April 26, 2013 • Vol. XXXVI, No. 7

Dancing in the Spring Season

Skagway Elementary School students dance around to “Dancin’ in the Streets” at the school’s spring musical concert of the same name on April 16.

Photo by Jeff Brady

Former Skagway School teacher to take superintendent position
Skagway teachers in favor of Josh Coughran’s return as superintendent

Former high school teacher Joshua Coughran has been offered the Skagway School Superintendent job, and terms for his contract will be discussed and voted on in a school board meeting on Tuesday.
The board voted 4-1 in favor of hiring Coughran at an April 16 meeting after interviewing him and two other candidates over the phone.
Coughran began his teaching career at Skagway School in 2003 and worked as the high school social studies teacher for seven years while taking on other school staff roles as well.
For four years beginning in 2004, Coughran was the advisor to the graduating class of 2008. From 2005-2010 Coughran served as the activities director in which he was responsible for the coordination of all activities within the school and student travel for sports and academic competitions. From 2006-2010, he was the coordinator of the on the job training program and oversaw a vocational program that provided students with an opportunity to learn life and career skills in a community based setting.
From August 2007 to May 2008, Coughran was a superintendent intern under former Superintendent Michael Dickens.
Though he had hopes of becoming the superintendent when Dickens left, school board members said he didn’t have enough experience and chose Les McCormick. When McCormick resigned, Coughran again threw his hat in the ring three years ago, but Jeff Thielbar was selected.
Coughran then took the school board’s advice to seek out administrative positions that would give him more experience, which meant he had to leave Skagway.
In 2010, Coughran became the vice principal of Somerset Intermediate School in Westover, Maryland, and advanced to principal for the 2012-2013 school year.
In his interview with the board, Coughran said he has kept up with recent classroom technology and is in favor of teacher development. Coughran also said that if he were hired, he would like to work on getting foreign exchange students back in Skagway School because they provide many positive things for the school and its students.
If hired, Coughran said he plans to be in Skagway a long time, because it’s the only place he wants to be.
“I want all four of my children to graduate from Skagway School,” he said. “I want my three-month-old son to graduate from Skagway School. He, along with all the other sons and daughters of Skagway, deserve the best we can provide.”
Current Superintendent Jeff Thielbar said he thinks Coughran was a good choice.
Thielbar said Coughran has administrative experience as a principal, which is mostly what the Skagway superintendent’s job calls for.
“He will have to do some learning about superintendent duties and dealing with the Alaska Legislature, but he seems to be a very intelligent man, and I’m sure he’ll be able to pick it up quickly,” he said.
Thielbar also added that Coughran’s desire to stay in Skagway long-term was an attractive quality in the selection process.
“He lived here many years before, and now he’s got a family and he’s ready to come back and be a part of the community,” he said. “I think it’s a great selection.”
Other candidates included Lisa Stroh and Scott Carter.
Scott Carter has served as principal and superintendent throughout his career but got his start in education as a biology teacher. He is currently the assistant principal for the Kindergarten-12 grade Emmonak School in western Alaska. Stroh is the superintendent for Blaine County in Chinook, Montana, and oversees eight school districts.
Though some of the districts are very small in student numbers, Stroh told the board in her interview that she believes every school, no matter how small, deserves the best quality education it can get, and if hired, she would help Skagway School to achieve that.
School board member Cara Cosgrove said Stroh’s commitment to quality education for all schools tugged at her heartstrings and added that she was in favor of giving Stroh an in-person interview.
During her phone interview on April 16, Stroh was in Valdez interviewing for a job as superintendent of Valdez City schools.
Because she was already in Alaska, she suggested that she would come to Skagway before going back to Montana if the board wanted to meet her in person.
At first Cosgrove and board member Darren Belisle were in favor of offering it to Stroh, board member Stuart Brown and board member John Hischer were in favor of offering it to Coughran, and board member Andy Miller was undecided between the two.
About five Skagway School teachers, who taught alongside Coughran, attended the meeting and weighed in with their opinions on him.
English teacher Kent Fielding said Coughran was always passionate about becoming a principal, and he thinks his management style will be well received. Fielding also agreed with Coughran about foreign exchange students being invaluable to the school and its students.
Elementary school teacher Mary Thole said she thinks Coughran’s interview was the best.
Thole said she appreciated the long-term commitment Coughran could bring to Skagway, and she also appreciated that he kept up with current technology and knows how to implement it into the classroom.
Former Panther basketball coach Mark Jennings said he thinks Coughran would make a good superintendent, because he has worked at the school before and knows how the town of Skagway works.
A few board members were worried that his three years in administration weren’t sufficient compared to Stroh’s ten years of on-and-off administrative positions.
Kindergarten teacher Denise Caposey reminded board members that Coughran left to get experience at their request. Caposey, who has been teaching at Skagway School for 14 years, said she didn’t have any experience when she was hired at the school, but she had a lot of other attributes, like Coughran, which prepared her and qualified her for her job.
Hischer asked the teachers how they would feel if Coughran, who was once their peer, became their boss. The teachers at the meeting assured the board they would be able to work under Coughran professionally and think he would be the best candidate for the job.
But Cosgrove said her concern with the professional relationship between Coughran and the teachers had to do with his ability to discipline the them if he had to.
After an hour discussion it became apparent the board was leaning toward Coughran.
Because the board members are already familiar with him, Cosgrove suggested they skip the in-person interview if Coughran is selected because it would save the school money if it didn’t have to fly him to Skagway.
The board then voted 4-1 to hire Coughran pending background and reference checks.
Cosgrove, who was still in favor of bringing Stroh to Skagway for an in-person interview, voted no.
“I’m going to have to vote no, but I think Josh will do a great job,” she said when she cast her vote.
Pending contract approval by the board, Coughran will begin on July 1
The school board received eight complete applications for superintendent,
Brown is excited to gain Coughran.
“He’s been here before and he knows what to expect,” Brown said.
Originally, the board had concerns with Coughran going straight from teacher to superintendent, Brown said, but the experience he has gained in teacher management while in Maryland has eased members’ minds.
At Somerset Intermediate School Coughran has had to deal with disciplining and firing teachers, Brown said, making him ready to come back and lead the staff.
Brown said the school is on the verge of creating a new future, and he is excited that Coughran will be around to grow with Skagway School.
“We’ve been talking a lot about a five-year plan,” Brown said. “I’m really glad he’s going to be a part of it because he will be there right from the beginning.”

