Petersburg Pilot -

Superintendent selection to be announced Friday


Kyle Clayton / Petersburg Pilot

Virginia Jewell

Two superintendent applicants toured Mitkof Island, Petersburg and visited with various community members including district staff and administrators on Wednesday.

Virginia Jewell

Jewell grew up in New England and has spent more than five years of her educational career building start-up American schools in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

"Interestingly enough, overseas, you get a lot of non-Americans who want to have an American education," Jewell said.

She is currently working at a start-up school in Kuwait that began last year.

Jewell is a self described "technology geek" and said keeping pace with the digital world is crucial to preparing students for the future as well as solving present problems like decreased enrollment trends.

"With technology there are ways of bringing the outside world in and augmenting our offerings and our staff so that we can continue to offer a fairly robust curriculum and give kids some real options," Jewell said.

She said she's impressed with Petersburg's current technological options and would try to expand the districts use of laptops by providing every student K-12 a take home laptop.

"That's kind of a hike but I think that that's the place you have to get eventually," Jewell said.

She said about 35 percent of all college students are online students and that trend is going to fall down to K-12.

Jewell said a 21st century education means preparing students for an uncertain future and that skills such as collaboration, communication, creativity and problem solving don't readily appear in a set of teaching standards.

She said modern educators have to prepare students for careers that don't yet exist.

"You prepare them by teaching them how to learn, how to think," Jewell said. "That's a whole different ball of wax than teaching a set of facts and for me teaching kids how to think and how to find information and how to learn for themselves, that's a huge skill and that's one they can use forever."

Jewell is married and has five adult children. She said moving to a community like Petersburg has been something she's always wanted to do.

"I'm here in Petersburg because, for me, this is a lot like how I started out," Jewell said. "A nice small school district where you actually know everybody... that's where my heart is and where my home is. That's what brought me here."

Lisa Stroh

Stroh is the current superintendent of Valdez City School District and said she applied to Petersburg because of its reputation as a great school system and because this job will allow her to spend more time with her family.

"I no longer want to be away from my family," Stroh said. "I would like a position where, like Petersburg, the school district is running very, very well. The school board knows its role as governing instead of managing."

According to an article in the Valdez Star, its local school board has a history of micromanaging and the Valdez City Manager sent letters to board members advising them to "steer clear of meddling with school district employment issues, which are clearly under the jurisdiction of the superintendent," after some board members insisted local hires be approved by the board.

Stroh said when she began working in Valdez last year, she knew the majority of her time would be spent at work so she advised her family to stay in Montana where she worked before moving to Alaska.

Stroh said declining enrollment-an issue affecting Valdez as well as Petersburg-presented several challenges when she began her position and that she's had to make tough decisions that have caused conflict between her and several members of the Valdez School Board.

"The community is just awesome, the city is awesome but it's been a challenge," Stroh said. "I just really feel that I'd like to be talking about student achievement and what we need to do versus trying to get pay roll in line and some of those things."

Stroh said she's helped to save the Valdez school district more than $600,000 through attrition and more clearly defining curriculum needs.

Kyle Clayton / Petersburg Pilot

Lisa Stroh

She also said she's had success creating four year plans for high school students which will help with student retention.

Stroh also said offering programs for students who are college bound and those looking for a vocational job after high school are equally important.

"This is a real treat here because there are systems in place here," Stroh said. "People are happy. You people are doing great things with what you've got...You're making due with what you've got in hopes of making it better and that can do attitude just goes a long, long ways. That's what I'm excited about."

Stroh has a husband and daughter in public school in Montana and two sons who are attending college.


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