District Works Out Staffing Changes For Soldotna Plan

While a group of 14 community members, teachers and students mulls over the cultural changes for the Soldotna school reconfiguration, district officials are working on staffing and other nuts and bolts decisions for the three schools. Principals and assistant principals have already been announced. Decisions on teachers should come at the start of next year.

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The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District shuffled around the current administrators at Soldotna Middle School, Skyview High School and Soldotna High School. Each building had to have its own administration in order to be recognized by the state and receive funding. KPBSD Superintendent Dr. Steve Atwater said the next step is figuring out a schedule for the day and class offerings.

“And then we can look at staffing and decide who are the best teachers to fit into the scheduling box. There will be some movement teachers are anxious about where they’re going to end up, as they should be, and we hope to have that in place January 15,” he said.

Because of the nature of those talks, the majority of the discussion has to happen outside of the public eye. But district officials will continue working with teachers and support staff as well as the union leaders for both groups. School Board Vice President Liz Downing said board members gave the initial approval for the reconfiguration with a few things in mind.

“It’s academically sound. It’s fiscally sound. It’s a good idea, and the process has been going on for a while with lots of community input,” she said.

The population in the Soldotna schools had been falling off over the last few years and course offerings had been trickling away as well. The new configuration might mean a lot of those programs would come back, and pave the way for different ways to deliver education. At least those are a few of Atwater’s goals.

“In a way, it’ll be somewhat of a pilot for us. We have a large enough capacity to do some different things there and we want to use that experience to then help out in Homer, Seward, Nikiski or Kenai. That’s sort of the hidden message for me,” he said.

Atwater said the district wants to ensure most of the big pieces are in place for the first day of school next year. The schools will merge and each will have staff ready to teach students. He said more changes will roll out as the year progresses.

“It’ll be pretty much traditional high school with some small changes. We’re not going to be able to put everything in place. Just simply making the two schools come together and to get those offerings together is going to be a big effort for everybody. I don’t expect to do anything dramatic, but we do expect to look at some things like expanding the day,” Atwater said.

District officials have been making an effort to partner with outside organizations to offer programs you wouldn’t normally see in schools. Atwater said he and the school board have been looking to the Lower 48 for suggestions. The school board’s next role will be to approve offerings and staffing. And President Joe Arness said as far as those cultural aspects of the schools, he isn’t sure what the board’s role is at this point.

“It’s interesting, I’m not sure that I could tell you at this moment what of that recommendation needs board approval. I don’t think the board approves, for instance, school colors. It may be that it’ll come as a package to us and then we would provide… an opportunity for people who disagree with that recommendation to voice those disagreement,” Arness said.

The Soldotna Schools Advisory Committee will likely have recommendations for the board by its December meeting. Teacher and administrator contracts for the reconfiguration are expected to be approved in the spring.

Atwater, Downing and Arness made their comments during a recent episode of the “Coffee Table,” which aired Wednesday on KDLL and KBBI.

-Ariel Van Cleave/KBBI-