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Dillingham Elementary School will keep its principal, but concerns about learning persist

Dillingham Elementary School Principal Nick Tweet speaks during a school board meeting on Feb. 20, 2023.
Izzy Ross
Dillingham Elementary School Principal Nick Tweet speaks during a school board meeting on Feb. 20, 2023.

Nick Tweet will remain principal of Dillingham Elementary School next year after more than 240 community members signed a petition to keep him in the job.

Superintendent Amy Brower announced the decision in an email to staff on Monday. It’s a reversal from the district's move last week to offer Tweet the job of Director of Pipeline Services Coordination, associated with a recent federal grant. Brower had said Tweet’s skills aligned with the new position and he would bring a lot to the job, but community members slammed the decision to remove him from the elementary school, saying he’s a good principal who brings stability.

“I’ve found Mr. Tweet, over the past year when issues come up, to be very fair, very honest,” parent Cynthia Rogers said at Monday night’s school board meeting. “He’s caring, he’s ethical, I think he’s everything you would expect an elementary principal should be.”

Rogers was among several people who testified at Monday’s school board meeting about Tweet, all of them in favor of him staying principal. Tweet told the board he was grateful to continue in the principal job, which he’s been in since 2021. Tweet has worked at the district since 2006, previously serving as the elementary school’s assistant principal from 2014 until 2021.

Tweet told the board he and other school staff are not OK with recent MAP test scores, which showed math and reading scores from some student cohorts had plateaued or declined in the past year. He said they’re focused on continuing to improve student learning, but that it will take time.

“I also want you to know that we are taking our teaching very seriously,” he said. “We don't think that we have everything dialed in at this point. We’ve improved a lot of things and I think it takes time for that to show. What we have is a staff that works together and we trust each other, and they trust me, and we have kids that are happy to be in school and I think that’s a really good foundation.”

When Tweet finished talking, meeting attendees applauded.

On last spring’s statewide standardized tests, results showed most Dillingham students needed support. According to Alaska System of Academic Readiness scores, more than three-quarters of the school’s students in grades 3 through 9 tested below grade level in English and math, with 82% of students needing support in English and 89% in math. It was the first time students took that assessment, so results weren’t compared with previous years.

The school board members all said they were grateful for the community feedback. Chair Helen Smeaton said they knows the elementary school is doing good work, and she appreciated the staff’s willingness to address challenges.

Smeaton also touched on the Alaska Reads Act, a law Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed last year that goes into effect in July. It creates four new programs aimed at supporting early literacy and helping students read at grade level by third grade. Smeaton encouraged parents to reach out with any questions.

“This is going to affect kids, parents, teachers, admin and it’s not a choice,” she said. “It is not a choice for the district, it is a law. And I don’t think that everybody has a full understanding of what that impact is going to be.”

Smeaton said the recent test score reviews were a big step forward for the school district to make more informed decisions, and that everyone should stay engaged in education.

“Engaged and maybe even outraged at the state of our report card,” she said. “They should be coming to us, they should be asking us, ‘What are you going to do? How are you going to turn this around?’ And I hope the community and the parents do that.”

Update: A disclaimer — the Dillingham City School District owns KDLG's broadcasting license, but it does not influence or direct our coverage.

Get in touch with the author at or 907-842-2200.

Izzy Ross is the news director at KDLG, the NPR member station in Dillingham. She reports, edits, and hosts stories from around the Bristol Bay region, and collaborates with other radio stations across the state.