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As UCSD administration continues search for new elementary school principal, former Unalaska educator fills in as ‘lead teacher’

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The district hired former UCSD special education teacher Marti Rookala earlier this month to take the helm of the elementary school.

A former Unalaska special education teacher has returned to the district to act as the elementary school’s top administrator.

That comes as the Unalaska City School District grapples with an internal complaint from the school’s previous principal, who will be paid the rest of her salary and expenses even after resigning last month.

The district hired former UCSD special education teacher Marti Rookala earlier this month to take the helm of the elementary school.

Rookala’s job title will be “lead teacher” rather than interim or acting principal because she doesn’t have a Type B Administrative Certificate, according to Superintendent Robbie Swint Jr.

“She's very versed in special ed,” said Swint. “She has some ELL background. And she's been a classroom teacher before, so she has that wealth of knowledge — and [has] knowledge of the community.” 

But she’ll effectively do the job of Eagle’s View Elementary Achigaalux̂’s former principal LaVettra Clayton, who left the district in September, after just about three months on the job.

The school district has remained tight-lipped about why Clayton was placed on paid leave and then resigned. But she did file a discrimination complaint against the district prior to her departure. The school district’s attorney said the information in the claim is confidential and is unable to provide further details.

However, the school board is meeting behind closed doors Monday evening to discuss the complaint and whether to release details to the public.

The school district’s liability appears to be limited, as Clayton agreed to release all claims against the district and resign in exchange for the remainder of her salary and benefits, which totals $110,000. She will also be paid up to $20,000 in moving expenses.

“The Board of Education determined it was necessary to enter into the agreement with Dr. Clayton to protect the long-term interests of the Unalaska City School District," read a prepared statement from the Unalaska school board.

Third grade teacher Riley Spetz filled-in as the “lead teacher” at the elementary school after Clayton went on leave back in August.

Rookala, the special education teacher moving to take that position, has extensive experience in the community. Before retiring in 2020, she taught in Unalaska schools for 13 years. She said she will remain with the district for the rest of the school year in whatever capacity she is needed.

The school district said so far it’s received at least five applications for the principal job. And Swint said they hope to have a more permanent elementary principal hired after the winter break.

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