Across-the-bay principal heads to central peninsula

From teaching four grades to being principal of two schools, Sheryl Hingley has had her hands full since moving to Seldovia in 2006. Now, Hingley has decided its time for a change. When the 2013-2014 school year begins, Hingley will be principal of two other schools in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District: the elementary school in Sterling and the school in Cooper Landing.

“To provide more employment opportunities for my husband and to be on the road system” is the reason behind the move, said Hingley of relocating to an area on the highway, rather than being dependent on air and sea. Her husband, Monty, is currently Seldovia’s fire chief.

Born in Punxsutawney, Pa. — where every Feb. 2 the famed ground hog predicts whether spring is just around the corner — Hingley earned her bachelor’s degree at Asbury College in Kentucky and her master’s degree from Leslie University in Cambridge, Mass. After relocating to Seldovia, she earned an administration degree from the University of Montana in Missoula.

With 25-years teaching experience in Montana, Hingley had decided it was time to “go to a place I’d like to go to visit.”

Enter Seldovia.

“It looked like a beautiful place to come to,” said Hingley.

After interviewing online, being offered and accepting the position of teacher for grades four through eight, she and her husband packed their belongings into a truck and their 20-foot Smoker Craft and headed north. 

“It was actually a pretty cool experience to come in on a boat and see the whole community,” said Hingley of their arrival in Seldovia. “Montana is landlocked, so the ocean thing is a whole new experience for me, which I’ve really enjoyed.”

Another first for Hingley was flying in a small plane. That opportunity came the first time she had to attend a school district administrators’ meeting.

For her second school year in Seldovia, Hingley’s duties expanded to include being principal at Seldovia’s K-12, 43-student school, and have expanded since then to being a regional principal for Seldovia and the K-12, 19-student school in Port Graham.

 “One day a week I fly to Port Graham, weather permitting, and then, weather permitting, I fly home,” she said of her commute.

Once in Sterling, her schedule will be similar, with driving one day a week to Cooper Landing, road conditions permitting, and then driving back to Sterling at the end of the day.

While in Seldovia, Hingley’s mother has joined her and her husband. The Hingleys operated a gift shop in Seldovia for a time. They have five grown children that live in communities across the United States. 

While at Susan B. English School, Hingley has seen the beginning of work force academies that draw students from other across-the-water schools in the district to Seldovia for two weeks of career technology classes.

“We’ve done welding, construction, woods, electrical, plus we’ve done first aid, some computer tech classes, movie-making and we’re going to be doing robotics this year,” she said.  

The process to find a new principal for Seldovia is underway. Dr. Steve Atwater, district superintendent, will be in Seldovia for a public meeting April 8; interviews will be held April 30.

Drawing from her experience, Hingley said, “This position requires someone to be a people person and a good listener because you’re relating not just to students, but to parents and the community and the city and all the different entities. Even though it’s a small town, there are lots of different entities that are involved.”

The Hingleys plan to make their move out of Seldovia in July.

“(Seldovia) is sort of like a scenic adventure. It’s beautiful. I like the small-town atmosphere,” said Hingley. “It’s going to be difficult leaving, but I’m excited about going.”

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at