Letter to the Editor: Concerns Regarding the Ketchikan Superintendent Position - P.O.W. Report

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Letter to the Editor: Concerns Regarding the Ketchikan Superintendent Position

The following is a letter that was submitted to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District regarding the Superintendent position they are in the process of filling. If you would like your letter or concerns shared on this website please email powreport@gmail.com

Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District
Board of Education

December 27, 2019

Good Evening,

I come before you tonight to share my concerns and questions regarding the Superintendent position. Before I do that, I would like to share a little bit about myself. I am of Aleut descent. My family was brought to Ketchikan to live in the 3 C’s Internment camp at Ward Lake during World War II when the Aleutian Islands were taken over by the Japanese. My grandmother was a teenager and my mother’s cousins were small children. Unfortunately, because of this experience my family felt much shame and stigma that caused them to keep our true native heritage from us to protect us. I was a teenager when I was told of my native heritage. This has been a disadvantage for me in some ways, but an advantage in other ways.

I know what it feels like to be treated like I am “white” and I know what it feels like to be “native” and to be on two different sides of prejudice attitudes. People ask me now, what part native are you? My response is I am native – do you want me to choose my foot or my hand or my arm? I don’t see myself as only part native, I see myself the way I was intended, as Native.

The reason I am bringing this up is because I feel that finding the right person for the Superintendent position is of upmost importance AND I feel that it should be someone that is not prejudiced against natives, native Alaskans (born and raised here), and I also feel that those sitting on the Board of Education should also be held to the same. Disregarding people who are native and making comments that show prejudiced behavior is unacceptable – as is bullying behavior, coercion, and forcing your opinions on others. When people act like this you continue to add to the historical trauma that our community has experienced and that has been passed down generation upon generation.

I was born and raised in Ketchikan and have had four children graduate in our school district so far. Three of those children received services through our SPED program – whether it be a 504 or an IEP. I currently have a student that attends Kayhi and my grandchild attends Houghtaling. I am concerned about their education and well being in our district. Not only as native students, but my grandchild who has an IEP, for her education as well. We need a Superintendent that fully supports families ensuring their child in Special Education gets exactly what they need here in our community. Members of the Board of Education, you have heard various concerns already from parents and families in our community in regards to the services received in SPED and how people feel about the interim Superintendent.

It is important that we stop making hasty decisions about who we put in positions of power in our school district. Historically we have seen the adverse affects and trauma by just putting warm bodies in and students, families and our community has suffered. That brings me to my first question – where is the Policy and Procedure on hiring in our school district? What is the process? We have great, qualified, invested people in our community and within our state who have not had union complaints against them that would understand our needs. How are you seeking them out? Are you advertising the position? If we do not have a process why not? Why after the sexual abuse of students, switching of shorts for sports teams, complaints of discrimination that have been founded and the trauma our students and community have experienced has a policy not been in the forefront of your agenda?

I have heard your comments that you are afraid that the Interim Superintendent will leave if we do not offer her the position now. That tells me she is not the right person for the job. If she was invested in our students and our community she would be patient and allow a proper process to take place and not acting as if she doesn’t get the job today that she will leave. I know you are aware of the complaints about her in New Mexico and that has been just swept under the carpet and ignored. Who blogs about themselves to cover up complaints? Why would you not want transparency? She has been here for 18 months and you are concerned about her. What about our instructors native/non-native that have been apart of our community and they were treated poorly?

Why would you want to rush into a contract with someone who has a questionable past? A past that you are aware of that includes not being able to get licensed in another state. A past that was full of hostility towards everyone and was publicized. How trauma informed are you as a board? Do you have any idea how it feels to be native? Do you have any idea how it feels to be a student of SPED and a parent/family member of someone receiving services and not getting fully supported? Do you really believe rushing into a decision that doesn’t support our community is best? We have seen what happens and the TRAUMA is real and will last for many years to come. Natives should not have to pay to be a part of the school district process, they should not have Board members making comments and scoffing at them because they are prejudiced. What about those employees and community members that want to speak up but are afraid of retaliation or how they will be treated? They already see that speaking up to you has not mattered, their voices go on deaf ears.

I would encourage our community to be part of what is happening and be heard. I would encourage you as a Board to take time in finding the right person. There is no sense of urgency to get someone in there permanently right now. If the interim walks away, that shows that her past behavior never changed. Using scare tactics to get your way is not how our school district should run and hire. Get the policy and process complete first, open the application process up, find a good fit that works for the community.


Sharyl E. Yeisley
Tribal Citizen
Born and Raised in Ketchikan

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