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


School to hire 'dean of students'


Under a staffing plan that responds to the departure of vice-principal Michelle Byer, the Haines Borough school board Monday approved hire of a “dean of students” position for grades 6-12.

The position would pay about $68,000 plus benefits.

The hire will save the district about $45,000 in the coming year, according to district superintendent Michael Byer, Michelle Byer’s husband. Michelle Byer earns $106,000 in salary and benefits and works half-time as the district’s special education director. She recently was hired as principal of Riverbend School in Juneau.

(Byer’s husband, school superintendent Michael Byer, gave notice of his resignation in February.)

Under the change approved Monday, district principal Cheryl Stickler will work as principal for grades K-5 and as half-time teacher. She also would assist efforts to beef up the district’s homeschool program.

“(Stickler) would rather not be full-time (principal). She wanted this (arrangement),” said superintendent Byer after Monday’s meeting. Stickler’s current compensation of $129,778, which ncludes $97,319 in salary, would be reduced under the plan.

Michelle Byer reported that Stickler is “looking to retire in a year or two.”

School board president Anne Marie Palmieri said hiring a “dean of students” would make for a “gradual transition” to a new principal, considering the district also will have a new superintendent next year. “With a new principal, it would be difficult have two new administrators. That would be hard.”

Superintendent Byer said the dean position would be offered to the current teaching staff. He noted that English teacher Rene Martin would have a principal’s certificate in a year. “This is a good opportunity to bring someone up from the inside.”

According to a draft job description, the dean would report to principal Stickler and the job would require at least three years’ high school teaching experience.

Besides student discipline, the dean position also would be responsible for attending school functions like after-hours sports events but would not have some authority currently granted to principals, including expelling students and writing evaluations of staff.

In an interview, superintendent Byer was asked why the district couldn’t get along with just one principal, as the district had only two principals when it had twice as many students.

Byer said he was “of two minds” about the question. If a principal’s responsibilities extended only to discipline, a single principal might suffice, he said. He said a new teacher evaluation system and state and federal “compliance requirements” have added to principal workloads in recent years.

“It depends on the person and how well policy and procedures are set up in the school and how things work. It is possible,” he said. “If discipline is done consistently and the rules are enforced consistently and everyone knows what the rules are, that facilitates a much better discipline situation,” Byer said.

The question should be revisited when Stickler retires, he said.

Stickler said after the meeting she’d be eligible for retirement in a couple years but “did not have firm plans one way or another” about retiring.

Stickler said she was looking foward to helping oversee district efforts to revamp its homeschool program. She’ll be working with teacher Lisa Andriesen.