HISTORIC MOVE – Harry Greene, maintenance and operations superintendent at the Sitka Public Works Department, uses a backhoe to lift the Baranof statue onto a wooden dolly with the help of co-worker Mike Callahan, this morning in front of Harrigan Centennial Hall. The bronze statue, estimated to weigh between 400 and 600 pounds, was relocated to inside the Sitka History Museum today. The city Assembly passed a resolution, on a 6-1 vote, in July to move the statue from its prominent  outdoor location to inside the museum.  At the July meeting several members of the public said the statue was a symbol of “historical trauma.”  The statue, created by artist Joan Bugbee Jackson, was given to the city in 1989 by Lloyd and Barbara Hames. Hames family members said earlier this year they supported moving the statue into the museum. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Mr. Joe’s Ninja Cat Keeps Kids Hopping

Sentinel Staff Writer

When the coronavirus pandemic shut down in-person schooling across the state in March, Baranof Elementary Physical Education teacher Joe Montagna got creative.

Having spent years as a musician, Montagna, or “Mr. Joe” to his young students, made his video lessons on Microsoft Teams into performances, complete with music and lots of interaction.

Mr. Joe Montagna leads an exercise class on his deck this morning. A laptop balanced on a barbecue grill connects the Baranof Elementary School gym teacher with his students. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

“It’s part of being a performer... I was a professional musician my entire life before I came to Sitka and I still am here,” he said in an interview. “I did the Queen show and the Pink Floyd show,” he said, referring to the sold-out rock concert re-enactments at the Sitka Performing Arts Center.

Though he regrets being separated from his kindergarten and first grade students, Montagna said he makes an effort to stay positive.

“I never harp on what we cannot do. I always harp on what we can do, and what we should do,” he said.

Having said that, he noted that his students are missing out on T-ball as well as other team sports, presenting challenges in his online teaching.

All of the exercises Montagna leads his students through are done individually and performed at home. Most of the exercises involve body weight calisthenics and cardio, from simple pushups and situps to running in place and jumping jacks.

“It’s really hard to do a team sport from their bedroom... The biggest challenge is the team sport experience they’re missing out on right now – the social aspect of recess, because I’m the recess leader at school,” he said.

Montagna even invented an exercise he calls the “Ninja Cat,” a combination of karate chops and high leg kicks.

First grade teacher Jeff Hole recounted the first time his students did the Ninja Cat.

“At first I was a little skeptical, but Joe is in it to win it,” Hole said. “And one day I needed something to do with my kids in the morning and I said ‘Joe, do you have something you can do with them?’ And he came in with this thing called Ninja Cat. They got big smiles when they got up there, and they were having a blast doing the Ninja Cat thing Joe invented.”

Baranof Elementary School Principal Jill Lecrone said, “Mr. Joe, our PE teacher, has a charismatic personality in the first place. When we were in school he has very strong relationships with his students .... He wanted to make PE accessible to all of his kids, he didn’t want to make them feel overwhelmed.”

“Mr. Joe has given them activities that they can do in their living room… His PE classes are very popular,” Lecrone said.

Montagna added that another challenge is ensuring that children complete the exercises.

“Being able to make sure that they’re exercising when they shut the computers off, it’s hard to motivate a five-year-old to look at their planner ... I try to promote 30 minutes (of exercise) a day,” he said.

Hole agreed that the transition to online learning presented a new set of challenges.

“All of us teachers are trying to put the kids first and figure out what’s best for our students, though these are strange and uncharted waters. We’re doing our best to keep our children in the forefront,” Hole said.

Montagna said he greatly prefers face-to-face teaching. Online teaching “feels like it’s inadequate,” he said, “because I’m definitely more of an in-person teacher.”

Lecrone said she also misses being able to see her students in person.

“Not seeing all of our kids in person has been the hardest thing for all of us, and trying to figure out how to provide quality education during this shutdown,” she said.

Montagna added that this new style of teaching is also exhausting.

“My eyes are exhausted at the end of every day, my brain hurts from staring at a screen,” he said. He does all of the exercises he assigns in his classes, which can be strenuous when classes occur back-to-back.

“I’m getting five times the workout because I’m moving the entire time, live on the screen,” he said.

But with the school year ending next week, Joe Montagna had one more request for his students.

“Mr. Joe wants to remind everyone to exercise and be active all summer long!” he said.


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August 5, 2020

A Note To Our Readers

Reopening: Phase One:


On March 30 the Daily Sitka Sentinel began taking precautions against the coronavirus, which was starting to show up in Alaska.

We closed our building to the public and four key employees started working remotely. Home delivery was suspended to protect our carriers from exposure to the virus.

Four months later, the virus is still with us and the precautions remain in effect.

In appreciation for the willingness of our subscribers to pick up their daily paper at drop-off sites, the Sentinel was free to all readers, and subscriptions were extended without charge.

As of August 1 the Sentinel is once again charging for subscriptions, but the present method of having subscribers pick up their papers at designated sites will continue.

The expiration date of all subscriptions has been extended without charge for an additional four months.

We thank our readers for their support in these uncertain times, and especially those who paid for the paper despite the free offer.

We look forward to the time when we can safely resume home delivery.

To check on the expiration of your subscription or to make a payment please call 747-3219. The subscription email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We also will be mailing out reminder cards.

The single copy price is again 75 cents. The news racks do not require coins to open, but we ask that the 75 cents for a non-subscription single copy sale be paid with coins in the slot.

– The Sitka Sentinel Staff


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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 9-29-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 12:20 a.m. Tuesday.

New cases as of Monday: 118

Total statewide – 7,721

Total (cumulative) deaths – 56

Active cases in Sitka – 19 (13 resident; 6 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 47 (37 resident; 10 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 288.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 




September 2000

Gilnettings, By Gil Truitt: The Sitka All-Star Team (Team II) of 1939-1956 is revealed here for the first time.  Fermin “Rocky” Gutierrez, Hugh Pace, “Red” Belinski, Harold “Pretty Boy” Morris, George Kucherak, Dorm McGraw Sr., Herb Didrickson Sr., Gorman Shutt, Vic Adamson, Bill Robinson  and Johnny Vander. ... Other gifted players include Tony Herman, Bunny Donnelly, Hal Taylor, Archie Nielsen, Cecil McClain and Richard (Dick) Eliason.

September 1970

The Alaska Judicial council has selected Sitka as the site of a new branch of the state superior court. The Legislature had created a position for a third Superior Court judge in Southeast, but the city was not specified in the legislation.