Superintendent Beth Lougee ended her tenure with the Ketchikan School District this week.
The School Board formally accepted her resignation, effective April 30, at its latest regularly scheduled meeting.
Lougee, who joined the district as its curriculum director in 2017, had one of the shortest and most remarkable terms as the district superintendent in the past half century — perhaps longer.
The career educator guided the district through two thankfully rare situations that by definition could accurately be described in the least as difficult, but more precisely as potentially disastrous.
Lougee took the district’s helm from Robert Boyle, who had been Ketchikan’s longest-serving superintendent at about 11 years.
Boyle served as the district’s chief executive in June 2018 when the Ketchikan Police Department arrested and charged former culinary arts teacher Doug Edwards with sexual abuse of a student.
As both law enforcement and district investigations came to conclusion and Edwards went to prison, Boyle relinquished the superintendent’s seat and the board asked Lougee to assume the responsibility.
She was the steadying figure through the ordeal as the faces on the School Board changed fairly frequently during the ensuing year and somewhat beyond. She answered to numerous board members and an untold number in the public who supported her— or did not — during her time in the district’s hot seat.
The public might have thought steadying the district after the Edwards furor to be enough of a challenge for any one superintendent’s career.
But, then, in March 2020, the novel coronavirus — the first pandemic in 100-plus years — arrived in Ketchikan, causing confusion, frustration, fear and uncertainty in the community, including and especially the school district.
Through it all, Lougee appeared to be consistent in confronting the challenge day after day, despite the new and never-expected path that she, along with the School Board, district staff and students, had to find and then walk almost blindly and definitely quickly.
It’s tough enough keeping all parties — parents included — content in a year that proceeds smoothly. But, in a year of upheaval, there is no comprehensive, unanimous or lasting satisfaction.
As the district closed, reopened, adjusted student schedules and devised new methods of teaching, criticism of the district and how it didn’t please all in the public landed on Lougee. To an extent, superintendents expect that will be the case.
This past winter, in the midst of what turned out to be an unprecedented and extended evaluation period for the superintendent, Lougee lost her husband, David, to COVID-19 and then contracted the virus herself and missed days from school. She eventually returned to work, relieving acting superintendent Katie Parrot in March and submitting her resignation earlier this month.
Lougee’s departure leaves questions in the public arena — especially after all of the review gatherings in executive session — the answers to which will remain between the board and its now former superintendent. It is a personnel matter.
But whatever transpired or didn’t between the two parties, Lougee leaves the district in a place of strength administratively. The district’s administrative team has a wealth of experience, beginning with Parrot, the business manager, who will resume as acting superintendent until the board appoints an interim and proceeds with a superintendent search.
So, at this point, it is only appropriate to acknowledge Lougee’s unique contribution to Ketchikan School District.
No other local superintendent in at least the past five decades bore such a heavy load, both personally and professionally.
Thank you Superintendent Lougeee for your public service here.