Janelle Vanasse of Bethel has been named superintendent and director of of Mount Edgecumbe, the state-run boarding school in Sitka. Vanasse will replace Bill Hutton, who retires June 30.
Vanasse is the director of secondary education at the Lower Kuskokwim School District. During her tenure, she oversaw the district’s “Ready Academies,” which are boarding programs of varying lengths. She’s also served as principal of Bethel High School and executive director of Yuut Elitnaurviat, a Bethel nonprofit that provides vocational training to youth and adults. Vanasse will complete her superintendent’s endorsement from the University of Alaska Southeast in May.
Hutton was Mount Edgecumbe’s superintendent from 2008 to 2010, overseeing 400 students and nearly 150 staff. Hutton came out of retirement when his replacement, Troy J. Thayne, who went by “J,” resigned in January 2015 after six months on the job.
Hutton is pleased that Vanasse is stepping into the role. He said he’s impressed with her multifaceted resume. “In her background she has the ability to think creatively and put things together, as she did in the regional training center. She’s got residential background. She’s got the experience with Bethel High School,” he said. “All those things lead to somebody who has a lot of moxie, organizational and communication skills, and the ability to get things done.”
For 70 years, Mount Edgecumbe has been a unique cornerstone of the Alaskan education system. The majority of its students are Alaskan Native and hail from over 100 communities, some from small villages. The boarding school becomes like a second home.
Hutton had one word of advice for Vanasse: “Listen. And learn. Because we’re such a unique boarding situation in a state environment that it just takes a while to learn all the different things which are different from your traditional public school in Alaska.”
The State Board of Education & Early Development approved Vanasse’s appointment at its March 22 meeting in Juneau. They began the search July 1 of last year. The annual salary for the position ranges from about $103,000 to $122,000, depending on experience.