Ketchikan’s school board agrees to give tribal leaders input on hiring

Ketchikan High School. (Photo by KRBD)
Ketchikan’s high school photographed in 2016. The school board voted on an agreement Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, that will give tribal leaders more input on school hiring. (Photo by KRBD)

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough School Board approved a memorandum of understanding with Ketchikan Indian Community (KIC) at its meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 18.

“This is not legally binding. This is an aspirational document,” said board president Matt Eisenhower during the meeting.

The agreement gives tribal leaders or their designees 20 percent of the seats on district hiring committees. In exchange, KIC will provide higher education funding for Alaska Native teachers, who will then be eligible to be hired by the school district.

Hiring committees don’t make final hiring decisions — instead, they issue recommendations to the superintendent and school board, which have the final say on personnel.

The plan aims to reduce the dropout rate among Alaska Natives, who make up more than a third of the district’s students.

Board member Jordan Tabb said giving tribal representatives a seat at the table will help the district hire teachers and staff that understand the unique needs of Native students.

“Having additional perspectives in hiring committees lets those hiring committees look for the qualities and look for the educational experience and backgrounds that will help us hire staff and faculty that will be successful in reaching and working with our Native students,” he said.

But board member Bridget Mattson said she was hesitant to give another government input in a process that’s traditionally been controlled by the school board.

“I personally have an issue making an agreement with allowing any other government organization — I don’t care who they are — give us a list of approved people that we can have on our hiring committees,” she said.

Mattson joined board member Leslie Becker in opposing the agreement, which passed 5-2. The agreement will not become effective until it is ratified by KIC’s tribal council.

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