The regional school board that makes decisions for the 12-student Klukwan School held a meeting in the village Tuesday.
Chatham School District encompasses schools in Klukwan, Angoon, Gustavus and Tenakee Springs. None of the five regional school board members are from Klukwan, but each year the board members travel to the village to hold one of their monthly school board meetings there.
Some Klukwan residents took the opportunity to tell the Chatham school board members in person how important the school is to the community.
Joe Hotch said in the past, some people suggested that Klukwan send their students to Haines School. The village elders said if they lost the school, “Klukwan would lose our entire future,” Hotch said.
Although the Chatham Regional School Board doesn’t have any members from Klukwan, there is an advisory school board made up of Klukwan residents. Lani Hotch is the president of that board. She thanked the Chatham board for allocating funds to improve the school’s lunch program and replace carpeting.
“So I wanted to take the time and tell you guys thank you for hearing us and making those changes for our school,” Hotch said.
Joe Ordonez is a Mosquito Lake resident whose daughter started at Klukwan School after the Mosquito Lake School closed last year. He told the board the school has welcomed his daughter, and he asked they consider funding art instruction.
“That’s one thing here that she’s not getting,” Ordonez said. “And maybe there are some resources, and you don’t realize that that’s something that’s needed here. There’s a music program but there’s no art program.”
Ordonez is an example of a parent who doesn’t live in Klukwan but has a child in school there. Klukwan wants to encourage that kind of enrollment from outside of the village. So, they asked the school board to approve making one seat on the advisory board available to a parent who lives outside the village.
“We just want to make sure that the children who come from outside of our community — their parents feel they have input,” said Patricia Warren.
The Chatham board members said the bylaws already allow for parents outside of Klukwan to join the advisory board, since the school doesn’t have attendance boundaries.
Later in the meeting, the board discussed an item that caused disagreement: adding a technology director to Chatham School District for next year.
“In short, we would be able to provide better services for our teachers, students and staff that would move the district forward in how technology is used by all of our teachers,” said Superintedent Bernie Grieve.
Right now, the district contracts for tech services with Juneau-based Southeast Regional Resource Center, or SERRC. Superintendent Grieve proposed ending that contract and hiring a staff member solely dedicated to technology assistance and training in the school district.
Three school board members said they think the Chatham schools need more robust technology support.
“I’m fairly appalled with the state of [technology] at Gustavus [School], and I’m guessing it’s probably the same around the district,” said Elizabeth Hooge.
But the two Angoon members said teachers at their town’s school are happy with SERRC. They asked, why spend more money on another administrator when what the schools really could benefit from is more teachers.
“This is a kind of hard one for me to swallow when you’re adding something…the teachers aren’t asking for,” said Albert Howard, who was videoconferencing in from Angoon.
The board voted 3-2 to draw up one budget option that has a technology director position included, just to see if the district would be able to afford it.
Another new position Superintendent Grieve wants to add did not cause any disagreement. The board voted unanimously to create a SPED Director/Test Coordinator job for the district if the budget can accomadate the salary.
The Haines School District is also considering the addition of a SPED Director/Test Coordinator for next year. Both Haines and Chatham have dealt with special education paperwork and testing coordination by dividing those duties between different staff members. Superintendents for the two districts realize that approach is just not working.
The Chatham School Board’s next meeting is scheduled for April 14. People in Klukwan are able to join the meeting by telephone or videoconference.