Frustrations with Valdez School District continue after high school principal resignation
VALDEZ, Alaska (KTUU) - Several teachers were in tears at Monday night’s Valdez school board meeting where parents and teachers expressed a variety of frustrations with the district, including frustrations with the process to replace former high school principal Gayle Brown.
The circumstances surrounding that resignation, and search for a new high school principal were the context to many of the parents’ and teachers’ frustrations. The district didn’t respond to concerns raised at Monday’s board meeting such as a lack of communication, accountability and what many describe as overall exhaustion.
Several board members were apologetic to the emotional pleas for help from teachers on Monday.
“My heart’s sick hearing a lot of those comments,” board member Ruth Knight said. “I want to thank them for coming forward. It takes a lot of courage.”
Several teachers and parents said there has been virtually no information about Brown’s resignation or on the process to replace her. Superintendent Tim Bauer took over as principal of the high school last month. After Brown’s abrupt departure from the school on Aug. 29, the district said students were put in a school gym, as a staff member held what the district said was an “unauthorized” meeting.
“The screening process itself left us with one candidate who then, of course, only stayed a few days,” high school economics teacher Lee Chadwick said. “That was a bit frustrating, obviously, that we had no say or input into that although we attempted to.”
Teachers were assured that Bauer would be at the school regularly to serve as interim principal, Chadwick said, but he’s hardly ever there.
“Because of our messed up schedule this year, kids will have this hour, that hour, or the other hour,” Chadwick said. “They’re wandering the school. If you walk into the gym, you’ll find kids in there pretty much all hours of the day. There’s no lunch supervision anywhere. There’s no bus supervision. We’re setting ourselves up for a lawsuit I believe.”
Valdez High School math teacher Sarah Hopkins said she agrees with Chadwick.
“We’re kind of the laughing stock of Alaska,” Hopkins said. “We are a small school in a small town in a state, and everything gets around.”
Hopkins was one of several teachers who spoke at Monday night’s school board meeting.
“There is no communication,” she said. “There is no credibility to anyone that walks into our building and our students, certainly, have made a joke out of the revolving door of people.”
Valdez High School math teacher Rachel Hamilton got emotional during her testimony.
“If I was moving my family to Alaska today, I would not choose to live in Valdez and that breaks my heart. In fact, it would not be one of my top five choices.”
Keriann Gilson, a Valdez High School English and theater teacher, also cried while she addressed the board.
“The micromanaging, disrespect towards dedicated staff, the disregard for the wisdom of experienced teachers and the failure to acknowledge the uniqueness of our schools and community have ruined my wish ... to continue working here,” Gilson said.
Several board members were apologetic to the emotional pleas for help from teachers.
“There are things being done,” one board member said. “It’s very disheartening to hear that. It is, to hear that’s the atmosphere you’re in.”
Multiple board members thanked teachers and parents, saying they wanted to help find solutions. The next board meeting is scheduled for Oct. 9 at 7 p.m.
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