4 Ketchikan Smart Start Town Hall Meetings Scheduled July 27th; No Confidence in Superintendent Petition Circulating
By MARY KAUFFMAN
July 26, 2020
To participate, people are asked to sign up, click here. All 4 meetings are scheduled to take place Monday. In person meetings are scheduled for 6:00 PM & 7:00 PM at Ketchikan High School. According to the district's website, startup is planned for September 8th at this time.
Last week Beth Lougee, Superintendent Ketchikan Gateway School District, testified before the Alaska House Education Committee, and during that presentation she expressed to the committee how the district has worked with the parents in the Ketchikan community in the planning process during the school site closures and the start of the new school year.
However, not all parents and community members are pleased with how the planning has been conducted and the lack of their inclusion in the planning. A letter to the Ketchikan School Board accompanying the petition drive for change alleges, “Workshops have been held and the parents who have expressed concerns were not invited, only those who follow her agenda or those who do not speak out seem to be invited.”
Regarding the town hall meetings scheduled for Monday, the letter further alleges, “Mrs. Lougee is very selective of who she wants to include. As of now, it appears decisions were made already and the Town Hall Meeting set for 7/27/2020 is just a formality to appease the community rather than include them.”
The signers of the petition are giving a “No Confidence” vote to Lougee. The petition for change was started over the weekend and collected signatures for almost 300 people by Sunday evening.
The petition, “Voices for Ketchikan Education No Confidence Petition”, includes a petition letter to the KGBSD Board of Education.
Regarding the Education Committee meeting last Thursday in Anchorage during which Ketchikan Superintendent Lougee testified, the Alaska House Education Committee heard updates from statewide leaders in education and medicine, as well as from the Administration on Reopening Schools Safely. The committee heard an update from Dr Anne Zink, Chief Medical Officer, DHSS and Michael Johnson, Commissioner, DEED. Online and available for questions were: Dr. Joe McLaughlin, State Epidemiologist and Chief, Alaska Section of Epidemiology, DHSS Dr. Elizabeth Ohlsen, Staff Physician, Division of Public Health, DHSS, Rebekah Morisse, Section Chief, Section of Women's, Children's and Family Health, DHSS Barbara Pennington, School Health Nurse Consultant, DHSS.
Also on the agenda were presentations from Tom Klaameyer, NEA-Alaska President and the Alaska Superintendents Association. Beth Lougee Superintendent Ketchikan Gateway School District, was among those presenting updates.
Among the superintendents statewide testifying was Beth Lougee Superintendent of the Ketchikan School District. Following is a summary of the superintendent's testimony to the committee. Lougee's testimony begins at hour mark 2:40 on the video.
The Ketchikan School District has approximately 2,300 students in preschool through 12th grades and the distirct offers a wide variety of programming in 3 elementary, 2 charter schools. 2 middle schools, 1 high school, 1 junior senior alternative school, also a homeschool correspondence program called Fast Track and the district provides online courses through a digital academy platform. The Ketchikan district employs over 400 permanent full time staff, 150 plus temporary or substitute personnel.
Superintendent Lougee told the committee the district has a tremendous responsibility for going into the fall with a carefully crafted, strategic and nimble plan that will ensure the health and safety of our students staff and community at large. She said for that reason, she said the district has been working closely since March with Ketchikan Emergency Operations Command, the KEA Association, parents, and local agencies in Department of Education, Superintendents Association, School Board Associations and local public health experts.
Lougee said scheduling for the 20-21 school year will include a combination of physical and distance learning and a combination of both at any given time. The district's top priority is providing for the needs of the students, families, staff in a community during this time and she said the district is committed to doing whatever we need to do to accomplish this including poviding every student with a device to ensure continuous access for all, no matter what the risk level is, and also acquiring additional space to facilitate as much onsite student attendance as the district can possibly manage.
Superintendent Lougee testified, it is becoming clear through public input from parents and staff feedback in community decisions that the district must give the students and families a variety of educational options in the fall. No matter the risk in Ketchikan, Superintendent Lougee said the KGBSD will need to respond quickly to all scenarios and there is no one size fits all model that adequately support all of Ketchikan's students. Lougee presented an example of the blended approach for classes the Ketchikan School District planned at the hearing.
Later in an email distributed through a district list, Friday evening Superintendent Lougee described how the school week will look for the different grades in Ketchikan using the blended approach which she earlier presented to the Education Committee:
Preschool Students: 2 half-day sessions (morning and afternoon) Monday-Thursday at school sites and annexes, Fridays at home;
Elementary Students (Kindergarten - 5th grade): Monday-Thursday at school sites and annexes, Fridays at home with asynchronous learning activities;
6th and 7th Grade Students at Schoenbar site: 3 days/week at school sites, 1 day/week working on asynchronous activities (at home or at an opt-in annex site), Fridays at home with asynchronous learning activities;
8th-12th Grade Students at Kayhi site: 2 days/week at school sites, 2 days/week working on asynchronous activities (at home or at an opt-in annex site), Fridays at home with asynchronous learning activities;
Revilla Middle School Students: 4 days at school site, Fridays at home with asynchronous learning activities;
Revilla High School Students: Half-day sessions (morning and afternoon) 4 days/week at school site, with the other half of each of those days at home working on asynchronous activities, Fridays at home with asynchronous learning activities.
Superintendent Lougee also testified about the Cares Act funding and uses by the district. The Ketchikan School District received a total of $588,598 for FY 20 Cares Act funds to cover the cost of COVID response effort, minus the private school allocation, this left the district with approximately 564,938 in expendable funds.
Unfortunately of that amount the Ketchikan district has less than $150,000 to carry FYI 21 to aid our COVID response and reentry efforts for the coming year. All of those funds are currently encumbered to cover the cost of PPE , sanitation, online and distance learning tools and additional staff time. Over and above existing funds, the district is expecting to incur approximately another $500,000 in additional expenses in order to provide for space, materials, training, sanitization, devices, additional supplies and equipment and staffing needs to ensure a safe and accessible environment for all students and staff.
Without the Cares Act funding in the spring, the superintendent said it would have been near impossible to respond to the immediate needs of Ketchikan students, staff and families.
She said this initial allocation was a very small amount of relief compared to the additional costs Ketchikan faces in many areas including the food service and transportation in addition to instruction .This is only compounded by the funding cuts the district experienced this year as a result of the governor's veto of the supplemental appropriations. In order to differentiate Ketchikan’s academic program offerings to meet students where they are at while making necessary operational changes to ensure safety the Ketchikan community during COVID, Superintendent Lougee testified to the committee that the district must have additional resources.
During her testimony, Superintendent Lougee publicly thanked the Ketchikan Borough Assembly and Mayor Rodney Dial for supporting the district in the need for more resources with an allocation of $258,100 in additional Cares Act funds to help with the start of the school year. (Superintendent Lougee's full comments start at hour 2:40 on the archived Education Committee hearing video.)