“Old Rusty”

The “Old Rusty” playground apparatus seen here on Tuesday at Houghtaling Elementary School is proposed for replacement, according to the agenda materials for Wednesday's regular meeting of the Ketchikan School Board. Staff photo by Stock Stockbridge

The Ketchikan School Board tonight will consider a Ketchikan School District request to buy replacement equipment for one of the playgrounds behind Houghtaling Elementary School, at an estimated cost of $57,035.
There are two playgrounds behind Houghtaling. Students and staff at Houghtaling refer to the older of the school's two playgrounds as "Old Rusty" for its age and disrepair.
District Maintenance Director Al Jacobsen wasn't sure precisely when the old playground was installed, but he said in a Tuesday interview that it is at least 25 years old.The current playground has four swings and a main play area with a metal slide and supports and wooden platforms. The metal parts of the structure, painted navy-blue, are heavily weathered, and at least one wooden step shows signs of decay. And the wooden structure built to contain the dirt for the playground is starting to fail, causing some divots in the ground near the edge of the area.
"'Old Rusty' is in desperate need of replacement," explained the agenda item for the equipment request.
The new playground would include a plastic helical slide, a faux-log staircase and a clear 'bubble panel' lookout component, in addition to new swings. Jacobsen said that he's hoping to build the new equipment on a concrete deck, with some "soft surface" layered on top, such as rubber tiles.
The $57,035 cost for the agenda item would cover the expense of procuring the equipment, not the installation of the project. Shipping costs account for about 25% of that, at about $14,253.
"(Houghtaling Principal Michael Cron and I) decided that we were gonna move forward with getting the equipment, so that's what you're seeing on the board agenda right now is the equipment, and then next (fiscal) year I'll have to get a little bit more money from the School Board to do the concrete work," Jacobsen explained. "And then on top of the concrete, just like we did in the other two playgrounds in Clifford and the (Gateway Recreation) Center playground, we're going to get a soft surface put in, as well."
Assistant superintendent contract
Also on the agenda, incoming Superintendent Michael Robbins is asking the board to approve a $164,463 assistant superintendent contract with Interim Superintendent Melissa Johnson for the 2022-2023 school year, District Business Manager Katie Parrott confirmed in a Tuesday phone call.
The contract cost includes a $130,000 salary, $18,330 in benefits and $16,133 in insurance.
Last month, the board voted to create the assistant superintendent position to both help Robbins adjust to his new role starting on July 1 and to help with tasks and topics that have been difficult at the district's current staffing levels, such as staff morale and grant funding. Though the board created the position, Robbins was given discretion to choose whether to fill it and to assign its duties.
Robbins has not been hired yet — his employment with the district hinges on him getting certified to be a superintendent in the state of Alaska by July 1 — but he has been in regular contact with district administrators and School Board President Stephen Bradford since he was offered the position.
In a message to the Daily News on Tuesday, Parrott confirmed that, "in addition to general responsibilities as a leader in district administration," the assistant superintendent position would have "duties in school climate & culture, leadership development, curriculum development, and budget & finance," such as applying for federal programs and grants.
The board also will get a chance to review the district's $42.6 million operating budget for the 2023 fiscal year, which starts on July 1. It will be the first of two public hearings on the district's budget before it is approved.
During the hearing, Parrott will present the details of the budget to the board and answer questions about the choices and assumptions that went into drafting it.
Consent calendar
Two items are on the board's consent calendar besides approval of the minutes of the previous meeting:
•  Renewing the district's tenured contracts, equivalent to 127 full-time employees, at a cost of $14.2 million. The board renews the tenured contracts annually as described in board policy.
•  Approving the Tongass School of Arts and Sciences' purchase of partitions from Alaska Glass Supply for $34,160. The partitions would be for "implementing a hallway/classroom divider project," per the agenda.
Meeting information
Tonight's meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly chambers at 1900 First Ave. There will be time for public comment near the start of the meeting and at the start of the public hearing.