Ketchikan’s school board recently voted to enter negotiations to make permanent the district’s interim superintendent. Beth Lougee is the sole candidate for the school district’s top job. In the second part of our interview, KRBD’s Eric Stone talked with Lougee about her vision for Ketchikan’s schools.

We started the second part of the interview by asking Lougee what her priorities would be.

Ketchikan’s interim superintendent is Beth Lougee. (Photo courtesy Beth Lougee)

Beth Lougee: Continue to build on what Ketchikan currently has, what we’ve put in place. It’s an exciting time right now, just talking to a lot of new administrators. They bring in a lot of new ideas, new thoughts, not only new, but how to improve or how to bring some of our programs that have always been there but strengthen them and make them better and more useful with technology and where times are now.

Eric Stone: Can you can you point to anything in particular, on that front?

BL: I continue to focus back on our CTE program. 

ES: That’s career and technical education. 

BL: We’ve done a lot with social-emotional learning. And one of my goals or vision that I’m looking at is, as we’re a district that has has gone through some things, and focusing on social emotional learning, we need to get back to the basics: academics. 

I’m really excited about the state’s initiative of third graders reading at the third grade level by third grade. School safety, their five points of what they’re looking at their goals, but the reading and how we can help kids improve and reading is one of the — it excites me to be able to tie that back into what we’re doing as a school.

ES: And sort of the other side of that coin, what are what are some challenges that you sort of foresee for the district going forward?

BL: Budget is always a concern, and are we going to be able to keep our programs? What does our financial state look like? I think we’re very solid. I think we need to — one of the challenges is as we’re looking at retirements and looking at our programs of what needs to stay, what needs to be adjusted, and then what can we bring in new — but when you’re bringing something new, something has to be eliminated — but looking at the whole scope, and really evaluating what that looks like.

ES: So one of the one of the areas that I’ve heard the district is sort of having some challenges is in special ed. So I looked earlier, and I saw that — is it right there are six positions open for paraprofessionals? There are a good number. So, do you have any insight as to you know, why it’s so difficult to hire special ed paraprofessionals?

BL: I think what what the challenges is hiring based on the requirements, making sure people have the requirements, because you do have to be highly qualified. We have minimum requirements such as a high school diploma. So, so looking at the requirements first, and then we do we have a hiring process. So sometimes people are a great fit, and sometimes people may not be a fit for that position that’s open.

We’re not — our pool is not large either. Which, I know people have talked to me about, how are we recruiting? We’re looking at ways to improve that. So we have some different ideas that we want to start doing to improve how we recruit people.

 We also — it’s important to us that the people we hire are able to work with our students and work effectively with students. So we’re evaluating that too. So sometimes, as in any situation, people may stay or people may need to go based on it’s not a good fit. So we have all of those challenges that we’re working with.

ES: At this point, district business manager Katie Parrott piped up off-mic to say that the district’s intensive special education population has increased rapidly in the last several years.

BL: Like Katie said, our intensive need population has increased. We have a system in place where one-on-ones are being placed with students the majority of the time. And so with that comes an increase of paraprofessionals.

ES: I wanted to give you just sort of an opportunity to make your pitch for the people that for one reason or another may not support you as permanent superintendent, but just — I wanted to give you a couple of minutes to just sort of give your pitch: why should we give the job to you?

BL: Well, first of all, the board has voted to go into negotiations with me. So I’m anxious to see how that’s going to be.

My commitment to Ketchikan is strong. I know there’s comments out there that my commitment is not there. I have never said that. I’ve always been committed. I moved here. I moved here to be here for what I hoped was the rest of my life — at least the rest of my career. I truly believe Ketchikan has a strong school system. It’s exciting to work in a strong school system with all the programs, the staff. 

And I’ve told this over and over to people: be proud of what you have. I want to be part of that. I want to keep seeing it grow. And I think that’s what’s sad is if I would have to leave here, knowing that I’m leaving all that behind, because it is such a strong school system, and I and I feel like with my work that I’ve done it as curriculum director here, as the interim superintendent, where we have come through all the different obstacles that have been put in our way. 

I’m excited to keep moving forward and seeing where we can go in the future. 

ES: That was interim superintendent Beth Lougee. Ketchikan’s school board voted to enter negotiations with Lougee for the permanent job earlier this month. She’s the sole candidate up for the district’s top job.