The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Nome superintendent hired by education board to lead Valdez City Schools

The process to hire a new top administrator has been a long process for the district


Valdez City Schools has a new superintendent.

The board of education has negotiated a contract to hire Shawn Arnold, current superintendent of Nome Public Schools, to lead the district beginning July 1.

According to his biography, Arnold has been with the Nome Public Schools district since 2014, and was a teacher and administrator with the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District prior to that.

The move came after a failed attempt to fill the position currently filled by Jim Nygaard, who is retiring after four years in Valdez and a lifelong career in education.

“McPherson & Jacobson L.L.C. served as consultants in the search process and will continue working with the Valdez Board of Education and the new superintendent in helping establish performance objectives for Mr. Arnold,” the firm said in a press release announcing the new hire.

Arnold interviewed in Valdez for the position last month, along with Chris Reitan from Galena’s school district.

The process to hire a new top administrator has been a long one for the board of education.

Last January, the board named three candidates on a shortlist - Patrick Mayor of Wrangle, Brad Moore of Big Sandy, Montana and Dr. Randy Trani of Corbett, Oregon.

Moore dropped out of the hiring process before visiting Valdez.

After a round of in-person interviews, the board offered the position to Trani – who later declined to accept the position.

In a 2017 interview with reporter Tony Gorman, Nygaard said his tenure in Valdez began after he was waylaid at the Anchorage Airport in 2014.

“It was on my last trip home to Montana and I was in the Anchorage Airport and I got a phone call from the School Board Association in Juneau and they asked if I would consider laying over in Valdez to help out,” Nygaard told Gorman.

The district had lost its controversial superintendent, Lisa Stroh, after she resigned her post amid controversy and division in the district.

It was outside the hiring window for school districts for the next year and the district was in sore need of a uniting leader.

Nygaard decided to step up and take the position on an interim basis and later signed on full time with a three-year contract.

“It kind of morphed from 'I can stick around for a while' and it just got to be longer and longer,” Nygaard said.

Nygaard’s tenure has seen numerous improvements in the district and expansion of the student body, which had been declining the past ten years and more.


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