By Melinda Munson

Newsweek named Skagway School District (SSD) the best district in Alaska, based on 2021 data from Niche. Skagway City School, the only school in SSD, educates approximately 141 students, preschool through grade 12, in a single school building.

According to Newsweek, “Niche rankings rely on statistics from the U.S. Department of Education, SAT/ACT scores, college readiness, teacher quality and graduation rates.” 

Superintendent Dr. Josh Coughran started his career at SSD in 2000 as a custodian and wrestling coach. By 2013, Coughran was finishing his doctorate when he was named superintendent of the tiny school in Southeast Alaska.

“We have some extremely bright children,” Coughran said, also praising “incredible teachers” and a “visionary” school board. 

Skagway School has free preschool for three and four-year-old students. Coughran said he can’t remember a time before the district’s public preschool. He thinks the Kindergarten Readiness Profile shows the preschool program is working.

“Our kids rank very well. If they’re ready for kindergarten, they’re ready for first grade,” he said. 

According to Coughran, the average teacher salary is $71,183, placing Skagway 19 out of 50. The school comes in 7th for proficiency scores. Per student spending is $27,098, with only five of the top districts spending more per pupil.

“Thank you to everyone that works at, is affiliated with, and supports our incredible school district. As well as the students, whose dedication to learning would not have made this recognition possible otherwise,” said Cory Thole, school board member. 

The Skagway School year ended on May 20, with optional reading and math labs scheduled for June and early July to help offset lost in-person class time due to the pandemic.