

She took her last few moments with the board to advocate for federal dollars for special education funds.

“There’s a few things that everyone in this room needs to be doing,” she said, including calling our federal representatives to ask for funding for special education.

Mackey and Keaton also left the board, each having served for three years.

An emotional Mackey said he served on the school board for the same reason he ran for Juneau Assembly. (Mackey lost his race for District II.)

“It’s about the kids. … Our nation and our state have let down the kids for far too long. … We’re doing the best we can with the money that’s here, but it’s not enough,” he said.

Keaton will remain on with several site school site councils, he said, and left only to deal with a few personal issues.

“You’ll still see me, I’ll keep you honest — I’ll just be on that side of the table,” he said.

He had a message for the new board members.

“It’s a little bit like drinking from a fire hose for the first three months — but you’ll get skilled,” he said.

• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at kgullufsen@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.

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