Alaska’s second largest school district is about to announce the top finalists in its search for a new superintendent who will oversee 46 schools and the education of 19,000 students.
The Mat-Su School Board hopes to announce their leading two or three candidates later this week.
“Because they are in charge of overall operations for the district, they are pivotal,” School Board President Thomas Bergey said on May 5. “Who they place under them directly reflects their beliefs, and the superintendent should be functioning with the best interests of the children in mind.”
Current Superintendent Monica Goyette is departing after just three years.
Bergey said a good superintendent should also be well equipped to prepare for and address potential controversies. In particular, he noted the current public debate on how curriculum is updated, which has books and materials that a number of parents find objectionable.
“They should have a sense of how the rest of the country deals with these issues,” Bergey said. “A good superintendent knows all the pit falls and knows how to avoid controversies such as this.”
Current Superintendent Monica Goyette is departing after just three years. In October she agreed to modify her contract with the school board and step down at the end of the current academic year. Her original contract ran through 2022.
An outside agency assisted in identifying her replacement. According to Bergey, school board members and several hundred community residents were asked what they want in a new superintendent.
“Resoundingly, our main thing was academic proficiency,” Bergey said.
Bergey, who is a strong advocate of empowering parents in shaping the school district, said the plan was to let the public meet finalists in an open forum. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, however, that has been changed.
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“We have to modify that now with web seminars and Zoom meetings to get the candidates out into the public eye,” he said.
Once the top candidates are identified, the school board will issue a public announcement on how the community can meet them.
Bergey said he hopes the school board will be able to hire a new superintendent by the end of May or early June.
The Mat-Su School District spans approximately 25,000 square miles, an area larger than the entire state of West Virginia. Of its 46 schools, about a quarter are non-traditional, which includes charter and homeschool options.