By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Stroh will finish school year in Valdez

Polarizing administrator is heading to Petersburg this July


Valdez City Schools has yet another job opening for the coming school year: temporary superintendent.

The move comes after a special meeting Monday night where the board voted to replace outgoing superintendent Lisa Stroh with a temporary one-year hire instead of beginning a search for a new administrator late in the educational hiring season.

Stroh was hired last week as the new superintendent for the Petersburg school district after serving the Valdez district for eight tumultuous months.

The board of education voted last week to release Stroh from here two-year contract if she was hired by the Petersburg district.

"We have our signed letter here, which we accept," acting school board president Dawn Farmer said at the beginning of the meeting.

The board also waived going into executive session for the purpose of discussing the superintendent evaluation process, which was on the agenda.

"I just don't see any good purpose in this," board member Alan Sorum said.

Sorum also offered an amendment to the agenda that the board consider putting Stroh on paid administrative leave.

"I would like to see Superintendent Stroh put on administrative leave until the end of this contract," Sorum stated, citing deep acrimony that has developed in the district during the school year and hopes that a leave would allow remaining district employees to move on.

The vote, held late in the meeting, was split evenly, with Farmer, Sorum and Dolores Gard voting to put Stroh on leave; Joe Prax, Dan Walker and Dr. Kathy Todd voted against the amendment, which failed for lack of a majority vote.

Board president Anita Fannin was absent and excused from the meeting.

Farmer said the district would be looking into hiring a private firm to do two executive searches, one for a temporary superintendent for the coming school year, and one for a permanent hire.

"I would like to cast that net as widely as possible," Todd said during discussions on filling the superintendent vacancy. "I think we should be looking for a year – not forever – at this late date."

Public testimony from teachers, parents and other district employees included suggestions that the board consider hiring outgoing high school principal Elizabeth Balcerek as temporary superintendent and the possibility that the board reject or give Balcerek and Chris Bennett, principal of Hermon Hutchens Elementary School, the opportunity to rescind their recent resignations.

For her part, Stroh said she planned on working as hard as ever at her position, and hoped to leave the district in as good of shape as possible before the end of her term, which will expire in June.

For its part, the board urged district employees and administrators to come together and get along during the last few months of the school year, which has been rocked by a high number of resignations and public accusations of a harsh management style.

Stroh and Rod Morrison, principal of Gilson Middle School, also gave a report on how the two faired at a Alaska recruitment job fair held in Seattle they attended in an effort to beginning looking for candidates to become principals of Valdez High and Hermon Hutchens Elementary schools.

Recruitment efforts are slated to continue into next week at the Anchorage job fair Stroh said.

The district will be posting information on its website in an effort to recruit volunteers from within the district and the community to sit on a hiring committee to review candidates for the two open principal positions.

Both Balcerek and Bennett resigned as school principals under Stroh's administration, causing controversy and finger-pointing among the community during school board meetings and on social media.

Other high profile resignations have spilled out into the court of public opinion - and public meetings - turning normally sedate school board meeting into chaos.

Valdez Star photo

Superintendent Lisa Stroh, forefront, listened intently at a special school board meeting Monday night, as acting board president Dawn Farmer looks on.


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