Debbie Cary (left) moderates a virtual interview with Clayton Holland on Tuesday, Jan. 26 in Kenai, Alaska. (Screenshot)

Debbie Cary (left) moderates a virtual interview with Clayton Holland on Tuesday, Jan. 26 in Kenai, Alaska. (Screenshot)

Holland to be next superintendent

The board unanimously supported Holland, who will take over from O’Brien later this year

Clayton Holland will become the next superintendent of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District following a unanimous vote in favor by the Board of Education during a special meeting on Tuesday.

Holland, who currently serves as KPBSD assistant superintendent, was interviewed for the position Tuesday along with Dr. Jason R. Johnson and Janelle Vanasse, who were also finalists for the position.

Holland has worked in school district since 2000. Holland received a master’s degree in education from the University of Alaska Anchorage and has also worked as the director of student support services at KPBSD.

The three interviews were moderated by Board of Education Vice President Debbie Cary and lasted for approximately three hours. The candidates were provided the same 18 interview questions in advance. Following the conclusion of the last interview, the board went into executive session to review candidates’ references. After hours of deliberation, the board returned to announce that they would offer the position to Holland.

Virtual Q&A’s with each candidate were moderated by District Communications Director Pegge Erkeneff on Monday morning, with members of the public encouraged to submit feedback via online surveys before Tuesday at 8 a.m.

The questions fielded by the candidates included why they were interested in the position, what positive and negative lessons they had learned as educators during the COVID-19 pandemic and how they would maintain a good working relationship with the board.

Holland, who interviewed last, said his 20 years of experience working in the district, his knowledge of the district’s strategic plan, and his love for the school community would all be strengths he would bring to the position, which he said would also allow for continuity for the district.

“I care about this place. I care about the people I’ve worked with, both in the past and present,” Holland said. “It really has to do with my deep care for this community, for the school district, for the staff and for the students here.”

When it comes to the district’s strategic plan, which he helped create, Holland said moving forward he would like for it to allow for more flexibility and for quarterly reporting on how the district is progressing with the plan.

In gathering information to make decisions, Holland said the nature of the main issue will guide from whom he solicits feedback. During the development of the district’s Smart Start Plan, for example, Holland said the process involved putting together a team of people to represent the district’s different schools and talking to more than 100 parents over the summer.

“You get that viewpoint of ‘what can we do to make this plan?’ We need as many people as possible and to make sure it’s reflective of the desire and needs of our community,” Holland said.

Holland said that he will lead every day with intention when it comes to accomplishing the district’s strategic goals.

“When it comes to tying that into the strategic plan and goals of the district, it’s really that communication — identifying the strengths and gaps in the plan, what’s happening, what’s not,” Holland said.

Holland also said there is a lack of trust throughout the district that he would hope to build back through his sincere connections with the school community and by approaching everyone with a positive intent.

“Trust comes with consistent practice and consistency in what you do — you have to do that to build respect,” Holland said, adding that trust with the school board can be partially built by not putting them in unfavorable positions.

When it comes to the budget, Holland said the superintendent should work directly with the school board.

“The superintendent’s role is to work with the board, partner with the board, on a lot of it — the board approves the budget,” Holland said. “It’s to partner and advocate for funding; to me that advocacy never stops.”

With regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has dramatically impacted how the district’s 42 schools operate on a day-to-day basis, Holland said that some of the negative impacts have been the stress put on the community, concerns over students’ social and emotional learning and not being able to see students in person. At the same time, Holland praised the resiliency of the district community, specifically noting the way people have gone out of their way to be kind to one another and how quickly everyone has been able to develop new skills.

“We’re coming out of this much stronger,” Holland said. “We’d never trade going through this again, with anybody … but we’re coming out with a lot.”

Holland promised to continue bringing his commitment to the district as a superintendent.

“People know I’m open. I will listen. I own the work. I consider the human and I have experience with the instructional side of the house and I can continue to bring that to this district, which is the No. 1 district, like I said, in the state.”

All three interviews can be viewed on the district’s website.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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