The search for a new superintendent and a potential drop in test scores were two key topics of discussion at Tuesday’s Haines School Board meeting.
The school board recently voted to spend $7,000 for a consultant to help recruit and vet a new permanent superintendent. The consultant, Timi Tullis, works for the Alaska Association of School Boards. She told the board Tuesday that she’s conducted about a dozen superintendent searches in the past six years.
“We know that it has been a challenge in the last few years to get a lot of quality candidates,” Tullis said. “So the best thing about you guys is you’re the first district that’s gonna be searching this year. And you know what, it is not challenging to sell this district.”
The Haines district is searching for a superintendent at the very beginning of the new school year because of the unexpected resignation of former superintendent Ginger Jewell. She left after fulfilling one year of her three-year contract. When the district and board went through the hiring process for Jewell, they did not pay for any outside consultants to assist with the search.
Retired educator Rich Carlson is serving as interim superintendent for at least six months, and possibly a year. The board is planning to post a job description that gives a flexible start date, between February 1st and July 1st of next year.
“So that shows that we’re out there looking, we’re out there searching, we’re hoping to get someone as early as February 1st, but no later than July 1st,” Tullis said.
At a workshop on September 29th, board members and Tullis will flesh out what qualities and qualifications they think are important for the next superintendent. Tullis suggested the district put out a survey to community members so that feedback can be part of the discussion later this month.
“It’s my recommendation that the board be as inclusive as possible in the process,” Tullis said.
The new superintendent could be stepping into a district dealing with a significant drop in standardized test scores. New state education standards resulted in a new annual test for students, which they took last year. It’s called Alaska Measures of Progress. Carlson said the preliminary statewide results from the tests are in. The district’s results will be released October 19th.
“And it was really what we had anticipated, Carlson said. “The number of people who met proficiency is down, which would be understandable because the test is much more rigorous.”
Schools in Alaska are rated between one and five stars, based on test scores, attendance, graduation rates and other standards. Right now, Haines is a four-star school. Lower scores on tests could potentially drop the district’s star rating. That would mean more oversight from the state. Carlson says the district’s reputation could also be hurt.
Testing refusals could also affect the district’s star rating. Last spring, when the AMP tests were administered, a number of Haines School parents opted their children out of the tests. Students who are opted out are automatically counted as ‘not proficient.’ At the end of the testing period in April, school administrators said 12 students had refused the test. In a small district like Haines, that could have an impact.
But it won’t be reflected in the star rating until next year. Since this is the first year of AMP test results, districts are not penalized for any drops in test scores.
“Everything has been sort of frozen for a year, because of the realization that this is a more difficult test,” Carlson said. “Now next spring, if we have a number of people opting out, that would affect the star rating for next year.”
Carlson says he plans to bring up the issue of opt-outs at a meeting this week with Alaska Education Commissioner Mike Hanley.
Department of Education officials have said that an increase in testing refusals happened around the state and country. It’s to do at least in part with a growing movement against the Common Core education standards. Alaska didn’t adopt Common Core, but some parents and legislators see a difference between Common Core and Alaska Standards only in name, not in substance.
The next school board meeting is October 6th.