Ketchikan schools superintendent resigns amid controversies

Former Ketchikan School District Superintendent Robert Boyle speaks during a Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce lunch.

Former Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District Superintendent Robert Boyle speaks during a Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce lunch. (Photo by KRBD)

Following a contentious year, Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District Superintendent Robert Boyle has resigned effective Monday.

The announcement was made early Monday morning.

Ketchikan School Board President Matt Eisenhower said the board is grateful for Boyle’s service to the district over the past 11 years.

“As many people know, there have been a lot of things that have happened,” he said. “With this resignation, the school board is looking forward to a new leader and CEO of our school district.”

Boyle, too, said on Monday that it’s time for a change.

“There’s a lot of things that have been happening, going on,” he said. “There’s resolution on some of those. We’re moving forward on others.”

Two issues in particular have loomed over the school district.

Teachers had been working on an expired contract and negotiations were not progressing. Shortly after the October local elections, though, a largely new school board was seated and a new contract was successfully negotiated.

The second issue is not yet resolved. That involves a former high school teacher who was charged in the spring with sexual abuse of a minor. Longtime culinary arts teacher Doug Edwards had just retired this spring when he was arrested for alleged sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl at the high school, in his home and in the church where he was a pastor.

A jury trial for Edwards is scheduled for spring of 2019.

Soon after Edwards’ arrest, a personnel complaint was filed with the school board against Boyle, related to the charges against Edwards. Details of the complaint were not made public, but the board hired an independent investigator to look into how the district handled reports about Edwards. That investigation concluded, and a full report was provided to the board in early December.

Last week, the board met in executive session to discuss the report, and came back into open session to announce a plan for improving the district’s response to reports of sexual harassment.

Then on Monday, Boyle’s resignation was announced.

Boyle said the decision to submit his resignation was his alone. He said it was prompted by the various controversies.

“A number of things have happened in the district that have been troubling in the last year and a half,” Boyle said. “Those things percolate up to the top, and I’m at the top. And so I’ve got to say, ‘There it is,’ and address that issue and offer the road for new beginnings and changes.”

Eisenhower declined to say whether the board asked Boyle to resign. Eisenhower did say that the board was committed to moving the district in the right direction.

“Particularly concerning performance and school safety and creating an environment for well-rounded people,” he said. “We know that with the teachers and staff in place, there’s a great foundation for that. Although we’ve had some bumps recently, we know there are clearer skies ahead.”

Beth Lougee, the district’s curriculum director, will step in as acting superintendent. Eisenhower said Lougee has a lot of experience, and the board has faith in her ability to lead the district while the board decides what steps to take next.

Eisenhower said during its Jan. 9 meeting, the board will vote on whether to accept Boyle’s resignation.

“And then I’ll take direction from the board as to next steps,” he said. “It’s possible that we could find a permanent person within a short period of time, but most likely we’ll look at putting an interim person in place until we can find a permanent person. That will be my recommendation.”

In 2017, the board voted unanimously to extend Boyle’s contract through 2020. That contract had been drafted in 2014 and already had been extended twice previously. His salary for the 2019-2020 fiscal year was to be just shy of $140,000.

Boyle said he will consider other education employment opportunities in Alaska and perhaps Washington state.

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