Bridget Weiss, superintendent of Juneau Public Schools, stands outside the classroom of former math teacher and basketball coach Bill Szepanski, who inspired her to pursue a degree in education and a teaching and coaching career in this Sept. 27 2021, photo. Weiss recently informed district staff she will be stepping away from her position at the end of June. (Dana Zigmund / Juneau Empire File)

Bridget Weiss, superintendent of Juneau Public Schools, stands outside the classroom of former math teacher and basketball coach Bill Szepanski, who inspired her to pursue a degree in education and a teaching and coaching career in this Sept. 27 2021, photo. Weiss recently informed district staff she will be stepping away from her position at the end of June. (Dana Zigmund / Juneau Empire File)

Weiss departing as Juneau School District superintendent

Announcement comes after intense few years, and she is stepping away at the end of June.

Juneau School District Superintendent Bridget Weiss, recently named Alaska Superintendent of the Year for 2022 and awarded a contract extension through 2025, says she is stepping down from her job at the end of June.

Weiss, unanimously selected as superintendent by the Juneau Board of Education in 2018 and a district administrator since 2014, first announced her resignation Monday in an email to district staff. In an interview Wednesday she said the past few years have been intense and she came to the point where she felt it best to open the door for a new superintendent.

“Everyone gets to a point when it’s time,” she said.

In her email to district employees, she stated “I have tried to give my heart, mind and energy to the art of this ’thing we call education.’

“As I ponder this moment in time when it becomes clear that it is time to move on, those 39 years seem a blink of an eye…I would not trade a moment of it and feel completely privileged to have had the opportunity to serve here in Juneau (a dream I never knew possible) with all of you,” she wrote. “I am so proud of the work we have done and continue to do for our students, families, and each other. We have much work ahead in the coming months and I am excited to see what we can accomplish together. Please know how much I respect the work you each do.”

Weiss’ time at the helm of the district included navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to nationwide recognition via a write-up in Time magazine and being named Superintendent of the Year by the Alaska Superintendents Association. It also included less positive national attention when students at a summer program at a local school this year were served floor sealant instead of milk.

But the school board offered unreserved praise in August while unanimously approving a one-year extension of her contract and a raise. Weiss, in an interview the day after that decision, she didn’t know how long she might want to remain superintendent.

“I’m in my own town doing the work I love supporting my community and supporting the school district,” she said. “I don’t have a specific end date to that.”

Weiss was born and raised in Juneau, where she graduated from high school. She attended college in Washington state and then spent 26 years in Spokane as a teacher, coach and administrator and superintendent. She then returned to Alaska and was the principal of North Pole High School for four years before becoming the director of student services for the Juneau School District for the next four years until she was named superintendent.

During her time as superintendent Weiss she has collaborated with local government and organizations on projects including Alaska Native language revitalization, early childhood education and suicide prevention. She is also a frequent fixture in crowds at school activities.

“I was blindsided by it,” said Emil Mackey, a Juneau School Board member. “I didn’t know it was coming, but it’s not atypical for someone to leave the position after three or four years, it’s a grueling, grueling job — I’m surprised she lasted this long.”

Mackey said although Weiss will be “greatly missed” by many within the schools and the community, he thinks there are still some good things to come out of this situation including bringing in someone new with a fresh perspective that adapts to the district in a different way.

Juneau School Board President Deedie Sorensen said she was also surprised by the news of Weiss leaving the district, remarking Weiss was “an exceptionally good superintendent” and will leave behind some “exceptionally large shoes to fill.”

Sorensen said the school district will be in the process of seeking out a new superintendent once the board receives a formal letter of Weiss’s decision. She said it was exciting to have Weiss as a superintendent because of her roots in Juneau, and Weiss was always committed to the students and the entire Juneau community.

“Of course the loss of superintendent Weiss is a big loss to the school district, but we appreciate that she needs to do what she believes is best for her and the next best steps for her,” she said.

Weiss, on Wednesday, said she’s proud to be a part of the district, how it navigated the difficult few years through the pandemic and the students.

The announcement of her decision was timed to give ample time for the board to find a replacement, Weiss said. She said she will submit her resignation letter to the board at their November meeting.

“I want the absolute best for Juneau,” she said.

Weiss said she wants the time to “take a deep breath” to figure out what her future holds. She said she may fully retire or seek something entirely new, but she is retiring from K-12 education.

“Things will come along — or maybe I will ride off into the sunset,” she said.

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