By DAN FOX
Thirteen-year Skagway math teacher Dottie DeMark is slated to shift roles at the school during its next academic term.
Superintendent Dr. Josh Coughran said DeMark will be working with support for special, gifted and talented education. She will also become the district test coordinator and distance learning coordinator.
“I think one of her talents that she has is part of that community outreach,” Coughran said.
Coughran also mentioned the possibility of reaching out to the homeschool community, and setting up on-the-job training programs.
“I really see her being able to flourish in that role, especially with the connections that she has in the community and creating opportunities for kids,” Coughran said.
Coughran said the move is not a disciplinary measure or demotion of any kind.
“We are just shifting her into a different department and looking to go in a different direction with math,” Coughran said.
DeMark approached the Skagway School Board at its Feb. 21 meeting to speak to the change.
“I am opposed to that action,” DeMark said. “I would request that the board consider it carefully and hopefully come to the conclusion that this change is not in the best interest of the students or the school and should not be enacted.”
DeMark told the board that she’s never refused to come early or stay late to help a student. She added that her students learn what she teaches and enter college or their chosen career field well prepared from a math standpoint.
“I have a passion for math,” DeMark said. “I enjoy teaching it, I want to continue teaching it.”
Coughran said he wants to pursue higher-level math courses in the high school, which would include advanced placement courses. Incorporating more technology, and getting on the cutting-edge of instruction, is another goal.
“What outweighs anything in my mind is my obligation to the students of this school and the parents of this community to provide the very best that I can,” Coughran said. “That’s always at the heart of any decision that I make when it comes to this sort of thing.
“I believe that in this shift, we’ll achieve that.”
Cochran said he understands the transition will be a difficult one, and that he wants to recognize DeMark for the years she’s taught math to Skagway students.
“It is obvious that her impact has been wide and it has been really impactful for a lot of our students, and I don’t want to discredit that at all,” Coughran said. “I want to put that up on a pedestal, and I think that she’s done a fantastic job over the years.”
Skagway teacher Kent Fielding spoke in support of DeMark at the Feb. 21 meeting, and read several letters from her former students – out of a stack of 20 – which supported her and her current position as math teacher. During her own comments to the board, DeMark questioned whether or not interrupting the “consistency” the students have enjoyed during her 13 years of teaching math would be harmful to their education. She also said the change could have a negative effect on staff morale.
“On a personal level, this has hurt me very much,” DeMark said. “It’s a feeling of not being valued for what I do, and I would hate to see others be put in that position.”
Board President John Hischer thanked DeMark for her work as well, saying that he’s heard amazing things about her students and what they’ve learned.
“Anytime teachers say there’s low morale, that concerns me,” Hischer said. “I want us to talk about that, and know that you are supported. But I also want to support our superintendent in making decisions about the staff that he sees best for the school.”