How Do you Spell Pride?

The Skagway women's volleyball team received a little Panther skin from some local boys during the finale of this month's tournament. Crystal Ackerman served a great game against Gustavus to seal the win as Scott Lesh (P), Chris Shockley (A), Kyle Ellis (N), Clayton Harris (T), J.R. Edwards (H), Trevor Cochran (E), Garrett Henry (R), and Cory Belisle (S) back her up. See coverage of the recent home volleyball and wrestling matches on the sports and activities page. Photo by Jeff Brady

Lee given new position
Telles will be in charge at school for now

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
During a special Skagway School Board meeting on Sunday, Nov. 19, Superintendent Richard Lee accepted a revised contract with the school district for a position change to assistant superintendent.
His new job will require him to write grants for the district.
As of Tuesday, vocational education instructor James Telles was appointed teacher-in-charge, a position that the superintendent would normally appoint if he would be out of town for some time.
School Board President Michelle Carlson said the board will discuss a more permanent appointment for an interim superintendent at the Nov. 28 meeting.
“I definitely think (the change) will benefit the district,” said member Don Hather, who, along with Carlson, served on the Negotiations Committee which came up with the restructuring arrangement with Lee.
The contract runs until June 2001. Lee will be paid $102,000 for that time, and according to the contract has agreed not to take another job. The contract also stipulates that he seek out a minimum of three grants or other funding opportunities selected by the board.
A Macintosh G3 laptop computer and printer will be supplied for his use, and it will become his at the completion of the contract.
Lee had no comment about the arrangement. When asked if he would remain in Skagway, Lee said: “That’s up to my discretion.”
Carlson said there was an office reserved for Lee in the school, or he could do the work elsewhere, but again, it was at his discretion.
She also pointed out that none of the money for this position will come from any academic or extracurricular funds.
“We have a budget revision to do, but it’s not going to be taken away from the learning part,” said Carlson. “We put the new phone system on hold ($17,500) and we already had the money in the budget from last year for the assistant principal position.”
The school is still in violation of the state’s requirement for having only 65 percent of its money going to educational purposes, and Carlson said the school will have to ask for a waiver from the state Department of Education. She said she is confident that the board can meet that percentage after the budget revisions are completed.
But the real question remained unanswered: “Why was Lee’s job restructured?”
No school board member would answer, referring only to a press release read at the meeting.
The release said: “Mr. Lee came to the Skagway City School District in July of 1998 when large decreases in state funding were occurring due to the consequences of SB36 and the resulting new education foundation funding formula. In two and a half years, Mr. Lee has significantly improved the financial condition of the district and leaves his position as district superintendent to assume other administrative duties.
“Under Mr. Lee’s superintendency student academic performance across the board has significantly increased as validated by outstanding student scores on both national and state high stakes assessments such as the California Achievement Tests, the Alaska Benchmark Examinations and the Alaska High School Graduation Qualifying Examination.”
At a school board meeting attended by 90 people last March, many asked the board not to renew Lee’s contract. The board approved retaining Lee by a 3-2 vote, and later approved a new two-year contract for the superintendent by unanimous vote. A petition to oust the three members who voted for retaining Lee – Glenda Choate, Veronica Bush and Lynne Cameron – began circulating last spring, resulting in a special recall election on Aug. 22.
The remaining board members, former president Bruce Weber, and vice-president Don Hather, were up for election in the fall, but Weber chose not to run again. Hather was elected in October along with Carlson, the leader of the recall petition, Dawn Kilburn, Dorothy Brady, and Christine Ellis.
The new board had already reduced Lee’s spending powers, requiring board approval for any expenditure over $500. Previously he had been allowed spend up to $5,000 without board approval.
After the 10-minute-long meeting on Sunday, parent Janilyn Heger told board members that she was concerned there didn’t seem to be any public process in the demotion of Lee.
Carlson replied that contract negotiations usually are not done in public.