Skagway gets good, bad news from legislature

Skagway has received a total of $6 million from the 28th Alaska Legislature, which ended on April 14 just before the midnight deadline.
The Gateway Project was funded $1.5 million and $4.5 million will go towards Alaska Marine Highway terminal modifications.
“The money for the Gateway project was put in by the Senate Finance Committee through the efforts of Senator Dennis Egan,” said Skagway Mayor Stan Selmer. “Senator Egan said he wished it would have been more, but there wasn’t a lot of money to give out this year.”
Though the $1.5 million has been marked for the Gateway Project, Selmer said he is unsure of which part of the project it will go to.
“Since we are still trying to determine the totality of the project, we don’t know exactly where the $1.5 million will go,” Selmer said. “Maybe dredging, maybe actual construction, maybe actual design.”
Selmer said he is thankful to receive money for a project that is important to Skagway’s future as a mineral shipping port.
“We know we need that money, and we know we need more to complete the project,” he said.
So far the Gateway Project, which will update Skagway’s Ore dock and facilities, has racked up $16.5 million. Ten million dollars from the State of Alaska, $5 million from a bond the Skagway citizens voted to approve and $1.5 from the legislation.
Skagway also received ferry terminal modifications in the amount of $4.5 million to modify ferry dock floats in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program Amendment 4.
Skagway was also indirectly affected by a House Finance Committee decision to add $10 million back into the budget for Juneau Access after the Senate Finance Committee removed it.
After its removal, Selmer sent a letter to the House Finance Committee asking committee members not to put it back into the budget.
Selmer said he caught a lot of flack for that and was accused of being “anti-road.”
“I’m convinced the Juneau road will be built,” Selmer said. “And I even put my name on a petition a number of years ago in favor of it.”
But Selmer said he doesn’t think the legislature should be designating money toward the road when the environmental impact survey hasn’t been vetted through the courts yet and won’t be completed till January 2014.
Also approved in the legislative session was a controversial production tax cut for oil companies.
“I don’t see how this road can be built until we see what this reduction in oil tax will produce for us with new oil in the pipeline,” he said.
As of now, Selmer said, the state plans to fund Juneau Access at $50 million for the next five years and the total project cost is estimated at $520,000,000.
“If this is the highest priority, higher than hospitals and schools, then we should go ahead and build it,” Selmer said. “But with the new oil tax cut, we need to realize there might not be a lot of money for anything else in Southeast Alaska for the next few years.”
Also negatively affecting Skagway was the decision to take $2.5 million marked for Klondike Highway improvements from Governor Sean Parnell’s Road to Resources program.
Selmer said the House Finance Committee took the money out of the budget.
Skagway is concerned that the $2.5 million was taken from the Roads to Resources program and put towards the $10 million in the Juneau Access, he said.
Selmer said he is going to take a look at the Klondike Highway improvement schedule and funds and see how the loss of funds will affect the repairs.

