Attendance light at Thursday superintendent search meeting

Two people came to give input at evening meeting
William Newman of Ray and Associates talks with a parent about the Juneau School District's superintendent search during a meeting at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School on Thursday.

One parent and one substitute teacher attended Thursday night’s public forum on the superintendent search. The other person in the audience was school board member Phyllis Carlson.


Bill Newman and Steve Rasmussen of Ray and Associates, the firm hired by the school district to help find its next leader, came to town to meet with groups on traits they’re looking for in a new superintendent. At
Thursday’s meeting, Newman asked the two community members to give their superintendent wish lists.

Newman and his colleague, Steve Rasmussen, led more than 20 meetings in Juneau with various stakeholder groups in the past two days, including a meeting with 50 students. And although some of the meetings have been small — only about eight people came to the meeting Newman led Wednesday night at Juneau-Douglas High School — the search team has had good discussions and gotten useful feedback, he said. He said he didn’t yet know how many people they’d spoken with on their visit, but about five teachers and district staff members were at Thursday’s staff forum at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School, he said. Besides several staff meetings, other groups the duo met with were Sealaska, Juneau’s Filipino community, the United Way and the three high schools’ student councils.

The online superintendent search survey developed by Ray and Associates and put out by the district had garnered 210 responses by Wednesday morning, district Chief of Staff Kristin Bartlett said.

Auke Bay Elementary School Parent and site council member Jess Brown was one of the people at Thursday’s meeting. She said that in discussions she’s had with other parents about a future superintendent, she’s found people would most “value someone who’s honest and transparent.”

“Someone who’s invested in the community in the sense that they value what the community thinks and feels,” she said. “And definitely someone who is able to foster a relationship between the community and the board. No us-against-them mentality.”

She said parents she’s spoken with also want a school leader who is community-minded in that he or she looks at what the community already has when making decisions on developing the district.

“A superintendent who values what we already have in the community and wants to dig deeper into that,” she listed. “A superintendent who values students as much as he or she values data.”

Substitute teacher Geny Del Rosario said she wants the district to have a leader who can make a firm decision yet is open to the input of others.

“He should know how to balance, not leaning to only one side and ignoring the other,” she said. “No flip-flops, but of course, at the same time, be open and entertain suggestions.”

Newman said trends change in what districts look for in leaders. It used to be that districts were always looking for collaborative workers as superintendents, he said.

“Now some of them say, ‘Yeah, we’re paying them the top dollar in the district, we want someone who can make a decision,’” Newman said.

Brown said she definitely values collaboration in a leader rather than independent decision-making.

“Juneau is a really unique community,” she said. “We definitely want a collaborative thinker and a collaborative worker.”

Newman said that “every community is unique.” Each search they’ve done in their 40 years of doing “the only thing we do” has been slightly different depending on the makeup of the community.

Brown said another important piece to her is a superintendent who “cares about each school as a different site... and understands that each school has vastly different demographics and different needs and is willing to know those intimately.”

Newman said that he and Rasmussen have noticed some trends in what they’ve heard in the 20 meetings they’ve held over the past two days, the most glaring of which being investment in the community being of utmost importance.

“We’re really checking the box — every meeting we go to they say it’s important for this person to be a member of the community,” he said. “That people don’t come to meetings, (the superintendent goes) to them. We’ve gotta find someone that wants to come to Alaska.”

He said he’s confident the firm will track down only candidates who really want to come to Juneau. The superintendent hiring timeline is very tight: The application deadline is May 21 and first interviews will take place the first week of June. The board has yet to decided if and at what point in the process it will make interviews open to the public.

Another theme Newman has picked up on is the desire for the dropout rate to decrease and the rate of students reading at grade level to increase. Of this year’s juniors, 23 percent at TMHS, 15 percent at JDHS and 65 percent at Yaakoosge Daakahidi Alternative High School are not on track to graduate, Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich said at a March school board meeting.

If all goes to Ray and Associates’ plan, a new superintendent should be hired by early June.

• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.


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