Homer Alaska - Schools

Story last updated at 1:01 PM on Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Atwater named 'Alaska Superintendent of the Year"

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Dr Steve Atwater

There was big news when the Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board made its annual visit to Homer Monday. Bruce Johnson, executive director of the Alaska Association of School Administrators, announced that Dr. Steve Atwater, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District superintendent, has been named the 2013 Alaska Superintendent of the Year. He will compete with other state honorees for the national superintendent award in mid-February.

"Dr. Atwater, it makes me so proud of this school district," said board vice president Liz Downing of Homer. "It's been quite a year for us with the school board being recognized by the Association of Alaska of School Boards last year. ... We're on a roll right now. It's wonderful to see."

Downing was referring to the board being named the 2011 Outstanding School Board of the Year by AASB during the association's annual conference in Anchorage in November 2011.

Tim Navarre, school board member from Kenai, praised Atwater for the value Atwater places on the district and students.

"I know this recognition is for you, but you do look at our district and care about our kids and that's what I think they were recognizing when they recognized you. That's what makes you a great superintendent."

Long-time board member Sammy Crawford of Kenai said Atwater's recognition was "well-deserved."

"We're really proud of you. Thank you so much for your leadership. We've a better school district because of you," said Crawford.

Atwater began teaching in 1990. He worked in the Lower Yukon School District before going to the Lake and Peninsula School District, where he served for five years as a teacher and then became that district's superintendent. This is his fourth year as the KPBSD superintendent.

Atwater served as president of the Alaska Association of School Administrators and is currently involved as an Alaska Professional Teaching Practices commissioner. He is a member of the Alaska Statewide Policy Research Alliance and is a part of the Network for Innovative Education sponsored by the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning. Atwater also teaches courses for the University of Alaska Anchorage's Education Leadership Department.

All state superintendents will be recognized in February at the 2013 National Conference on Education in Los Angeles.

Also recognized during the board's Monday meeting was Sara Reinert, math professor at Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College-University of Alaska Anchorage. Reinert was selected for the district's Golden Apple Award after being nominated for her community volunteer efforts. Those nominating Reinert included Homer Middle School Principal Dave Larson, HMS math teacher Dan Calhoun, West Homer Elementary School Principal Raymond Marshall and Suzanne Haines, the Quest teacher at WHES and HMS.

Eight years ago, Reinert volunteered to run an extra-curricular Math Counts program for seventh- and eighth-graders at Homer Middle School. Math Counts is a national advanced math program sponsored by the American Society of Professional Engineers. Reinert also worked to establish the Kenai Peninsula Middle School Math Meet, which is in its eighth year. She has volunteered to coach a group of sixth-graders, has served on the Homer Middle School Site Council and currently serves on the Homer High School Site Council.

"(Reinert) not only teaches math skills in a variety of interesting ways, she mentors the quiet workers, the reluctant, the kids with disabilities who love math," her nominators wrote. "Math Counts and the KPBSD meet are truly labors of love for her."

The board and audience stood and applauded as Reinert received her award.

"It's good to see all of the contributions she's made to our schools recognized tonight," said Downing.

The board's visit to Homer provided an opportunity to hear from principals and students at three southern peninsula schools. Homer Flex School Principal Karen Wessel, senior David Koen and junior Desirae Tangman offered a history of the school, a description of its performance-based programs and a glimpse of the school's climate. Ninilchik School Principal Jeff Ambrosier and seniors Kaylee Smith and Ryan Bear discussed the school's mission, Standards Based Assessment scores, a program encouraging attendance and data linking attendance to grade point averages, a school-wide emphasis on reading and new programs being offered.

"We couldn't do what we do without help from everybody," said Ambrosier. "We're lucky to have such great, close-knit parents and teachers."

Fireweed Principal Kiki Abrahamson described that charter school's six learner outcomes: self-reliance, cooperation, creativity, reasoning ability, personal growth and academic achievement. Her presentation reflected improvements made to the East End Road facility for grades K-2 that opened at the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year and many illustrations of students engaged in learning opportunities.

Curiously missing from Monday's meeting were public comments. School board meetings in Homer are known for drawing eager, interested and vocal parents and teachers. Not so on Monday.

"No one?" asked Downing after announcing the first opportunity on the agenda for the public to comment. "This is Homer. There's always someone who wants to address the board."

There was the same lack of response shortly before the meeting came to an end when Downing announced a second opportunity for the public to comment.

"No one? Are we really in Homer?" asked Downing.

The next meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board will be Oct. 15 in Soldotna.