End of an Era as School District Superintendent Comeau Retires
ANCHORAGE - She began her education career helping elementary children cross the street. Four decades later, Carol Comeau is retiring as superintendent of the largest school district in Alaska.
It's a bittersweet ending for the Anchorage School District's longest-serving superintendent:
"I went into education because I hoped to make a difference for kids, and I think I have,” said Comeau. She's been working to improve one of the country's most diverse school districts.
Comeau says her secret is to be approachable. She personally answers every email that comes her way, an average of 500 a week. “There were many people very surprised that I actually answer my own email and that I didn't delegate that to my secretary,” said Comeau. “It helped me keep track of the trends, what were the issues, they weren't filtered.”
Comeau has had her share of disappointments. School bonds have failed and the state refused to give more money per student this year - flat funding that's led to tough cuts like getting rid of some teachers and summer school. “That's going to impact directly the kind of education students are getting and that's I don’t think that’s right,” said Comeau back in January.
But she has scored victories too, like religious blackout dates to make sure Jewish cross-country students didn't have to pick between sports and religion. She was criticized for creating girls' flag football to fulfill Title IX rules. “I was harassed and booed and hissed because, well, there [are] no college scholarships,” said Comeau. “People were saying, how could I do something so stupid, and it was amazing the first year it was over 300 kids.” They’re wins in small battles but they're all for Anchorage's kids. “I'm very proud that our graduation rate keeps going up,” said Comeau, who gives all the credit to her staff.
“I've had such a honor to be the superintendent of a district that has really remarkably hardworking employees, that really care about our students.”
Comeau said she wants the focus to be on the future. “I'm ready to turn over the leadership to younger people and to the younger generation, but if we don't do our job right in the public schools then they are not going to have the opportunities.”
And as she says her final goodbyes, she says it's up to the community to continue her work. “It’s been a great ride, it really has, but I’m really excited about what’s next.”
Comeau and her husband are looking forward to moving to Bellingham, Washington to spend time with their 3 kids and 5 grandkids and a long awaited and first-ever trip to Hawaii.
You can help celebrate her official last day Saturday at North Russian Jack Springs Park, which is being renovated in her honor from noon to 2 p.m.