Superintendent John O’Brien will be taking a leave of absence from his position at the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, while he recovers from kidney cancer surgery and treatment.
O’Brien was diagnosed with kidney cancer days before spring break, he said in a letter to the community posted on the school district’s communications blog. Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones will serve as acting superintendent until O’Brien returns.
O’Brien said he’s been out of state receiving medical care and diagnostic testing. On Tuesday, O’Brien said he will undergo surgery and begin treatment.
“I feel blessed that it was caught early and my prognosis is good once surgery and treatment occur,” O’Brien said in the letter. “I am thankful for our incredible Leadership Team which has risen to the occasion and will continue to lead our school district while I focus on my health, treatment, and recovery.”
O’Brien commended district staff for their work for preparing and delivering meals to students and planning remote learning lessons.
“I thank each of you for your courage and resilience during these difficult, trying, and uncertain times,” O’Brien said in his letter. “I wish you all well. We will come out of this stronger and more united than before. Take care of yourselves, your friends, and family.”
On Monday, March 30, students will return to a virtual school, as mandated by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
In an interview with the Clarion Monday, Pegge Erkeneff, director of communications, community, and government relations for the district, expressed support for O’Brien during his cancer treatment.
“Kindly keep him in your thoughts, and be assured that in his absence, your (Kenai Peninsula Borough School District) leadership team is continuing to rise to the occasion of these extraordinary times to deliver education to our youth, and supports to our staff and families.”