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Labor talks sacked Gelbrich's Montana hopes

Source: 'No popular choices' when school budget cuts are made

Posted: January 17, 2014 - 1:07am

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story did not include a quote from Juneau Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich. This story has been updated to include that information.

The year-long labor dispute between the Juneau School District and Juneau Education Association was a major factor in superintendent Glenn Gelbrich not landing the same job in Kalispell, Mont., despite entering the interview phase as the frontrunner, the Juneau Empire has learned.

The interviews in Kalispell were open to the public, and attendees including teachers, administrators and parents were asked to submit evaluations of each candidate following their interviews.

Evaluations of Gelbrich’s answers were mostly negative, even when some board members were impressed by answers, a source with knowledge of the situation said.

“Everybody down here realized what was going on in Alaska and the problems you guys are having with the teachers union,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of remaining anonymous. “Our teachers were kind of up in arms about it, and they let everybody know about it.”

Prior to the board going into deliberations about making a selection, a teacher stood up to remind the board of an incident near the turn of the century when the district had to buy out a superintendent’s contract because he did not “get along well” with the teachers and the union, the source said.

"The Kalispell school board ran a process in which they elicited input from their many stakeholders," Gelbrich told the Empire in an email Thursday evening. "The process is intended to include and respect all of the stakeholders and resulted in the selection of a highly qualified, very competent leader."

The person whom the board ultimately picked excelled in the interview phase, and had it not been for Gelbrich’s current negotiations with the teachers union the vote would have been “much, much closer,” the source added.

The source praised Gelbrich’s handling of the budget cuts Juneau has faced in recent years.

“There is going to be no popular choices from that, there’s bad and then there’s worse,” the source said. “From what I’ve read, I think Glenn has done a great job.”

Gelbrich declined an opportunity to go into a private discussion with the Kalispell board. At least one board member hoped to ask about Juneau’s ongoing labor negotiations and why his wife does not live in Juneau with him.

• Contact reporter Matt Woolbright at 523-2243 or at matthew.woolbright@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/reportermatt.

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