Klukwan School Teacher Jessica Tipkemper with students at the start of the 2016-17 school year. (Emily Files)

Klukwan School teacher Jessica Tipkemper with students at the start of the 2016-17 school year. (Emily Files)

Klukwan School has a new superintendent. Chatham School District, which includes Klukwan, Angoon, Gustavus and Tenakee Springs, hired a retired educator with Alaska experience as its interim leader.

Susan Sciabbarrasi started her career in education as a middle school math and science teacher in Virginia. Eventually, she moved into administration. She served as superintendent of the Wrangell School District from 2002 to 2007.

Sciabbarrasi retired in 2011. But she’s come out of retirement a couple times to help Alaska school districts in need.

“In 2012, I was asked to go to Tanana, I was in Tanana for a year as their superintendent,” said Sciabbarrasi. “And then this past year I was asked to apply for the interim superintendent job here in Chatham. And here I am.”

Former superintendent Bernie Grieve resigned at the end of last school year after a couple contentious staffing decisions in Angoon. He said at the time he was leaving for personal reasons.

Sciabbarrasi has a six-month contract, but it may be extended to the full year.

The Haines School District followed the same approach two years ago, hiring a retired educator to fill in as superintendent for a year. Now the district is looking for another interim leader. The Haines School Board recently accepted one-year superintendent Tony Habra’ s resignation.

Chatham is headquartered in Angoon. That’s where the largest of the district’s schools is located.

“We are several sites but it’s all one district,” Sciabbarrasi said. “And so just because I’m here in Angoon does not mean that one site is any more important than the other one.”

Sciabbarrasi says her priorities include reviewing the curriculum, following the district’s strategic plan and meeting weekly with the administration. The district has two principals, one in Angoon and one in Gustavus. Klukwan has a lead teacher who performs some administrative duties.

“One of my strengths, I think, is budgets,” Sciabbarrasi said. “So I’ve already become very familiar with the budget here and in the district. I like numbers.”

The district budgeted for an additional full-time teacher at Klukwan School this year because enrollment is increasing. Chatham hired former Haines School reading specialist Janice Byerlee for that job. Bylerlee will teach pre-K through second grade.

Higher enrollment is good news for the village of Klukwan: if the student count were to drop below 10 students, the school would lose state funding. Low enrollment led to the closure of Mosquito Lake School, about six miles from Klukwan, a few years ago.

The same thing happened to the school in Tenakee Springs. Now, there is an independent learning center there that is part of the Chatham district.

The first day of the school year for Klukwan and other Chatham students is Aug. 28.