Board Names Holst Interim School Chief

Sentinel Staff Writer

The Sitka School Board has named former school superintendent John Holst to be interim superintendent after Mary Wegner steps down June 30.

The appointment of Holst was announced at the board’s Wednesday meeting, which was held by teleconference.

“With his extensive experience in various permanent and interim superintendent positions, we feel that he also clearly recognizes that he will be working for the board, and we as a board remain firmly committed to the goals we have established,” board president Elias Erickson said.

John Holst (Sentinel file photo)

Holst will hold the position through the end of the 2020-2021 school year, while the board continues its search for a permanent superintendent. Wegner plans to take up a position at the University of Alaska Southeast Juneau this summer.

Holst told the Sentinel that he has been involved in education since before he arrived in Ketchikan from Wisconsin in 1980.

He was the Sitka School District superintendent from 1993 to 2001.

What’s his goal for his next round of managing the school district?

“Leave it better than I found it,” he said.

Since he left the post in 2001, he has worked as an education consultant at locations from Sitka to the Yukon, often mentoring new superintendents.

“I want to help the board and whoever comes in as the new superintendent in a year,” Holst said. “I want to help set up success.”

In addition to announcing Holst as interim superintendent, the board discussed measures taken to continue providing education, and meals, to students during COVID-related school closures.

For two weeks, the school district has distributed free “grab-and-go” meals in the Sitka High parking lot from 8 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Wegner described the effort as “Herculean.”

“It was amazing what they made happen,” she said.

And with distance learning underway for two weeks, Sitka High Principal Laura Rogers said that only five of her 307 students had not been contacted, and that her staff had distributed 84 laptops to students who needed them.

“Every kid had just been saying ‘I just wish we could have normal school,’” Rogers told the board.

A summary of the remote learning plan for each local school is available at

The district now relies on the video conference service Zoom for synchronous learning and office hours. Microsoft Teams serves as a basis for an asynchronous learning.

Despite challenges revolving around shifting an entire curriculum in a single week, Wegner praised the ability of staff and students to find solutions.

“It has been so fabulous to see how, in the matter of a week, we have put together really meaningful remote learning opportunities for our students and their families,” the superintendent said.

She also lauded the Lady Wolves’ basketball and Sitka Cheer squads for taking the Region V title last month in Juneau.

The Region V tourney was the last athletic event for Sitka High students for the academic year. Days later, the Alaska School Activities Association canceled the state tournament, which had been set for the end of March in Anchorage.

Rogers described the Region V tournament as “the end of normalcy.”

Distance learning will continue in Alaska, as mandated by the governor, until at least May 1.


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At a Glance

(updated 11-29-22)

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 12:15 pm Tuesday, November 29.

New cases as of Tuesday: 414

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 286,561

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,399

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 4,195

Case Rate per 100,000 – 56.8

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

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 70.40

Cases in last 7 days – 6

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,173

Hospitalizations (to date) – 31

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.






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Photo caption: Presbyterian women of today wear costumes from 1877-1899 at Sunday’s service. From left are Alice Postell, Dorothy Streit, Gladys Whitmore, Carrie Maura, Harriet Hannigan, Eugenie Williams, Esther Littlefield, Isabel Miller, Marilyn Ryan, Esther Billman, Beverly Scholz, Gertie Zeiger, Marcia Strand and Betty Stratton. (Photo by Martin Strand)