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Superintendent Search Narrows to Three


Three finalists for the top school job in the Interior met in a community forum last night. The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District is hiring a new Superintendent of Schools to take over by July 1. As KUAC’s Robyne reports, hundreds of families listened on the online call and to the social media broadcast. The district is taking comments on the forum until 10 p.m. Sunday; there is a comment link at the bottom of the story.

The candidate forum was moderated by Timi Tullis of the Association of Alaska School Boards. She asked questions pulled from a community survey with more than 1,000 responses. One of those questions was, what did they learn about running schools in the pandemic?

Dr. Justin Barnes said the pandemic revealed gaps in technology literacy for teachers and access for students.

“It forced districts to really provide a lot of professional development. If those teachers weren’t ready for that. But what that also brought to our attention was just the availability, – and we go back to the equity piece talking about families that can’t afford the Internet. How do you adjust and make accommodations for those types of families?

Dr. Vickie Cartwright said schools need to be proactive, with trying to figure out what comes next and be ready for that.

Make sure you’re communicating thoroughly. Just when you think you’ve been communicating thoroughly, go even further, and make sure it’s multi-modal. Because people are receiving communications from a variety of different ways. So actively reach out to your stakeholders and to your engagement groups.

Dr. Corey Weiss (weess) said schools need to keep the hygiene practices they learned, and administrators need to communicate clearly.

“I think budgeting. One of the lessons we’ve learned is preparing for a rainy day, because it really rained over the course of the last year. Also, to always, and most especially, show appreciation and support for our teachers and for what they do. And some new forms of communication.”

There were also questions on equity for students, Native culture, Military culture, restorative practices and dealing with declining budgets.

The community forum came one day after one just like it for district staff. They are just part of the process the Board of Education will use to select the next superintendent. The candidates will be coming to Fairbanks next week to be formally interviewed by the Board of Education.

The candidates, who are all white, were asked about serving a district as diverse as this one in Interior Alaska.

Here’s Justin Barnes:  “It’s a big push in our state the cultural immersion is part of the curriculum here. That’s something that I’ve done since living in Montana. But I think any time that you go into a new community it’s important that you understand the culture and work really hard to understand what it’s about, what they believe, and what they represent, and so it’s a big part of going there and visiting like you would with any other stakeholder.”

Dr. Justin Barnes is currently superintendent of schools in Anaconda, Montana. It is a tiny district of about 1,100 students in three schools. He has worked for Montana school districts for the past 11 years and recently completed a doctorate in Educational Leadership from Northcentral University.

Here’s Vickie Cartwright: “Deliberately having conversations with different stakeholder groups, in order to hear the successes of the district and areas of potential opportunity. It also includes students themselves. They have a lot to say. So all of these different constituents, it’s critically important to listen to where are we doing well, and where are we having areas of opportunity.”

Dr.Vickie Cartwright just resigned her position earlier this month as superintendent of the Oshkosh Area School District in Wisconsin. It is just a little bit smaller than the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District with about 10,000 students. She also worked with the Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida. She has a background in music education and a Ph.D. in educational administration and supervision from the University of Southern Mississippi.

Here is Corey Weiss: “The other side of that, is making sure that when you’re hiring staff, you are hiring staff that embrace the idea of this inclusivity, the idea of celebrating these cultures. And, again, I think that’s really essential and I’ve tried to do it every stop that I’ve made in Alaska.”

And Dr. Corey Weiss (weeess) is the former superintendent of the Kashunamiut School District in Chevak, the tiniest district in Alaska with only one school. He is now special programs director for the Copper River School District. The former K-12 principal also worked as a curriculum specialist and teacher in two Texas school districts. Weiss is originally from Texas and has a Doctorate of Education in transformational leadership from Concordia University.