Kodiak’s school board is on the search for a new Kodiak Island Borough School District Superintendent and will interview the three finalists in person on March 7. KMXT is speaking with the three individuals in the days before the Kodiak visit.
Out of all three finalists, Szymoniak is from the chilliest school district. And the darkest.
He says he’s interested in the Kodiak superintendent position because he sees the school district is able to provide high quality education. As for the Kodiak Archipelago itself, he can see himself settling well into the more temperate climate.
“With the North Slope, I’ve really enjoyed my time up here. One of the things that’s real difficult is the long winters. I’m an outside person, and I thought I’d be able to be outside more, but with the job and the long winter nights here, it’s real difficult to get outside and lead that type of lifestyle that I enjoyed so much on the Kenai and I think will be there in Kodiak as well.”
Szymoniak says his history on the Kenai Peninsula is one of his greatest assets.
For roughly 17 years he served as principal first in Moose Pass and then in Homer. In 2005, he took the job of Kenai Peninsula School District Assistant Superintendent, and three years, moved onto a superintendent position in Idaho.
Szymoniak returned to Alaska in 2015 and entered his current role as Superintendent of the North Slope Borough School District.
Now, he says he’s ready for the City of Kodiak and the island’s seven villages. He explains his positions in the Kenai Peninsula and the North Slope familiarized him with serving village schools.
He says technology is helpful in keeping villages in the loop and says direct communication is key.
“And not just by phone call, but also being able to have the bandwidth to deliver not only courses but also to be able to do business, taking information for payroll and leave and be able to conduct the school district business. The other thing that’s most important is finding and keeping quality teachers in those villages, because nothing will replace having quality teachers in front of those students.”
He says a good website and media outreach are helpful in maintaining a connection with the community and its remote locations, but nothing replaces personal interaction.
“A lot of people think about newsletters and speeches. What I like to tell people is the best communication for me is the day to day meeting with parents and students and community members and talking about what they want for their schools and what’s happening in the schools.”
That desire for open communication also guides Szymoniak’s ideas for managing finances in the school district
“Before we start rolling out budget and thinking about what cuts or additions to make, it’s good to get an understanding of the needs, wants, and wishes, and when you have a conversation as a principal or a superintendent or a school official with parents and community members, the more quality those conversations are, the quicker we can come to the understanding of what are the needs as opposed to the wants.”
He says it’s critical to pinpoint common goals and work towards them together.