Skagway to celebrate 50th anniversary of AMHS

To help commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Alaska Marine Highway System, Southeast towns will be celebrating with community events.
From May 1 through May 5th, the MV Malaspina will be making a Golden Voyage up the Lynn Canal that was inspired by the first sailing of the ferry.
Skagway, which is the last stop on the anniversary sailing, will greet the Malaspina with 30 “Happy Birthday” signs and a band of 150 kazoos.
After the ferry docks in Skagway, Skagway Director of Tourism Buckwheat Donahue, Skagway Mayor Stan Selmer, Marine Transportation Board member Mike Korsmo and Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Superintendent Mike Tranell will give an onboard presentation.
From 3:15 p.m. to 5 p.m. ferry goers can ride the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway like the travelers did during the Klondike Gold Rush.
Throughout the afternoon, KGRNHP will be showing a number of videos including showing KTOO’s documentary “Alaska Marine Highway,” which will go on at noon and 4 p.m.
Skagway School students watched a part of the documentary to gain inspiration for an art contest in which the first place winner will receive a $500 golden ticket that can be used toward Alaska Marine Highway tickets. The second place winner could be awarded a prize by the municipality.
The art unveiling will take place at the community block party, which will start at 5 p.m. on Broadway Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues.
Skagway Convention and Visitors Bureau will provide snacks at AB Hall, and musical act Skin and Bones will be playing acoustic ragtime music reminiscent of that played during the gold rush.
Skagway’s ad hoc Marine Highway Committee arranged the anniversary celebration in in Skagway with a budget of $2,500.
Marine Highway committee member Jan Wrentmore said the AMHS 50th birthday is a historic event and added that the Skagway community has a long history of support for the marine highway.
“It is an important underpinning of our economy,” Wrentmore said. “And it is the most reliable way to move between communities for medical, business or shopping trips.”
The whole Skagway community is invited to participate in the celebrations, and Wretmore said those who want to play a kazoo or hold a sign should show up to the ferry terminal at about 1:30 p.m.

Chilkoot artists selected for summer 2013

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (NHP) announced the artists selected for the Artist in Residency (AIR) program.
Cassandra Loomis, from Annandale, Virginia, is joined by Canadian artists Kara Sievewright and Nicole Bauberger to participate in this international program.
Loomis, an illustrator with a passion for traveling, stated that she’s honored at being selected to participate in the AIR program.
“I know this is an opportunity of a lifetime and I can't wait to see, hike, and paint the beautiful Chilkoot trail,” she said
She is employed by Trader Joe’s Grocery Store where she is responsible for creating large murals, signs and decorations for several stores. Loomis plans to offer mini portraits of hikers and conduct painting workshops during her time on the trail. Afterwards, she will create a web site sharing her artwork and trail experiences on a visual journey. She is pictured right.
Based in Toronto, Ontario, Sievewright is an artist, writer and wilderness enthusiast.
Bauberger is a painter, writer and art educator from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. All three artists will offer a pre-residency program in Skagway and post-residency program in Whitehorse that will be open to the general public.
AIR is administered by Klondike Gold Rush NHP (National Park Service) and Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site (Parks Canada), with assistance from the Yukon Arts Centre and the Skagway Arts Council.
The program entails a two week journey on the Chilkoot Trail following in the footsteps of the stampeders from Dyea, Alaska to Bennett Lake, British Columbia.
Hikers on the Chilkoot Trail this summer will be invited to see the trail from the unique artistic perspective offered by the artist through engaging activities that explore and perhaps challenge ideas about landscape art. The AIR program aims to increase awareness of the Chilkoot Trail, both nationally and internationally, inspiring people to learn more about our national parklands. — KGRNHP

