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

Editor, Valdez Star 

New superintendent taking the reins this year at Valdez City Schools

Top administrator says the town is like a hidden gem he never knew existed


Valdez Star photo

Shawn Arnold, the new superintendent of Valdez City Schools.

The new school year will bring with it a new top administrator.

Shawn Arnold, who comes to Valdez by way of Nome, is settling into his new office at the school district office as the countdown begins towards the first day of school.

Arnold, who first came to Alaska during his military career, says Valdez has been akin to a secret gem he never knew existed.

"I'm excited, it's taken me 25 years of living in Alaska to make it to Valdez," he said Monday during an interview at his office at district headquarters. "I had never been to Valdez before I took this job."

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 working in the Far North.

"Going from Nome to Valdez there are a lot of similarities, and a lot of differences," he said. "We had a few more students in Nome, but the same number of schools."

And one of the values that he treasures is what he sees as extraordinary community support for young people and education in a small setting.

"I really don't see myself in a larger district than a Valdez or Nome," he said.

His wife Jodi, who is from Texas originally, will be teaching second grade at Hermon Hutchens Elementary School this school year.

"We met along our education pathway," he said, and both are happy to land in Valdez, where the couple has already purchased a home.

While Valdez put on its best face for Arnold, taking over at the beginning of July presented its own set of challenges, from filling job vacancies to working in offices that turned into construction zones. Oh, and don't forget the worries about the school buildings, some of which are undergoing major renovations.

"We are confident that we're going to have the classrooms ready," he said, noting that communication between the City of Valdez, which owns the buildings, and the school district that runs them, has been clear and open.

"The city has been really responsive," he said.

Filling vacant positions in the district is another of a number tasks Arnold is taking on as superintendent in a climate that is seeing lower and lower numbers of teachers.

The district had 17 teacher vacancies to fill for the upcoming school year, and managed to fill 15 of the jobs.

One of the goals and one of the ways to meet that challenge is finding ways to make Valdez more attractive to teachers interested in Alaska; applicants from out of state may not be able to distinguish between Fairbanks and Valdez.

As for himself, he is glad he discovered Valdez and is honored to be in the district's top leadership position.

"The future of our state is our kids," he said. "It's why I do what I do, but it's something I can't do myself."

Arnold says he is a servant-administrator and encourages the community to get in touch and feel free to make an appointment to meet with him personally.

"I'm approachable," he said. "My door is always open."


His wife Jodi, who is from Texas originally, will be teaching second grade at Hermon Hutchens Elementary School this school year.


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