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Unalaska school board selects finalists in superintendent search

Maggie Nelson
This will be the first time in more than two decades that the district has held on-site interviews for superintendent candidates.

The Unalaska school board has narrowed its superintendent search down to three finalists from a pool of eight total applicants.

This is the second time in just two years that the island’s school district has gone through the process of hiring a superintendent, and it will be the first time in more than two decades that the district has held on-site interviews for candidates.

The three finalists include Kimberly Hanisch, an assistant professor of educational leadership at the University of Alaska Southeast. She has worked as the director of instruction and curriculum for the Kodiak Island Borough School District.

Jesse Janssen is another finalist. He is the superintendent and career and technical education director for a school district in Kansas. He’s also worked as an assistant principal.

The district is also considering Michael Franklin, an emergency medical technician. He’s worked as a principal and assistant principal for schools in Bend, Oregon.

Unalaska’s last on-site interview took place in 2000 when the district hired Darrell Sanborn, according to Board President Jolene Longo. Robbie Swint Jr. — the former superintendent — was hired through a virtual process during the pandemic after long-time superintendent John Conwell retired.

With help from the Association of Alaska School Boards, the Unalaska City School District posted the job opening in mid-November, following the abrupt resignation of Swint after about one year on the job.

Long-time High School Principal Jim Wilson stepped into the superintendent position in the interim but will retire at the end of the school year.

Board President Longo said board members are looking forward to holding on-site interviews and “allowing the candidates to see the community before making the decision to move here.”

Finalist interviews are set for Feb. 17 and 18. During their time on the island, the candidates will tour the community and meet local stakeholders at a town hall.

The board plans to announce their final selection Feb. 18, and the new superintendent is expected to start by 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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