Ketchikan High School. (KRBD file photo by Leila Kheiry)

Ketchikan’s school board voted Wednesday to create a new administrative post to assist the district’s superintendent.

What exactly the assistant superintendent would do is a bit of a question mark — that’ll be up to the district’s incoming top administrator, Michael Robbins. His first day on the job as superintendent is scheduled for July 1.

But Board Member Bridget Mattson said in her view, it was clear that the superintendent needed some help putting out fires.

“I think many many times over the last multiple years that there’s a disconnect and a feeling of a lack of support between the district and some school staff, and I think that part of that is because our superintendent runs an emergency trauma center on the regular,” Mattson said.

Mattson said that meant the superintendent couldn’t focus on long-term goals.

The district’s business manager, Katie Parrott, told the board that the school district spent less on central office staff than almost any other Alaska school district. The budget for the new post would be roughly $160,000 in salary and benefits.

Board Member Diane Gubatayao said she was concerned about approving a position before considering the school district’s overall budget for next year. And she said she wasn’t convinced the position was needed.

“I’m told what it will cost us. And there is no job description to my knowledge other than certain duties will be assigned. But to me, that’s rather vague,” Gubatayao said. “So at this stage in the game, I’m not inclined to support this position.”

School Board President Stephen Bradford said the district was not planning to fill two temporary administrative positions next year, including an administrative support employee and the district’s COVID-19 communications director, easing budget pressures.

“I would not be bringing this forward if I thought we had to choose between an assistant superintendent and a librarian and another teacher. I don’t have any desire to cut teachers or increase class sizes,” Bradford said.

Ketchikan’s school board approved the new assistant superintendent position 6-1 with Gubatayao opposed.

In other business, Ketchikan’s school board unanimously approved a resolution calling for an increase in the per-student state funding that goes to schools. The Alaska House of Representatives is currently considering two bills that would increase the base student allocation.