Juneau, Alaska (KINY) The Board of Education voted unanimously to hire Dr. Bridget Weiss as the Superintendent of Schools.
Weiss was named interim superintendent this summer when Mark Miller resigned. She had previous served as Director of Student Services. She has taken on the responsibility of both jobs during the past six months.
Chairman Brian Holst praised Weiss for the job she had done for the district.
The decision came after a 90 minute executive session before the regular meeting. Board member Jeff Short made the motion to hire Weiss.
Holst said contract negotiations must still be approved by the board.
Board member Dan Debartolo said from his perspective Dr. Weiss has done a wonderful job. He mentioned strong communication skills. "You belong to the community and you belong as superintendent of our school district."
Board member Kevin Allen said he was impressed with her participation in a Native ceremony at Gastineau Elementary. He also praised her involvement in the community.
Board member Elizabeth Siddon thanked the community for participating in the selection process. "It was very impressive and encouraging to hear from students, staff and the community, that were so overwhelmingly positive about Dr. Weiss. They made it a very easy decision."
Board member Paul Kelly said he it is clear that this is more than a job for Dr. Weiss. He praised her for her commitment to Juneau.
Board member Steve Whitney thanked the community for involving themselves in the process. "The support was pretty overwhelming. You are throwing yourself into a difficult job and thank you for all you put into it."
Board member Jeff Short thanked her for her patience and deliberation she brought to the process. He said he has a great deal of confidence in the job Dr. Weiss will do for the school system. "We have a very engaged board, a very qualified and talented superintendent and an involved community. I feel privileged to be on the board at this moment. I look for ways to deepen mutual trust between all of us."
Laura Mulgrew, President of the Juneau Education Association gave her endorsement to the choice. "We support and value Dr. Weiss and support her position as the permanent superintendent. She demonstrates leadership skills that develop a positive learning environment and has shown a commitment to Juneau."
She praised her for visiting schools, engaging with staff and students, and even serving a substitute teacher at times this year.
"We have had a wonderful working relationship over the last couple of months, I couldn't have said that at this time last year," she added.
Josh Keaton, representing the Floyd Dryden Middle School Site Council said every staff member he communicated with had nothing but good things to say about Dr. Weiss.
Mary Marks said Dr. Weiss has a huge passion for success in education for all students. She noted she has been visible in the community and participated in native activities. "I see her as a huge advocate of Alaska Native students and families. That is important to us."
She compared her to a Chilkat blanket, that is woven with different techniques.
The Board accepted the gift of a Tlingit name for Juneau Douglas High School. The high school will add the name of the original and ancient place-name of Mt. Juneau, Yadaa.at kale. It translates in the English language to beautiful adorned face. The name also references a Tlingit narrative that represents one's sense of gratitude and utter relief as the face of the mountain and safe harbor comes into site after a long, perilous and trying journey. The effort to receive a Tlingit name for JDHS was primarily student driven. Students collected a substantial amount of signatures from a diverse group of students in favor of the proposal. The student council also fully supports the effort.
Arias Hoyle submitted letters of support from Tlingit Haida. He also submitted a petition of names from JDHS graduates in the class of 2018. "We are hoping today is a huge moment for the school to allow for diversity and for you to accept such a welcoming gift."
David Katzeek, Juneau Douglas High School graduate in 1962, said his teachers gave encouragement, accepted him, and cheered every little thing that was done. 'That was the heart and the spirit of a good educational system."
Katzeek said it is a very significant and historical name. "You can see the kind of storm that we are having right now. That mountain has come through a lot and it is a beautiful face. It is away that all your faces can be put on that mountain."
He said the Tlingit people are a very giving people.
Chairperson Brian Holst said it is wonderful that the community thinks more of the native people today than when he graduated in 1983. "We are just lucky to be board members at this time and place in our community when we recognize every piece of our community the way we should."
Board member Dan Debartolo said this is a wonderful teaching experience. He called it an opportunity to talk about our history. "We need to speak toward kindness and forgiveness. It is easy to be divisive in 2019. I hope to see more of this for our other schools."
Board member Steve Whitney said a lot of the community aren't aware of the discrimination of the past. Tlingit couldn't use public buses, other kids couldn't play for the school basketball team. "I thank you for this and this makes us so much better."
The gift was accepted unanimously.
Supporters said the gifted name will remind the community of its heritage and history. To some it will reflect cultural diversity, and to others a symbol and intent of moving forward from historical trauma. The only con listed in the staff report was some people may worry about difficulties in pronouncing the Tlingit name.
Superintendent Dr. Bridget Weiss plans to hold a strategic planning session with pre-kindergaten teachers, and representatives of Tlingit-Haida Head Start and AEYC to discuss early childhood programming.
Juneau School District employee absenteeism is slightly higher than the national average for schools. Dr. Weiss said they would like to hire more substitute teachers. An analysis found 52-percent of absences were based on sick leave.
The Board requested the CBJ Assembly fund the school district at the cap for fiscal year 2019. It will require an additional $141,124.