Wrangell School District Superintendent Richard Rhodes recently attended this year’s Southeast Conference in Ketchikan. The conference covered a number of topics from economic development, fishing, mining, marine transportation to education. Rhodes sits on the workforce and education panel and gave a presentation on what Wrangell schools are doing right, which Rhodes says can be seen in the tests scores.

“You just can’t argue about the scores. When you look at the reading scores in 3rd grade, 6th grade and 9th grade with 90% or more being proficient those are great scores, and the staff and prior administration did a great job of continuing that growth and building that. If you were to look at our 3rd grade scores they are all 90% or more. We are just really excited about the prep work you see in the academics,” he says.

Rhodes says during the summer months the district does their part to offer students who are out with parents fishing the ability to continue their learning with distance education programs. He says unlike many other school districts in Alaska summer reading levels actually increase in Wrangell, and says this is a trend many southeast school districts are following.

“It takes a lot of people and a lot of contributions and it shows with 94% of our students going on to college,” he says.

He credits programs like the Irene Ingle Public Library summer reading program, one to one lap top program in the high school, and the power school program which gives parents access to their kids class scores. He says community and family support is very important when it comes to a successful education and says this kind of support in education has the potential to spur overall economic development and job growth in the community.

“We are starting to have some dialogue about what vocational education is in the community. It’s an awesome thing if we can move forward and do something similar to that,” he says.

This year Rhodes says there is going to be a major focus on communication skills, and overall relationships between students, staff, and members of the community. One key focus is on bullying. Rhodes says they received a $14,000 grant this year that will go towards tackling the issue with a number of speakers and seminars that focus on tolerance and mutual respect.

“There are always things to work on, we are doing a great job with test scores, we have a great community and great kids, and we just want to continually improve,” he says.

The school was recently visited by actor Oscar Degruy who holds youth workshops on tolerance and bullying. Rhodes says more speakers are scheduled for December and March.
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