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Unalaska school district in search of new superintendent … again

Maggie Nelson
The school board posted the opening in mid-November and will select finalists at the end of January.

For the second time in two years, the Unalaska school board will have to go through the process of hiring a new superintendent.

Jim Wilson — who stepped into the interim position about two months ago — announced his resignation at the school board’s November meeting. He’s worked for Unalaska City School District for more than 20 years, but said it’s time for a change.

“We have raised our family here and have been proud to call Unalaska home for 21 years,” Wilson said in a letter to the board. “The community and school have been welcoming, supporting and encouraging. It has been an honor to serve the school and community and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have put my roots down here.”

Wilson will be retiring and leaving the island at the end of the school year. He’s been the high school principal for about ten years, but filled the lead administrative role in September after former superintendent Robbie Swint Jr. abruptly resigned.

Swint led the school district for just over a year, having replaced longtime superintendent John Conwell, who held the position for more than a decade. Like Wilson, Conwell had worked for the island’s school district for more than twenty years.

Now, for the second time since 2020, the Unalaska school board will have to find and hire another superintendent.

The school board posted the opening in mid-November and will select finalists at the end of January.

As the board determined the application and hiring timeline, Wilson cautioned board members that it could take a while to fill the vacancy. He said there are fewer people going through superintendent graduate programs than there have been in previous years.

“One of the conversations at the [Association of Alaska School Boards] conference was that they’re concerned about the quality and the number of superintendent candidates out there,” Wilson said. “So I guess I would just encourage the board to consider that in whatever decisions you make.”

According to AASB, Unalaska is one of four districts in the state looking for a new superintendent. The association is assisting with three of those searches, including a vacancy in the Aleutians East Borough district, based in Sand Point.

Finalists in Unalaska’s search will be invited for on-site interviews in mid-February. The island’s new superintendent is slated to start July 1.

Hailing from Southwest Washington, Maggie moved to Unalaska in 2019. She's dabbled in independent print journalism in Oregon and completed her Master of Arts in English Studies at Western Washington University — where she also taught Rhetoric and Composition courses.
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  • Unalaska City School Board members voted unanimously to reelect Jolene Longo as board president Wednesday. Longo was elected to the board in 2020 and this will be her second year serving as president. The board also swore in newly elected members Bob Cummings and David Gibson.
  • Like many school districts across Alaska, spikes in energy costs have Unalaska City schools looking at a major budget deficit. In combination with flatlined state funding, enrollment drops and increased teacher salaries, the island’s deficit is predicted to take the shape of around a-half-million dollars. Superintendent Jim Wilson presented a budget update to the Unalaska school board on Oct. 19 that includes a $535,000 anticipated deficit. This is the biggest deficit he’s seen in his 10 years as the high school principal, and likely one of the largest deficits the district has ever seen, he said.
  • The superintendent of Unalaska’s schools, Robbie Swint Jr., has resigned. The school board accepted his resignation in a unanimous vote at a meeting Wednesday night. According to a statement from the board, Swint is moving off the island to be closer to his family. Swint said he is sorry that he won’t be fulfilling his commitment to the district. He was just over a year into his three-year contract. But he feels that he wasn’t supported by the school board and wants to put his family’s needs first. “I don't want to say any derogatory thing against anyone,” Swint said. “I will just say I don't believe it was a good fit for me for a number of reasons. And so that's why I submitted my resignation.”