A retired educator who served as Haines’ interim superintendent two years ago is up for the job again. The school board is considering three candidates for the short-term position, following the departure of the former head administrator, Tony Habra.
Rich Carlson served as interim superintendent during the 2015-2016 school year. He stepped in after the unexpected resignation of one-year superintendent Ginger Jewell. Habra is also leaving the district after just one year. That means Haines may have five different superintendents over a five-year period.
Carlson is a longtime educator who has held superintendent positions, permanent and interim, in several Alaska districts.
Lisa Schwartz said Carlson is a safe choice. But the downside is he’s not interested in the permanent position.
“We know Rich is a known, we know he’s fantastic,” said Schwartz. “We know we can all work well together, everybody. The question I think comes down to do we want to go with the known or do we go ahead and try to hire one of these other folks that might be more permanent.”
There are two other candidates for the job.
Kevin Shipley was most recently the superintendent of the Kake City School District. Before that, he held several different principal positions in Texas.
Susan McCauley served as interim commissioner of the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development in 2016. She’s worked in education throughout the state.
Here’s board member Sara Chapell.
“I feel really excited about Susan McCauley when I read about her and I learn more about her,” said Chapell. “And I kind of wonder if she’s the kind of person that could actually help us move forward in the next year. Not that Rich couldn’t help us do that because I think Rich was a solid superintendent for us.”
Principal Rene Martin called McCauley a ‘power player.’ Martin said she thought McCauley could help move the district forward.
“If she was willing to come to Haines for a longer-term thing then it might be worth spending the money for one year,” said Martin. “Because I mean, she would be amazing. We would become a model school for things around the state, I feel.”
Martin listed a number of goals she has for the next superintendent.
“In my dream world, like right now where are we, I think we need someone to help us adjust the budget and scale the budget correctly for our downsizing,” said Martin. “We need vision in that. We need to restructure our building-level admin team so that we have something moving forward.”
She said the district also needs to refresh the strategic plan. And if the next superintendent is only there for a short time…
“Help us with a solid hiring plan so that we can kind of glean out the information about leadership, vision and stuff like that. I guess visionary,” said Martin. “That’s what I would like to see because that’s – we’ve got to catch up here. We’re in a position where we could be a leader in the state, we have been in the past on things and we need some help getting moving in that direction.”
The board is also considering cost. President Anne Marie Palmieri said they could save some money by hiring Carlson.
“With Rich we don’t have to pay health insurance, we just pay a health insurance stipend,” said Palmieri. “Which is actually part of our negotiated agreement now. That saves us like $15,000. And then there’s also the retirement piece. We’re not paying into his retirement.”
The district budget is already taking a hit because it is paying Habra a $66,000 settlement. The board has not explained why the former superintendent is being paid after resigning. The discussions about his yearly evaluation and contract were held behind closed doors.
At a recent assembly meeting, Haines resident Fred Einspruch spoke up about the lack of transparency around Habra’s exit.
“Who is authorized to write a check to an individual who has resigned for $65,000 with no explanation and no reason? That is simply not acceptable in a democracy, in a taxpayer-based system,” said Einspruch.
The school board held off on making a decision about who to hire as interim superintendent until the end of the week. A meeting is set for Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the school library.