The Ketchikan School Board swore in former Revilla Junior Senior High School Principal Doug Gregg as its newest board member on Thursday evening and elected Board Member Diane Gubatayao vice president.

Gregg, a longtime resident of the community, was appointed on the last day the board could have legally appointed a new member under Alaska statute.

His appointment concluded a fierce competition for the vacancy.

Last week, the board postponed an interview for the open spot after only one person, former Board President Trevor Shaw, had applied for the position.

Seeking greater competition for the spot, the board at that May 26 meeting voted to reopen the application period for the vacancy.

By the time the application period closed on Tuesday, 11 more members of the community had applied for the position.

One applicant, Keith Smith, had withdrawn his application by the time the board clerk posted the meeting packet online on Wednesday evening.

By the start of Thursday’s special session, two more applicants — former Ketchikan Public Utilities Telecommunications Division Manager Van Abbott and local parent James North — had withdrawn their applications from consideration as well.

Board Clerk Kerry Watson said in an interview after the meeting that Shaw had indicated to her that, with the board reopening the application period, he believed his application was no longer valid, and he did not apply for the position again, effectively withdrawing his application.

That left eight applicants vying for the spot on Thursday evening: Jack Finnegan, Rushcelle “Pebbles” Hull, Nicole Linn, Charlene Meeks, Deborah Simon, Jacob Dean Trumble and Christy Willis, in addition to Gregg. Gregg, Linn and Willis all participated in Thursday’s interview process remotely.

Board President Kim Hodne began the evening’s round of interviews with one question that he posed to each applicant individually, in order to avoid giving later interviewees a chance to think of an answer: “How do you think schools should open this fall?”

Based on the answers to that question — nearly all candidates said in-person learning would be preferred, but tempered their answers with uncertainty about the novel coronavirus’ behavior in the community over the next several months — as well as individual application materials, the board picked three finalists out of the group: Finnegan, who is a former member of the First City Players Board of Governors; Linn, a current member of the Women in Safe Homes Board of Directors; and Gregg.

For the second round of questioning, the three remaining candidates responded to six questions each — one from each board member — about whether they intended to run for a three-year position on the board in the fall, how they would help the board on any of the issues it is currently working on, qualities they would look for in a permament superintendent and whether they felt the board is transparent with the community.

After tabulating votes for preferred candidates, Linn was eliminated from the pool, and the board proceeded to a final round of interviews for Gregg and Finnegan, each again answering six questions from the board.

It was the final question posed to each candidate, asked by Hodne, that most clearly illustrated Gregg’s familiarity with administrative matters in the district and in the state: “Do you believe the (Ketchikan School District) should be funded to the cap?”

“That’s a difficult question. I’m glad you brought that up, because that’s one of the points I did want to talk about,” Gregg said. “I think that there have been some good points made by this board in the past about the fact that, funding right to the cap is maybe not a great idea because you’d have no flexibility then if something unforeseen arises. So, I don’t necessarily think that funding to the cap is how it should be every time all the time.

“But, I think a bigger problem in our state is, not just the level of funding, but the timing of the funding,” he added.” I mean, ever since I’ve been in Ketchikan, we’ve been talking about forward funding for education. That is so important, because if, as a board, we know that the budget is going to be reduced ahead of time, we can make plans for that — And not that it’s going to be great, but at least we’re going to be able to do the best we can with whatever number that is that’s provided.”

Asked that same question, Finnegan was honest about his understanding.

“I don’t pretend to fully comprehend the intricacies of the budget, the way that it’s distributed,” Finnegan said. “I mean, I looked at the … proposal for 2022’s fiscal year, and I made note of where a majority of the funding for the school district comes from. But my relative inexperience with crafting or dealing with budgets would bring budgetary concerns to the forefront of place of focus for my study if I were to be seated on the board.”

After counting votes, the board determined that Gregg had won a majority and offered him the vacant seat. Gregg accepted and was sworn in over the phone.

Before adjourning for the evening, the board cast votes to elect a new vice president.

Board Clerk-Treasurer Bridget Mattson nominated Board Member Jordan Tabb for the office, with Board Member Paul Robbins Jr. seconding her nomination.

Board Member Nicole Anderson nominated Board Member Diane Gubatayao for the spot, with Hodne seconding the nomination. Gubatayao had served as the board clerk-treasurer prior to last year’s local election.

Board members cast their votes confidentially, with Gregg sending his by email.

With all votes counted, Gubatayao was declared the new vice president