PALMER — The Mat-Su Borough School District School Board is looking different. With two newly elected school board members taking their oath of office and the election of Tom Bergey as board president, the school district leadership for the largest employer in the Mat-Su Borough is placing transparency of their actions at a premium.
Superintendent Dr. Monica Goyette will be leaving her position following the spring semester and the school board will soon begin the process of looking for a new superintendent.
“Optimistic is what I am. Having the new superintendent, we are in the process of negotiations with two of our bargaining units and if we are successful there, we will be having multi-year contracts and will be able to bring stability into the district,” Bergey said.
At the school board meeting on Nov. 20, Bergey won the seat as board president after he was nominated by longtime board member Ole Larson. Larson, Bergey, Jim Hart, Ryan Ponder and Jeff Taylor voted for Bergey while Sarah Welton and Kelsey Trimmer voted Trimmer for board president.
Hart was named board vice president without opposition and Welton was named clerk without opposition. With a career working in public relations for the Bureau of Land Management, Bergey feels Hart will be a welcome asset to the school board.
“Having a person who is skilled with interacting with the public on all diff levels, representing an agency, I view as a valuable asset to the team and that fits right along with my philosophy of including the community,” Bergey said.
Hart and Taylor are new to the board, joining returning District 5 board member Ponder after victories in the Nov. 5 election. Representing District 7, Bergey is also confident about Taylor’s position on the board.
“Mr. Taylor has a very strong business financial background and in the tumultuous times that we have here with the budget and the ramifications that has on the borough and the school district, having another set of eyes that is used to dealing in the financial world with all of it’s ups and downs, I know that private enterprise business and government fiduciary responsibilities are somewhat different but there’s still enough similarities to where those skills would have value,” Bergey said.
Bergey said that after being elected board president, he has had a number of recommendations on books to read. An avid reader, Bergey is currently reading three books, including “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius. Bergey said that transparency in the process of selecting a new superintendent is paramount to the school district, and that the community should have an integral part in selecting a new person for the job. The process of how the board will select a new superintendent is yet to be decided.
“We are right now deciding amongst ourselves what process that we wish to choose,” Bergey said.
President of Mat-Su Education Association Dianne Shibe addressed the school board for the first time including the new members. Shibe was concerned with the board’s proposal and mentioned that teachers have been working without a contract since the beginning of the semester and expect mediation next month. The MSBSD has the largest class sizes in the state and is the only district using a seven period schedule for secondary education.
“The major concern that I have with the boards proposal is that it disincentivizes working in our district, we already have a very shallow hiring pool and cannot fill all positions with certificated educators,” Shibe said.
The school board will meet twice in the first two weeks in December. The Board will hold special recognitions on Dec. 4 and a joint meeting with the Mat-Su Borough Assembly on Dec. 10.
“It’ll be nice to have all of these items dealt with so that when we walk into next year, all the pieces will be in place and we can be single focused,” Bergey said.