Wrangell Elementary School has went through two principals in two years. Both resigned from the district after one year on the job, saying they needed to get back home to their families in the lower 48. The school district has since decided not to rehire a new principal. Instead, the district is hiring Wrangell local and veteran Evergreen teacher, Jenn Miller, to act as an assistant principal.
Once Wrangell’s elementary teachers found out Principal Virginia Tulley would not be returning the following school year, the teachers met to discuss options.
“The entire teaching staff wanted this change,” said Superintendent Debbe Lancaster. “I believe in their choice and want to back them up.”
Teachers don’t want to see principals come and go. They want more consistency in that role, for themselves and the students.
“Having someone here that has roots and the longevity that they have is really important,” said Kindergarten Teacher Mikki Angerman.
The district has had these kinds of positions in the past. Monty Buness and Therese Ashton filled these roles. Eighteen districts in Alaska currently have assistant principals or head teachers filling in, according to the Alaska Department of Education.
Current third grade teacher Jenn Miller was offered the job. She is a Wrangell local and has taught for more than 20 years.
Despite her qualifications, she doesn’t have certain certifications to take on the full duties of a principal. So, she won’t perform teacher evaluations or student suspensions. Superintendent Lancaster will take on these additional duties.
Otherwise, Miller will do everything you’d expect a principal to do. She’ll be active in administrative decisions, class observations, discipline, professional development and curriculum development.
But, she won’t have her third grade class anymore. The district will lose a teacher in the classroom. It will hire another aide instead.
Board Member Dave Wilson questioned why the district would bump a teacher’s salary while taking her out of the classroom. Miller will receive a 12.5 percent pay increase. The district didn’t say how exactly this would impact the budget.
And what will happen to Miller’s third grade class? It’s up in the air, but class assignments should be finalized by the end of the school year.
Teachers will carry the burden of one less instructor in the school. But they’re the ones that advocated for the change, believing it’s worth a shot to fill the role with someone like Ms. Miller.
Updated: This story said Ted Ace Ashton served as an assistant principal. It’s actually Therese Ashton.