Cell phones come to Skagway
But Council may nix use in vehicles

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS

Early one morning last week, the phone rang at the Sweet Tooth Cafe and owner Colette Hisman answered. It was a customer asking about the soup of the day. Hisman ran back to the kitchen to ask and then ran back to the front phone to give the answer: “Split pea.”
The caller said he’d like to reserve a table for two for noon. Hisman looked up and there, right across from her, is Mayor John Mielke on a cell phone with a big smile on his face.
Gotcha!
It is the first cell phone practical joke in Skagway.
Cellular One has opened for business, so there may be more.
The year-round cell service, while seen as a boon by some, has the Skagway City Council considering banning their use in vehicles within city limits for public safety and liability reasons for city employees.
Hisman also said she is considering banning cell phone use in the restaurant after she sees if their usage gets too “obnoxious” this summer.
Cell service here comes with some limitations – it is not available beyond the Taiya River Bridge or beyond Black Lake on the South Klondike Highway, said Stan Selmer, manager of the Skagway office for Alaska Power and Telephone.
Selmer said the location of the city’s tower at the Skyline trailhead will give great coverage in the Skagway valley, the dock area, and most likely all the way down the inlet to Haines. The glitch is, with Skagway’s geography, the signal cannot be accessed in a northeast or northwest direction.
The Fire Department hopes to put another antenna at the incinerator for better coverage up the highway.
There is presently no agent in town for potential cell phone customers said Judy Barrows, Cellular One saleswoman in Juneau. There will be in the near future, she said.
Hisman is also looking toward the future..
“I’ll get even, it’s just a matter of time,“ she said.

Hamilton Construction workers set the new footbridge in place over the Skagway River, southwest of the new airport terminal. Residents were using it a couple days later as the old bridge was being pulled out. The footbridge site had to be moved downriver to make room for the new runway, and a longer span was required. Photo by Dimitra Lavrakas

Yukon will not buy land here for port

Premier says money needed elsewhere to aid economy,

wins support from Knowles, Chretien for highway gas pipeline

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
Yukon Premier Pat Duncan said the Yukon will not buy either the 12.6-acre parcel of land at Rabbit Cove for use as a Skagway port for the territory, or the 18-acre Chilkoot Lumber Co. dock in Haines.
“We are facing demands for dollars,” Duncan said in a press release. “The port initiative would require an investment of over $6 million (Cdn.). We believe the money would be better spent on priorities such as health care and improving the Yukon’s existing infrastructure.”
The ports together would have cost $3.8 million total in U.S. dollars, and the Yukon has already spent $519,480 in pursuing the projects. The money went to securing first right of refusal to the properties, legal fees and environmental assessments.
The previous administration had considered using money from the Yukon Development Corp. to finance the purchases, but a change in government after the Yukon’s April 2000 elections put a halt to negotiations, and the new Liberal government opted to weigh out the deal until Nov. 8.
The potential dock land was seen as fulfilling the Yukon’s need for an east and west port to ship natural resources, because the Skagway docks, the Yukon’s historic tidewater access, were too busy with cruise ship business.
There was a hue and cry after the Yukon’s announcement to buy the land, because the move was never discussed with public officials in either Haines or Skagway.
“While we did receive some expressions of support for the initiative, we did not receive any offers for partnerships,” Duncan said. “We simply cannot afford to do this alone.”
A Memorandum of Understanding for cooperative projects was presented to the last Yukon administration by the City of Skagway, but it was never signed, said Candice Wallace, Economic Development Commission coordinator.
“Every time we asked them what they were developing, they said it was something 10 years down the road,” said Wallace. “We were told they had no projects in mind. How do you develop a budget and how come nobody presented plans to us to partner with them.”
After hearing Wallace’s concerns at the Nov. 16 city council meeting, members approved writing a letter to the Yukon premier stating that the city supports commerce between the Yukon and Skagway.
“I’m concerned they’ve gotten the wrong idea,” said Councilmember Colette Hisman.
There is ongoing discussion between Alaska and Canada about linking the two country’s rail service and running the natural gas pipeline from the North Slope of Alaska by way of the Alaska Highway. Duncan was in Anchorage last week to give the keynote speech at the Alaska Resource Conference, which focused on North Slope natural gas development.
Gov. Tony Knowles announced his preferred route for a pipeline last Friday in Anchorage at the conference.
“Paraphrasing an old adage, ‘my way or the highway,’ my response to the routing question is, ‘my way is the highway,” Knowles said. ‘The Alaska Highway pipeline (will) prove to be the most economical route for the producers and the greatest revenue producer for the state of Alaska.”
“We believe through partnerships and working with our Alaskan neighbors, we can secure access to tidewater without purchasing the properties,” Duncan said. “We will continue to work with the Alaskan and municipal governments and the business community to ensure that Yukon goods will be able to get to market.”
In September, Duncan met with Knowles in Juneau to sign an updated accord to share information, promote understanding, and identify areas for further cooperation including tourism, energy, trade, transportation, and fish and wildlife management. It is effective through Sept. 8, 2003.
The highway route also was boosted by Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien during a campaign stop in Whitehorse last week.

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