Superintendent contract

Ketchikan’s interim superintendent now has a two-year contract for the district’s top job. Beth Lougee was named to the top schools job following a 20-minute closed-door session Wednesday evening. Members of Ketchikan’s school board didn’t discuss the contract in public. 

But its terms were released following the unanimous vote. She’ll be paid $145,000 annually plus benefits.

Lougee has held the interim position since former district chief Bob Boyle stepped down in late 2018. She had been the district’s curriculum director.

She started her career in education as a teacher in Wyoming, where she got masters’ degrees in school counseling and administration. After that, she spent time as a middle school principal in Silver City, New Mexico before moving to Alaska.

She told KRBD in January that after a tumultuous couple of years — which saw a faculty member convicted of sexual abuse — she wanted to focus on improving reading, writing, math and social studies in Ketchikan’s schools.

“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 gone through some things, and focusing on social-emotional learning, we need to get back to the basics: academics,” she said in a Jan. 17 interview.

Board vacancy

In other personnel news, the school board has a new member. After Rachel Breithaupt resigned last month for health reasons, the board picked Tom Heutte to fill the vacant seat Wednesday.

“I’d like to serve on the school board because I have a strong ethic of service to the community,” Heutte told the board. “I have a strong interest in education.”

It’s not Heutte’s first time on the board: he took over for former board member Kim Hodne after he stepped down last winter. Heutte didn’t run for re-election last October, citing conflicting personal commitments.

Graduation requirements

In other action, the school board unanimously gave preliminary approval to a revised set of graduation requirements for high school students. Those eliminate an explicit requirement that students take one year of both U.S. and world history, though the total credit requirement for social studies classes remains the same. The graduation requirements will come back for a final vote in two weeks.

Active shooter training

And finally, the school board also adopted an active shooter training curriculum for Ketchikan students. Several parents and teachers raised concerns last month and spoke out against the program, saying lockdown drills could traumatize pupils. 

But on Wednesday, the board heard from the program’s supporters: a majority asked the board to okay the active shooter training program. Many argued it would prepare students for a crisis. 

Board member Jordan Tabb opposed the curriculum, citing a recent whitepaper by the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. In addition to concerns about trauma, the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions say there isn’t enough evidence that the drills are effective. Newly appointed board member Heutte joined Tabb in opposition.

Superintendent Beth Lougee says the district will refine its active shooter drills by working closely with mental health professionals, teachers and law enforcement.