After a 39-year career in public education Bridget Weiss is again becoming a college freshman, of sorts.
The Juneau School District superintendent has been named the first-ever liaison for the University of Alaska College of Education Consortium, which works on collaborative efforts between various university programs as well as the state’s public school system. Among her new challenges will be luring more high schoolers to become teachers and motivating them to pursue careers in Alaska.
“I can’t really undo 39 years of energy and understanding I have,” she said Tuesday. “I’m really not just ready to walk away from that.”
Weiss’ last scheduled day as superintendent is June 30 and she officially begins her new job July 1 (which is a Saturday, meaning in reality she’ll get the holiday weekend as a transition period). She said she will remain in Juneau, which was an important consideration as she looked for opportunities after her tenure with the school district.
When asked what she expects her new day-to-day duties to be like, she said at the onset it will largely be a learning experience.
“It hasn’t been done before,” she said. “This is a new position, so I’m approaching it from an innovative stance of assessing the needs.”
Specific goals are likely to include increasing dual enrollment of high school students who get an early start on college by enrolling in university classes, Weiss said.
“We know when students get a head start on credits they are more likely to enroll,” she said. “Certainly from my k-12 perspective we need to remove some obstacles. It will really mean reaching out to districts that don’t have these opportunities yet and see what some of those obstacles are.”
Having more “home grown” students in the university’s teaching program also means more are likely to remain in the state when pursuing careers, Weiss said. A similar mentality in luring out-of-state students is also a goal.
“We know we will always rely on a Lower 48 pool and we want them to come to Alaska, but we want them to come here for a career,” she said.
Weiss’ appointment was announced in an ACEC news release on Friday and to a more prominent audience during a live broadcast of a state Senate Education Committee hearing Monday where an overview of the university system was presented. Tonia Dousay, dean of the school of education for the university, told the committee Weiss “will be joining our forces to help us ensure that districts and anybody, any stakeholder, interested in public education knows exactly who they can work with.”
“She is the current president of our superintendents’ association so she will be a very visible gateway,” Dousay said. “School districts will be able to connect with us rapidly, ask questions, develop duel credit relationships, look at other opportunities that we might not be considering. She will be able to provide that access for us.”
Weiss graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé, and after graduating from college spent 26 years in Spokane, Washington, in teaching and administrator roles. She returned to Alaska and spent four years as principal of North Pole High School before returning to Juneau and serving four years as the district’s director of student services.
She was named Juneau’s superintendent in 2018 and has won several awards, including Alaska Superintendent of the Year in 2022, and her contract had been extended until 2025 shortly before she announced her plans in October to retire from the district.
But Weiss said with tasks ahead such as drafting a budget for next year and employee contract negotiations, she doesn’t expect her final few months with the district to be easy.
“We’ve got a lot of work,” she said.
• Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at email@example.com