SPRING RESPIT – Juliene Price, Andy Miles and their dog Smokey spend a day in the sun at Nahku Bay beach on April 14. Spring keeps making brief appearances in Skagway, but winter snows still linger. Katie Emmets


First reading of fiscal year 2014 budget passes

  The Skagway Borough Assembly passed the first draft of the fiscal year 2014 budget unanimously in anticipation of changes to come after committee meetings and special budget meetings.
The total FY14 operating budget is $7,040,247 — almost $1.3 million more than the FY12 operating budget of $5,757,274.
Skagway Borough Treasurer Heather Rodig said the majority of the general fund is marked for the public safety department.
The total capital project amount was $7,141,581 in the first reading of the proposed budget, but Rodig said that number is expected to rise when she adds in large-scale projects like the phase two of the Skagway Small Boat Harbor and the Skagway Recreation Center master plan.
Rodig said the FY13 budget passed with a capital budget of $15,197,408, but amendments throughout the year raised the budget to $16,814,652. Rodig also added that 69 percent of the FY13 capital budget was for phase one of the Small Boat Harbor Renovation Project.
Because there is a more than $8 million discrepancy between the capital projects budget passed last year and the FY14 proposed budget, Rodig said she would be performing an analysis of expenses to see why the numbers are so different.
This is both Rodig’s and Skagway Borough Manger George Edes’s first time working with the municipal budget. This will also be the first budget cycle for assemblymen Gary Hanson and Steven Burnham Jr.
In an April 18 assembly meeting Assemblyman Dan Henry told those new to the process that the assembly would go through the budget line for line and really analyze it. He also said there would be several meetings in between readings to discuss the budget.
“We depend on each other to exhaustively, evaluate process and scrutinize it and make adjustments accordingly,” Henry said. “I look forward to a streamlined advanced process.”
The assembly voted 5-0 on the first reading. Assemblyman Paul Reichert was absent.

Municipality to buy Old City Hall pending inspection

The Skagway Borough Assembly voted unanimously on April 18 to buy the 5th Avenue building that housed Skagway’s first city hall.
After the first reading of the ordinance to purchase the Old City Hall passed on April 4, assemblyman Gary Hanson said he set a date to tour the building with Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park and municipal officials and assess the historical aspects.
On April 16, the date of the tour, realtor David Brena told Hanson that they couldn’t do it because the earnest money agreement was out of date.
The municipality received the agreement on March 24, and it was to be signed and turned in within 14 days in order for it to be valid.
“I believe we do not have a valid earnest money agreement on this yet,” Hanson said. “That doesn’t mean we can’t vote to go ahead and appropriate this money, but it means that we want to make sure we have the earnest money agreemt signed by both parties in hand that way we can do an inspection.”
Hanson told Brenna if assembly members didn’t see the historic value in the building they might not want to buy it. Brena told Hanson it would be OK if that were the case, and the municipality would get the earnest money agreement back.
The earnest money agreement will cost $2,000.
Borough Manager George Edes said Skagway Borough Attorney Bob Blasco reviewed the agreement and had two issues with the process. One was getting title insurance for the purchase of the building, and the other was the seller providing a warrant on the title to the property.
“So there are title issues — just to make sure that’s clear — if and when we put up the money to purchase it,” Edes said. “We’ll try to get that resolved very quickly within the next few days to move forward if that’s your wish.”
The assembly voted unanimously to purchase the building. Assemblyman Paul Reichert was absent from the meeting. — KE