Boarding school settles license suspension

Posted: Wednesday, July 21, 2010

FAIRBANKS - An Alaska boarding school is operating under a one-year conditional license after a suspension following a state investigation into complaints that included vulgar remarks by a staff member to students.

Administrators at the Nenana Student Living Center said they disagreed with the findings of investigators but signed a settlement in May without filing an appeal.

The state suspended the school's license in February, citing the remarks and evidence of inadequate oversight and perishable food left out late at night.

Two employees were ordered replaced after investigators from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services interviewed dorm parents, school staff and 18 of the 48 students living there.

The school had no previous violations. It provides housing for up to 88 high school-age students who come mostly from Alaska villages.

Unlike most boarding schools, however, students who live at the center attend the Nenana City School, not their own separate high school.

The program, one of three boarding schools in Alaska, focuses on embedding students in the community and preparing them for college. The staff includes about 12 live-in dorm parents.

The conditional license maintains restrictions on two employees at the living center: Joe Krause, the former dorm administrator and current principal at the Nenana City School, and Mike Anderson, a dorm parent and chef at the center. But both were allowed to keep their jobs at the school.

In the settlement, Krause was criticized because he wasn't spending the required 40 hours per week at the dorms.

Nenana City School District Superintendent Eric Gebhart said the administration was unaware of the requirement, so Krause was spending the bulk of his hours at the school where his office was located.

Gebhart said Krause wasn't skimping on his time around kids.

"Any time I go to his office to see him, I'm waiting for him to get done with kids who have stopped in before school, after school. He's gone out of his way to make himself approachable," Gebhart said.

Anderson was ousted from the dorm after investigators found he used sexually inappropriate language and profanity around students and had an uncovered tattoo of a naked woman on his arm. A state report notes staff interviews and written statements mentioning that Anderson made comments such as "liking Asian porn, implying youth are downloading porn to their computers, (and) asking male students if they have naked pictures of a female student because she has a nice chest."

Gebhart said Anderson has never faced allegations like this before.

Gebhart said the report reflects a state of tough transition at the living center, along with several administrative mistakes, not systemic health and safety problems.

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