Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


School superintendent hire looms


The Haines Borough school board is hoping to select a new superintendent by March 29.

A hiring committee of board members and school officials that met March 13 winnowed down a list of 16 candidates who had applied by a March 5 deadline to just two finalists: Ted VanBronkhorst, director of human resources at Bering Strait School District in Unalakleet and co-worker Jay Thomas, curriculum director for the same district.

Residents will have a chance to meet with the two finalists late next week.

Of the original candidates, two withdrew their applications after receiving other offers during the application process.

Board chair Anne Marie Palmieri said the district had set an “aggressive” hiring schedule because several other districts are also seeking superintendents. “We wanted to make sure we had the widest possible field of candidates to select from.”

A community reception for the two finalists, including time for public questions and answers, will be held 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 28 at the school library. Residents with follow-up questions can submit them in writing when the board holds public interviews the following day, Saturday, March 29, beginning at 9 a.m. A school board special meeting will be held immediately following the interviews to finalize contract details.

“We’re hoping to make a decision and begin negotiating a contract before (the finalists) leave town,” Palmieri said.

When the board met last week, it was looking to narrow the list of candidates to two or three, Palmieri said. “These two were chosen overwhelmingly by the committee,” she said.

VanBronkhorst has worked as a principal in Aniak, a guidance counselor and math teacher in Skagway and a teacher in Wenatchee, Wash. He holds a master’s degree in education from University of Alaska-Anchorage. Thomas has worked as a principal in Teller and Unalakleet, as principal-teacher in Akutan and as a teacher in St. Mary’s and in Union, Ore.

He also holds an education master’s degree from UAA.

“I think the board is really looking forward to meeting them. They seem to be very different people and have very different styles,” Palmieri said. VanBronkhorst has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and has a history as a consensus builder. Thomas is a decisive and hard-working go-getter, she said. An Air Force veteran, he has taught survival skills to Iraqi nationals, she said.

Both finalists have impressive references and recommendations, Palmieri said. The Bering Strait School District has 1,700 students at 15 remote, village schools. The board advertised the job nationally in early February, including through the websites of the Alaska Association of School Boards and Alaska Teacher Placement.

The hiring committee that selected the finalists included school board members except Brian Clay, plus teacher Lily Boron, parent representative Pam Long, district secretary Ashley Sage, and principals Cheryl Stickler and Michelle Byer.

Other superintendent candidates included Lisa Stroh, superintendent, Valdez City Schools; Scott Butterfield, superintendent, Chatham School District (Angoon); Craig Crebar, high school principal, Northwest Arctic Borough School District (Kotzebue); Timothy Stathis, director of curriculum, Yukon Flats School District (Fort Yukon); Nancy Moon, principal, Houghtaling Elementary School (Ketchikan); Michael Gullett, co-principal, Iditarod Area School District (McGrath); William Bradshaw, consultant, Soldotna; James Thomas, superintendent, Reedsport School District, Reedsport, Ore .; Debra Fountain, middle school principal, Hancock County School District, Kiln, Miss .; Paul Rockhold, principal, Humes Preparatory Academy, Memphis, Tenn .; Richard Lee, acting administrator, Steamboat Springs, Colo; Mahima Kunda, U.S. Army Ordnance Center and School, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

Michael Byer, who has served Haines as superintendent for seven years, announced in January that he was leaving the job. The board is intending the new superintendent will start July 1.