HATS OFF – Sitka High School graduates toss their mortarboards in the air after receiving their degrees Monday night in the Sitka High gym. This year 74 seniors graduated in a ceremony that included addresses by teacher Howard Wayne and class representative Nai’a Nelson, a performance by the symphonic band and a video of graduates. A car parade was held after the ceremony. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

School Board Seeks Way to Rate Progress

By GARLAND KENNEDY

Sentinel Staff Writer

Administrators, teachers and staff members reviewed the school district’s strategic planning goals with emphasis on smart resource allocation at a School Board work session Wednesday evening.

Also at the meeting, board members heard a brief condition report on Superintendent Steve Bradshaw, who is in a Seattle hospital recovering from injuries he sustained in a fall in Juneau last Thursday.

“For those of you that maybe don’t know yet, I’m going to start with the good news. Steve said he’s getting out of the hospital tomorrow,” assistant superintendent Deidre Jenson told the board. She said Bradshaw will spend additional time recovering at his home in Montana before returning to Sitka.

(A story in Tuesday’s Sentinel incorrectly stated Jenson’s last name as Johnson.)

Bradshaw, 71, has been interim superintendent since July 1 under a one-year contract while the board searches for a permanent replacement for Frank Hauser, who resigned to accept a position in Juneau. Bradshaw is well known in Sitka from his years here as teacher and school superintendent.

“Based on the last update I received, Steve is doing well and focused on his initial recovery,” board member Tristan Guevin told the Sentinel. “We’ve been thinking of Steve and Sandy (his wife), and sending all the love and healing thoughts we can until his return.”

Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, board president Todd Gebler said Bradshaw exemplifies “Montana-Alaska grit… He will definitely come back; that is his intention.”

Both Gebler and Guevin said Sitka is fortunate to have Jenson, assisted by an able district staff, already on hand to carry on until Bradshaw returns. Bradshaw requested when hired that there would be an assistant superintendent, a position that was left vacant for several years prior.

The Wednesday work session centered on the district’s strategic planning process, which is divided into six categories: closing learning gaps, strengthening culturally responsive programming, partnerships, professional development and mentoring, internal and external communications, and reducing barriers to participation.

Sitka High math teacher Ryan Myers said it is critical for a plan to include metrics to determine progress over time.

“Where are we now? Where are we trying to go? And how are you going to measure that?” Myers said. “You cannot have an intelligent conversation about how any of these things go if you don’t know where you were, and you have no way of measuring where you’re going. I would say I’m very happy to pick three or four things or whatever we want to do, but it has to start with, where are we now? What do we have? And then what is success going to look like? How are we going to measure? If you don’t have that, then we’re just spinning our wheels.”

For over a decade, the goal of closing achievement or learning gaps has been a top priority in district plans, said Sarah Ferrency, Sitka Tribe of Alaska interim education director.

“But now here we are, years later, and we’re just still talking about closing achievement gaps or learning gaps,” she said. “The thing that I find hopeful about this plan, though, is… every single one of these strategies goes towards closing your learning gaps, and so that’s how you prioritize them… It used to just be like, ‘we’re going to close learning gaps,’ and there will be no sort of information on how or when or who or why, or even what they were. And so I feel like this is progress.”

Myers stressed the need not only to identify the problems that exist, but gather information in a way that is easily usable.

“We need to have a robust data system where all of this information we’re gathering can actually go and be used,” he said.

Unlike the School Board’s regular meetings, the strategic planning work session was more open ended, without a set agenda, and people generally spoke at will, rather than in designated periods.

Other ideas raised included strengthening government-to-government cooperation between the board and Sitka Tribe of Alaska, making adaptable calendars to better accommodate families’ needs, involving the Sitka Education Association more extensively in staff mentorship, and working to include all Sitka High students in some sort of extracurricular activity.

SHS metals teacher Tim Pike recommended prioritizing the most important strategic planning items.

“The problem is that you have pretty limited human capital to get this stuff done right. Everybody’s got a full-time job, and so if you want to get something done, you really need to focus your attention on the things that are super important or are easy to get at,” Pike said. 

Acting superintendent Jenson stressed the need to be consistent in order to ensure long-term solutions.

“We have this great new training, and then we never circle back to it. So we never get to the implementation,” she said. “‘Let’s just talk about it, here’s a great idea,’ and then we just really don’t ever circle back and reflect on what we’ve done to accomplish it. So the sustainability part of the plan is how do we create that sustainability, too, how do we keep that reflection… It doesn’t matter the size (of a district), the problem is the human capacity that you have. And I’ve worked in a ton of small schools and small districts.”

Guevin spoke of strategic planning processes over the past decade, noting successes such as the beginning of the Wooch.een preschool program and the reestablishment of the Blatchley Middle School library.

“The important thing about a strategic plan is that it builds on what came before,” Guevin said. “It’s an iterative process, we update strategic plans, we approve them as a board, but it builds on previous strategic planning processes, and more so the work that staff had been doing. So we don’t want to throw everything out.”

The board will convene again for a formal meeting Wednesday, October 4, in the Sitka High library.

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20 YEARS AGO

May 2004

Dr. Arthur Cleveland, a former dean at Columbus State University in Georgia, was named the new president of Sheldon Jackson College, SJC officials announced today. He will be replacing C. Carlyle Haaland, who has held the position for four years.


50 YEARS AGO

May 1974

Coaching and managing the Little League teams this year are John Abbott and John Calhoun, ANB; Dale and DeWayne Vilandre, Alaska Federal; Walt Barker, Elks; Frank Simmons and Frank Vilandre, Lions; Leo Bacon, Pat Ness, Cliff Robards and Bob Edenso, Moose; and Everett Webb, Sportsmen. Head umpire is Carl Karpstein.

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