Moving on up

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Tuesday, August 4, 2015 3:10pm
  • News

Two longtime Kenai Peninsula Borough School District administrators are stepping into new positions at the school district office this fall.

Former Nikiski Middle-High School Principal John O’Brien has been hired as the Assistant Superintendent of Instruction. Former Redoubt Elementary Principal John Pothast will be sliding into the empty seat left by O’Brien as the Director of Secondary Education.

Both educators said they are looking forward to providing a quality education to a broader group of students in Kenai Peninsula schools and statewide.

O’Brien has worked in the school district for 11 years, a transplant from Maine.

O’Brien said he was called to Alaska for the fly fishing. He convinced his wife to move their three daughters northward, where he spent his first six years on the Kenai Peninsula as the Principal of Nikiski-Middle High School, which was “extremely rewarding.”

Then, O’Brien said, he was ready for a new set of responsibilities and applied for the open Director of Secondary Education in the school district office. When Sean Dusek stepped into the Superintendent of Instruction position July 1, O’Brien was ready to move in.

“As a director you are always wondering what the next step is,” O’Brien said. “I saw an opportunity for making a greater impact throughout the entire district.”

Things could have gone very differently for the new Assistant Superintendent, however. O’Brien was already pursuing a degree in Pre-Law before he considered teaching. Then, he began to see his future as working with students.

The bulk of O’Brien’s experience is instruction and administration in secondary education. He said moving into the school district office gave him the chance to work with all grade levels.

Now, in the Assistant Superintendent position, O’Brien even has the chance to influence state policy, he said.

O’Brien said he is looking forward to working on the school district’s instructional team, to make improvements throughout the school district, specifically in personalizing the classroom experience for students and incorporating blended learning skills into education.

Some of his best moments as an educator are when former students stopped him and said they were thankful for how he contributed to their development as people.

The school district puts kids first and foremost, O’Brien said.

“As good as we are as a district, we can always get batter,” O’Brien said.

Pothast has been working in local schools for 16 years, coming in as a high school English teacher fresh from Arizona. He has worked at the former Skyview High School and Redoubt Elementary School, and “now I am here,” he said.

It was a mutual decision between Pothast and his wife to head to Kenai after honeymooning in Alaska.

Like O’Brien, Pothast did not originally plan to become a teacher, until college when two professors pulled him aside and said he may have a career in education.

He was already well into a degree in accounting when he made the switch.

“The idea of sitting at a desk and crunching numbers all day in and day out — I didn’t see that as fulfilling,” Pothast said.

He saw a chance to have a satisfying career through student instruction.

Pothast found his place in the school district among many “incredibly talented and dedicated teachers.”

While some buildings house more students than others, all are still small enough that personalization is still possible, he said.

Pothast will still get his “kid fix” in his new position. Maintaining a connection with students by being a part of daily life in the buildings will be an integral part of his new role, he said.

Also on the instructional team, Pothast said he is looking forward to contributing to the overall vision of the district, and helping staff and students improve instruction in every way he can.

“I still love accounting,” Pothast said. “But here I can work with kids and make a difference.”

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com

More in News

National Weather Service radar for the Kenai Peninsula and Southcentral Alaska on Aug. 17, 2022. (Screenshot)
Rain, rain and more rain

Low pressure systems drive wet conditions in Southcentral

Sockeye salmon return to Steep Creek to spawn. Alaska’s overall commercial salmon harvest across all species is currently up 15% from 2021 (2020 for pinks) with Bristol Bay and the Prince William Sound largely carrying the weight while other regions lag, according to data from the most recent Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute weekly salmon harvest update. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Statewide salmon harvest on the upswing compared to last year

Bristol Bay and Prince William Sound are mainly pulling the weight

Jake Dye / Peninsula Clarion
Congressional candidate Mary Peltola responds to a question during a forum at the Kenai Visitor Center on Aug. 3 in Kenai . Early Wednesday, Peltola had earned 38.4% of first-choice votes in a race that will determine who fills Alaska’s lone U.S. House seat until January.
Mary Peltola responds to a question during a forum at the Kenai Visitor Center on Aug. 3, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Peninsula Clarion/Jake Dye)
Democratic candidate Peltola leads U.S. House race early, but Palin may win in final count

Former governor and Republican U.S. House candidate Sarah Palin stands to benefit from ranked choice voting

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID hospitalizations on the rise

86 patients were hospitalized with 10 patients on ventilators

2022 gubernatorial candidate Charlie Pierce walks in the 65th annual Soldotna Progress Days Parade on Saturday, July 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Pierce among leaders in governor’s race

Incumbent Gov. Mike Dunleavy leads the pack overall

Braeden Garrett holds signs supporting Alaska House of Representatives candidate Justin Ruffridge at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Ruffridge, Babcock lead in early primary results

Unofficial preliminary primary election results showed significant margins between the first- and second-place candidates

Pollworkers Carol Louthan (center) and Harmony Bolden (right) work at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Local voters cast ballots, try out ranked choice

Locally, multiple candidates have their sights set on seats in the Alaska Legislature.

U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka joins Donald Trump on stage during a rally at the Alaska Airlines Center on July 9, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. Tshibaka is seeking to become one of four candidates to advance in the U.S. Senate race during Alaska’s primary election Tuesday, Aug. 16. (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP, File)
U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka joins Donald Trump on stage during a rally at the Alaska Airlines Center on July 9, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. Tshibaka is seeking to become one of four candidates to advance in the U.S. Senate race during Alaska’s primary election Tuesday, Aug. 16. (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP, File)
Murkowski advances in Senate race, Palin in House

Kelly Tshibaka, her GOP rival endorsed by former President Donald Trump, was among the candidates bound for the November general election

Most Read