Valdez School In Chaos With No Principal, Sobbing Teachers – And Kids Roaming The Halls, KTUU Story Shows

HARD TIMES AT VALDEZ HIGH  Alarming Valdez School Board Meeting Airs Anger, Sadness, Confusion  Some Teachers Openly Say They Wish They Were...


Alarming Valdez School Board Meeting Airs Anger, Sadness, Confusion 

Some Teachers Openly Say They Wish They Weren't Working At Valdez High 

Valdez and the Copper River Valley are joined at the hip, and have been since the 1898 Gold Rush when rickety ships pulled up into Valdez Harbor, disgorged thousands of would-be miners, and sent them staggering up over Valdez and Klutina Glaciers into the distant Copper Valley. 

Yet the two communities, which lie around a hundred miles from each other over the Richardson Highway, are very different. 

Valdez has always prided itself in being buttoned-up; in being a "city."  A small city, but a city nevertheless. People in Valdez enjoy lively commerce, actual sidewalks, a city hall, city parks, a large community theater, a convention center, a round-the-clock medical facility, a fire department and police corps, a city government...  It's always been this way. Valdez has structure, and rules, and organization at its core. 

The Copper Valley, on the other hand, has never had an overall government. The Copper Valley is a free-for-all, and has been since the modern start of its history in 1898. 


So it was surprising this month to see, on KTUU's evening news, that Valdez's high school had fallen into complete disarray.

The collapse of the school's morale and functioning began when the school's principal, Gayle Brown, unexpectedly left in August. Her leaving seemed almost like a school shooting threat. Students were put in the gym and not allowed to leave. When it was all over, nobody knew what had happened or why. Apparently parents and teachers still don't know why, and it's obvious that without a captain to their ship – a school principal – things are not going well.  


This was the third time, in a year, that an Alaska school district lost its female school principal under bizarre circumstances. Last October, the principal in a small bush village was chased around the village by tribal police, locked herself in her school office, and had to be evacuated to safety by plane, with some of the school's teachers joining her. This past January, Alaska's 2022 "Principal of the Year" who helmed a school in Mat-Su, was arrested by Troopers when family members faked a judge-signed document, falsely saying she was mentally ill. Troopers took her to a borough hospital, as she vigorously tried to reason with them. And then there was the Valdez incident, which involved what amounted to a lockdown. 

In every case, the principal involved was a woman. 



This September of 2023, parents and teachers met at a recent Valdez School Board meeting to air their feelings. Teachers stood up openly and spoke frankly of the chaos at the high school in the weeks after their principal left. Some teachers cried as they described their frustrations. 

Their comments were shown on a KTUU TV nightly news report. It turned out, according to the teachers, that they still don't know why Brown had left, what the problem was, or who would replace her. They said they had no input into the process. They said that the Valdez School Superintendent, who had said he would stand in as their principal, rarely showed up. One teacher said that students at Valdez High were dangerously out of control.

Said economics teacher Lee Chadwick: "They're wandering the school. If you walk into the gym you'll find kids in there pretty much all hours of the day. There's no lunch supervision. anywhere. There's no bus supervision." Chadwick was worried, and he wasn't afraid to say it: "We're setting ourselves up for a lawsuit..."

Two teachers, both sobbing, openly regretted working and living in Valdez. Said one:

"...disrespect...and disregard for the wisdom of experienced teachers...have ruined my continue working here."

Another said, "If I was moving my family to Alaska today, I would not choose to live in Valdez and that breaks my heart. In fact, it would not be one of my top five choices." 


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