Jamie Burgess dropped the word “Interim” from her superintendent title last Thursday, as the Nome School Board elected her the Superintendent of Nome Public Schools. In a special meeting on Thursday following interviews of Burgess and the only other candidate, Christopher Aguirre, the school board’s choice was unanimous.
Burgess has been working at NPS since 2016 as the Director of Federal Programs, Instruction, and Accountability, a position she’s been juggling along with Interim Superintendent since she took over for Superintendent Bill Schildbach, who resigned in February. Burgess will continue to serve both positions until the end of the current school year, and the Board plans on hiring a new Federal Programs Director for Full Year 2020.
Now that she’s officially Superintendent, Burgess says she’s eager to get to work on some of the concerns that have been brought up by parents, staff, students, and community members: things like stability, in a district that has seen a lot of turnover in recent years, and school safety.
Most of all, Burgess says it’s time the district focuses more actively on cultural integration.
“We have to recognize that a significant portion of our students are Alaska Native, so their schools should reflect who they are. And so, I’m really looking forward to making some strides to kids feeling that they see themselves more in their schools.”
As far as making this vision a reality in the classroom, Superintendent Burgess has a few ideas. One is coming up with an “Adopt a Teacher” program, in which families in the community work with teachers to bring cultural insight to their classes, especially for teachers new to the community of Nome.
“..and have chances to interact with them in a more informal, casual way to kind of share with them [teachers] their culture and how they live it. Because one of our big challenges is that it’s really hard to ask our teachers to teach children about their culture when it’s not their culture. That’s a big challenge and something we have to address… and we just have to figure out ways that we put infrastructure in place and kind of go forward from that.”
Burgess says she’s excited to step into her new role as Superintendent, especially to continue connecting with the community she has served the past 3 years.
“I plan to be out and about in the community a lot more, and I’m hoping that the community members will feel comfortable coming up and chatting with me, sharing their thoughts and concerns. I want to be seen as someone that’s approachable and open to listening to what our community members have to say.”
In a statement, Board President Brandy Arrington said the board was “pleased” to offer Burgess the position.
“We understand how important and crucial it is that our district has stability. With Jamie already vested in the community and leading the district as interim superintendent since February, we decided that Jamie was the right fit.”
As to why Burgess was offered a one-year contract, not the typical two-year contract, Arrington noted how this will be Burgess’ first go at being a superintendent.
“…The board wants to work closely with her in the coming year and make sure we are all working at moving the entire district towards a shared vision. We have high expectations for Jamie, but we also want to make sure both our new superintendent and the Board develop a trusting, responsive relationship focused on improving student success.”
Instead of pursuing the Board’s original plan of having the Superintendent start July 1, they decided to start Superintendent Burgess’s contract immediately following her election last week. Burgess’s one-year contract runs through June 2020.
Image at top: Jamie Burgess will serve as NPS Superintendent for the 2019-2020 school year. Photo: Gabe Colombo, KNOM file.