ANCHORAGE -

Nearly half of the teaching and administrative staff of a Ketchikan technical school resigned Wednesday, citing “lack of respect” and failure of leadership from the tribal community.

In a letter to the Ketchikan Indian Community Tribal Council, five of the 13 staff members at KIC’s Southern Southeast Alaska Technical Education Center tendered their resignation.

Each of the five staff signed a letter addressed to KIC Tribal Council President Irene Dundas. In the letter, the group wrote that it had become apparent that “leadership at the Ketchikan Indian Community does not value the importance of following policy in relation to supervisors and employees.”

The letter went on to say the “lack of respect and appreciation” for employees over “the last two months” left them with no choice but to “walk away rather than bear responsibility for the dismantling of the programs” that have met KIC members’ needs.

“It is very difficult to work under conditions where experience, education, knowledge and commitment is undermined, professionals are treated with disrespect and dismissive actions, and overall, given very little support,” said one former employer in a personal resignation letter.

“Without leadership that supports our educational vision and direction, our efforts are meaningless,” wrote another employee who resigned.

Some of those resigning cited 20 years of employment with KIC, while others appeared to only have been there for about one year.

The SSEATEC center has operated for two years, seeing about 100 students each year. The jobs now vacant range from education director and program coordinator to classroom teacher and grant writer.

In the letter, the group said their departure means “the programs currently in place will not be able to continue,” but KIC Executive Director Chas Edwardson said that’s not the case.

Edwardson said SSEATEC would “absolutely not” need to close or cancel any classes as a result of the departure. He said a 10-student, 8-week construction class will begin as scheduled on Saturday Mar. 8. Another class of 11 students will start later in March without delays, as will the course for commercial drivers licenses, he said.

“Classes are up and running and we’re running full throttle,” Edwardson said. “No changes, no delays.”

In a phone interview Friday, Edwardson also read a statement from President Dundas thanking the former staffers for “exemplary service to the tribe.”

Edwardson would not comment on the leadership issues raised by the employees in their resignation.