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UCSD gets green light to hire first assistant or associate principal in 20 years

Maggie Nelson
The new assistant or associate principal would serve at both Unalaska City School and Eagle’s View Elementary Achigaalux̂.

The Unalaska City School District has the blessing of the school board to hire an assistant or associate principal for the 2022-2023 school year.

The last time the district filled that position was about 20 years ago, according to High School Principal Jim Wilson, who spoke in support of the new position at a school board meeting last week.

“Districts that are like-sized to us, it’s very common to have an assistant principal, very common to have a testing coordinator, very common to have a special ed director,” Wilson said. “We have significantly fewer administrative staff than any district I've ever seen of comparable size.”

Wilson said next year will likely be his last with the district and that having a transition plan in place with an assistant principal is important.

“I think I have a pretty good breadth of knowledge of the district and of the state,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for me to work 70, 80 hours a week. I can only imagine what somebody coming in trying to learn the job would need to do. So while we haven’t had one recently, I think there’s a pretty strong need for one.”

The new assistant principal would serve at both Unalaska City School and Eagle’s View Elementary Achigaalux̂. They would act as district coordinator for testing and special programs, as well as media relations for athletics and activities. The position could be permanent or year-to-year based on need.

Superintendent Robbie Swint Jr. said the new role would help lighten the workload on Unalaska’s principals and make sure knowledge gets passed along as other administrators retire.

“I’m looking at five years from now when there’s a possibility that Mr. Wilson will be retired, a councilor will probably be retired, we know Ms. Marti Rookala will not be here next year because she’s just here for this year,” Swint said. “That assistant principal or associate principal would come in and ascertain all the knowledge Mr. Wilson has and hopefully roll right into that principal position.”

Gerwin Mateo, who is the school board’s student representative, said he thinks it’s a good idea to hire an assistant principal who might one day transition into the role of principal.

“When I was in elementary [school], I didn’t know who my principal for the elementary was,” he said. “Every year it changed or something. So I feel like if we do have an assistant principal, that connection could be made, and over time, I feel like the elementary students could actually have a connection with their principal.”

The elementary school’s top administrator, Marti Rookala, agrees with Mateo. Rookala currently serves as the elementary school’s top administrator after the Eagle’s View Elementary principal resigned in September. She said in the 13 years she was a special education teacher with the district, she saw seven different administrators come and go.

She said the turnover is difficult on the kids and it would be nice to have someone stay for longer.

“It’s a lot. It’s absolutely a lot, and I can see why people get frustrated and go, ‘Yeah, this is not worth it,’” she said. “So I do think you’d end up with more stability and I think that the kids would have their principal in the building more.”

The school board does not need to take action or approve the hiring of an assistant or associate principal. With the board’s blessing, the district’s business manager can now build the position into next year's budget and it will be approved through the budget process.

Hope McKenney is a public radio news director, reporter, producer and host based in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska.
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