Jamie Burgess selected as new school superintendent
The Nome Public Schools Board of Education announced Friday that Jamie Burgess has been selected as the district’s new superintendent. Burgess is the current interim superintendent and Director of Federal Programs, Instruction and Accountability. Her contract as superintendent runs through June 2020.
“I am excited and pleased and grateful to the board that is allowing me to be of service to them and the community of Nome,” she said. “I look very forward to the months ahead as leader of the district.”
On Feb. 7 the Board of Education terminated the contract of the previous superintendent, William Schildbach. “Mutual termination of the contract was approved by a vote of the School Board at the meeting of February 7, 2019,” wrote Board Chair Brandy Arrington in an email to the Nugget on Feb. 10. Schildback had been hired in April 2018 after an extensive search.
Burgess will continue with her duties as Director of Federal Programs until the end of the school year. The district is in the process of filling that position.
The search for a new superintendent had seventeen prospects, initially. The final four were selected and were scheduled to come to Nome to meet with staff and the public. One withdrew her application and another accepted a position in Ketchikan. That narrowed the choice down to Burgess and Christopher Aguirre, assistant superintendent of the North Slope Borough School District. The two faced off in a question and answer session before the public last week.
The school board met in executive session April 18 to make the final decision.
“As an internal candidate you do have an edge in that you already know the people, the programs, the community,” said Burgess on Monday. “The board always wants to make sure they have an opportunity to look at all the options. They want the best possible person for the position.” She added that it’s not just the board making the decision. Others, including school staff and community members add their input to help with the decision.
What is likely to change under the new leadership?
“A part of it is that some of the things that have been tentative start to move forward,” she said. “I don’t see Nome as a place where I need to make giant changes because there are a lot of really good things in place. There are some things that have been there and are starting to grow their fruit and they lost a little momentum. I’d rather we look at doing a few things well.” She hopes to be able to free up teachers and administrators by taking some things off their plate. “A lot of times in education we just keep adding things. Is there anything we can set aside? So that’s part of my focus.”
She hopes to revitalize work done some time ago with Professional Learning Communities, a model that focuses on ensuring the students are actually learning from the instruction they are getting. “This is something that is real supportive of Ms. Korenek-Johnson,” she said. Korenek-Johnson is principal of Nome Elementary School. “That’s one thing that due to turnover fell a little bit by the wayside. She felt that doing Professional Learning Communities correctly is a good way to address some of our achievement gaps and some of the issues at the elementary school. I’m very supportive of her. She’s passionate about that and working with the high school and the charter school to see if we can make that something district-wide to work on.”
Other than that Burgess has no major changes she wants to implement. “A good leader takes a little time when you’re first put in to spend time learning and listening and figuring out what changes do need to be made,” she said. “So I have no plans to come in and make some giant sweeping changes. I’ve had a lot of conversations with administration and staff and I think they know where my priorities are, where I’m heading. No big surprises are coming up.”
Burgess believes that it’s important to ask “What can we do better?” and that doesn’t mean that it will be done differently. “We have some things that are in place, some board priorities, that have been there for a while.”
She likes to work in smaller organizations rather than big ones, a preference she had working in the oil and gas industry before being in education. “I know every single staff member here,” she said. “I know their names.”