August 2000 / Who's Who in Central Office?

Question Mark
Ask the Superintendent: Who's Who in Central Office?
Superintendent's Column
Peninsula Clarion
D. Peterson

August 2000

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District – big business! Yes, we are, but the employees of the School District are also your friends and neighbors so in many ways; we’re just hardworking folks like everyone else in this day and age. You may be well acquainted with your child’s teachers and even the principal, but there seems to be some mystery about the employees that work in the central office --- the “white house” as it affectionately known around town. The staff that works in the Soldotna Borough Building often changes and that may be the reason you don’t know people as well as you might expect.

It’s always good to know whom to call or what people do that run the $85+ million dollar per year business known as KPBSD. Here’s a rundown of the people and their positions. First, I’m Donna Peterson, Superintendent of Schools – the buck stops with me and I’m charged with making sure that all students on the peninsula receive a quality education. We have three Assistant Superintendents – Patrick Hickey is responsible for Operations and Business Management, Todd Syverson is responsible for Human Resources, and Ed McLain has the Instructional Department.

Under Operations and Business Management which covers everything of a non-instructional nature, we have Melody Douglas in charge of Finance, Jim White with Data Processing, Dave Spence over Operations, Michael Lengenfelder in Student Nutrition, Debbie Stewart coordinating Transportation, and Gary Jefferson supervising the Warehouse.

In the Instructional Department which is basically responsible for all that is taught in the schools, Don Boehmer is responsible for Special Services, Gary Whiteley for Curriculum, Mark Leal for Assessment, Rick Matiya for Alternative Educational Services, Phil Biggs for Technology, Dorothy Gray for Staff Development, and Norma Holmgaard for Federal Grants.

Human Resources is responsible for all the hiring, negotiated agreements, employee information, etc. for the largest employer on the peninsula. Mr. Syverson has assistance through Lynne Sandahl with certified staff and Julie Holland for support staff.

The one thing that seems a bit different from other school district offices around the state is that many of us have children in the school system. You ask if that makes a difference, and I’d respond with an emphatic YES. Every decision that is made is put through the filter of, “What would this feel like as a parent?” My daughter is a seventh grader, Dr. McLain’s son and daughter are a senior and freshman respectively, Mr. Syverson’s children are in second, sixth, and tenth grade, and Mr. Hickey’s daughter is in second grade. In other words, we’re all over the board with the ages of our children, as well as their schools and their interests. That certainly doesn’t mean that our children get special privileges (they’d say just the opposite) but it when we talk about kids, we’re not talking in the abstract – we’re all trying to balance the joys of the profession with the joys of a family.

One of the things that I get asked about central office is how we can cut “administration” to get more money in the classroom. Statewide, when you look

at the number of administrators to the number of students, the ratio is alarming. However, when you look at the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and the number of central office administrators for the 10,000 students, we have the lowest ratio in the state. The McDowell study in 1998 reflected our percentage of administration at less than 4%. As central office administrators, we are charged with setting the vision for the district as well as assuring compliance with a myriad of State and Federal regulations and mandates. Everything that we do should make it easier for schools to do what they need to do for students. The same low percentage of overhead covers non-instructional expenses handled by central office employees. As an example, we have two payroll clerks (who have many other duties) for approximately 1200 employees. Our monthly payroll is about $4.3 million dollars, and in 1999, we issued about 2000 W4 forms. I’d challenge any business to accomplish as much as we do with as little staff.

And so, as we begin this school year, I’m hoping that you’ll direct any questions you might have to the Peninsula Clarion to be answered in this column or to us directly.