School superintendent Robert Boyle at the September 13, 2017 Ketchikan chamber lunch.

School superintendent Robert Boyle was the guest speaker at Wednesday’s Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Boyle says there are a total of 175 teachers in the Ketchikan school district this year, and 14 are new.  He says this number is typical as teachers retire, move elsewhere or have lifestyle changes.  Boyle says, compared to many other Alaska communities, teaching positions in Ketchikan are difficult to get for two reasons.

“One of those is that this is a good school district. It’s a place where professionals across the state have heard of and they want to come to work here. You’ve seen a large number of Ketchikanians, kids that have graduated from Ketchikan (High School), gone on to universities and now, as adults, want to return and work within the school district. We’re proud of our alumni. They do really well, so we’re eager to hire them back.”

He says the second reason is the quality of the lifestyle in Ketchikan.

“It’s a great place to live, raise families, go to school, experience Alaska. Every aspect about the community makes it solid.”

Boyle feels that student achievement and the graduation rate are the best ways to gauge school success.  He says test results from the statewide standardized test known as PEAK are in, and Ketchikan schools scored above average in most areas.

“I can’t brag a lot because it would appear that the state averages are low when it comes to where we would expect the percentage of students that are proficient to be. It didn’t match up that way.”

Boyle says it’s unknown why that is since this is the first year of the test and there are no previous scores to compare. He says the Ketchikan district also scored higher on the ACT national college admissions exam than state averages in most subjects. Boyle says Ketchikan students scored higher in English, reading and math, and slightly lower than average in science.

Boyle also spoke about scholarships offered to students last year. He says 148 students were offered more than $6 million worth of competitive scholarships, of which $2.8 million were accepted.

Boyle spoke about successes in vocational education, mentioning welding, construction and fishing among others.

He says there are eight more students than projected, and the budget is solid for the FY 2018 school year.  He says 79 percent of this year’s budget goes to direct instruction.

Boyle was asked about facilities projects recently completed or under way. He spoke about the new Houghtaling  Elementary School drop-off zone, plans for a new roof at that school, mechanical work at Point Higgins and a wood biomass boiler at Ketchikan High School.  He says the first priority is student safety, and a large security project is planned.  He says it would start with video surveillance at Kayhi.

“The feedback and responses from the community go like this. ‘We do not want a prison atmosphere around our schools, but we want our schools to be as safe as possible. We don’t want razor wire. We don’t want this type of thing.’”

Boyle says having a good surveillance system tied in with the Ketchikan Police Department would result in a quick response time if there is an emergency.

Boyle says the school district’s primary responsibility is to serve the community. He says if citizens do not feel that responsibility has been met, they should contact him.