Winter in Unalaska by Sam Zmolek
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  • The Unalaska City School District has filled nearly all vacant teaching positions for next school year.
  • State legislators are discussing increasing student funding, leaving a lot up in the air for school districts around Alaska as they prepare their budgets for the upcoming fiscal year.In Unalaska, district officials are playing it safe — anticipating small increases to state funding and planning for some cuts to staff.At a recent board meeting, Superintendent Jim Wilson presented a first reading of the district’s FY24 budget and applauded the committee for making significant reductions this year.
  • The Unalaska City School District has performed near the top of the state in testing again this year, according to Superintendent Jim Wilson. When compared to the rest of Alaska’s public schools, Wilson said the district ranked fifth based on new statewide data from the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development’s yearly Report Card to the Public. It’s an assessment of things like graduation rates, testing scores and teacher quality in the state’s public schools.
  • Unalaska’s school district will have a new superintendent in the upcoming school year.School board members voted unanimously Feb. 18 to appoint Kimberly Hanisch to lead the district.
  • The Unalaska school board has narrowed its superintendent search down to three finalists from a pool of eight total applicants.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.
  • A collection of 50-year-old audio recordings from the Aleutians have been digitized and are now accessible online.The recordings were part of an Unalaska school project from the ‘70s. A group of students and their teacher recorded various Elders in hopes of documenting the language, culture and history of the Unangax̂ community and the Aleutian region.There’s about 60 reel-to-reel audio tapes that make up the collection. They include topics from day-to-day activities to historic events, fishing stories and recipes, to accounts from Makushin and the other lost villages that were forcibly evacuated during World War II.
  • The Unalaska City School district was in compliance with financial regulations, according to findings of an audit looking back at fiscal year 2022. Altman, Rogers & Co. — an Alaska-based accounting and auditing firm — performed the yearly inspection, which is meant to ensure the district is following protocol and properly handling public funds. The firm reported a total deficit of about $140,000 for fiscal year 2022, which is slim compared to this year’s projected deficit of more than half-a-million dollars.
  • The Unalaska City School District is running on a revised bus schedule due to a driver shortage.In a letter to parents and families sent out Dec. 5, Superintendent Jim Wilson said one of the island’s bus drivers is leaving town for a family emergency, and the district will have to get by with just one bus for now.
  • For their very first match of the season, Unalaska hosted Lumen Christi, a private Catholic high school in Anchorage. And not only was it their first conference match, but it was also senior night for nine of the student athletes.Prior to the game, Peter said she was anticipating a lot of intense emotions from the athletes, especially from the older ones.“It's going to be interesting tonight, first game and senior night,” she said. “It's going to be a weird mix of emotions.”And she was right. Friends, family and fans packed the stands, while the team hugged one another, their tears and laughter carrying through the high school gym.
  • 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.