School Board reboots search

Superintendent position reposted after only eight applicants came forward

Posted: Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Juneau School District is rebooting its superintendent search after only eight applicants came forward during the original recruitment period that ended April 10, school officials announced Tuesday.

The decision, which also included a bump in the advertised pay range up to $150,000 to $175,000, from $125,000 to $135,000, came out of a closed meeting the School Board held Saturday.

School Board President Mark Choate said the goal of extending the search and hiking the salary is to attract more applicants on a more competitive national level.

"It's just to get a broader range of candidates ... and make the public confident," Choate said.

He said the decision wasn't a reflection of dissatisfaction with current finalists, whom he described as good, well-qualified candidates.

Board member Ed Flanagan added that Alaska superintendents on average are paid relatively low compared to superintendents leading comparably sized districts in the Lower 48, even before taking into account Alaska's high cost of living.

Of the original eight candidates, the School Board had chosen five candidates as finalists in closed session. Subsequently, two unnamed finalists withdrew. Last week, the district unveiled the remaining three finalists:

• Beverly Hammond, former superintendent for 2008 of Wild Rose School Division No. 66 in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta.

• Laury Scandling, Juneau's assistant superintendent since 2008.

• Art Stellar, superintendent in Taunton, Mass., since 2005.

Hammond and Stellar's local newspapers have reported red flags on both candidates.

Hammond either resigned in October or was fired in January - the point appears to be in dispute and is muddled by an extended sick leave intended to last until June. She is suing for $5.3 million in Canadian dollars for physical and psychological damages among other things, The Drayton Valley (Alberta) Western Review reported. She claims her leave was brought on by stress caused by school board members' actions. The case is pending.

Stellar's school board fired him in January 2008 by voting not to renew his contract that runs through this school year, The Taunton Gazette reported. That followed highly critical performance evaluations, a board censure in September 2007 for insubordination and the local teachers' union giving him a vote of no confidence in August 2007, the Gazette reported.

Choate said the School Board was aware of the two candidates' issues, and that they had no bearing on the board's decision to extend the search.

The new timeline is set to accept applications until May 19, select finalists May 21 and bring them to Juneau for interviews, community tours, public meet-and-greets and final deliberations from May 27 to 29.

Juneau's school superintendent is responsible for overseeing a school system with about 700 employees and 5,000 students. Current Superintendent Peggy Cowan earns a salary of $132,500. She announced in January that she would leave the post when her contract expires June 30 to pursue roles with more emphasis on instruction.

The search is being handled by the Association of Alaska School Boards under an $8,000 contract. The extension is covered by the original contract, though the district will be responsible for additional advertising costs that are expected to be nominal, Flanagan said.

• Contact reporter Jeremy Hsieh at 523-2258 or e-mail

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