Resident of Juneau for 26 years. Born in Olivia, Minnesota on April 2, 1959.
Education: Bachelors of Social Work, Moorhead State, Minnesota 1982.
Masters of Social Work, San Diego State 1990.
Family: Spouse, Mike Story, daughters, Ellen and Mallory, and son Ryan.
Community Service: Auke Bay Homework Club volunteer, Thunder Mountain High School PTO volunteer, REACH S.T.A.R. Program Advisory Board Member, Juneau Early Literacy Council member.
Other experience: Elected and 3rd year Board Director for Association of Alaska School Boards (AASB), Juneau School Board Legislative Liaison, School Board liaison to Indian Student Parent Advisory Board; and to AB, DHMS, MRCS and TMHS Site Councils.
1. What is your highest priority for the school district to accomplish during your term in office?
My priority is student learning; all children successful readers by 3rd grade, and making one year, or more, of personal growth each year. Often Boards get side-tracked on issues, so keeping the focus on student achievement is key. If kids don’t do better, it affects the rest of their lives, they live with the results.
New elevated standards have been adopted. I will be monitoring implementation and professional training to staff, vote for budgets that allocate materials needed to deliver instruction; support an assessment system that monitors student progress on national level ; monitor Principal training on quality instruction and teacher evaluations, so they are meaningful and helpful; require explanations to parents, and community on curriculum and ways to help.
2. What would your plan be to address bullying, discrimination, racism, and other equity issues in our schools?
The District has a strong anti-bullying policy. This fall the District is preparing to adopt anti-bullying curriculum for the three high schools. The elementary schools and middle schools use anti-bullying lessons. The Board receives a Discipline report regarding incidents at each level. This is closely monitored to make sure lessons are happening with fidelity, and interventions are immediately given. A new data requirement verifies teacher participation in trainings.
The Board adopted in November of 2011 the first equity policy. There has been a committee working on equity standards which the Board will look at in October. The intent is to ensure that equity is evident throughout the district. I will support these standards, their implementation and staff training.
3. Would you support a mandated course in Civics and Social Studies to empower students to understand and participate in society and government? Please explain why or why not.
In today’s world, understanding democracy is so important to preserving the unique government that we have. In Juneau, each high school student has to take one year of American History and a half year of American Government to graduate. I support this graduation requirement, and believe a new mandated class is not needed. The district had a review of the civics education core curriculum, I support the recommendations; ensuring that lessons and experiential civic activities are indepth and challenging and civics education is apparent throughout our K-12 curriculum (i.e. current events, visits to the Capitol, requirements for student attendance at government meetings, mock elections). Monitoring, fidelity, alignment and support of the curriculum is needed, not a new course.
4. What role should the No Child Left Behind federal testing standards play in the Juneau community’s evaluation of its public schools?
Accountability is important. NCLB is one tool that is required for compliance, but there are more relevant and helpful tools to assess how our students are doing in relation to learning. In Juneau we are focusing on how our students are doing using the MAPS assessment and other indicators, like attendance. Unlike the NCLB test, with MAPS, schools get the student assessment results within 42 hours and teachers can adjust their instructional practice relative to student learning needs in real time. The MAPS is used nationally so we can compare our students to the progress of students in the Lower 48. I agree with the waiver that the Department of Education is asking from NCLB.
5. Considering budgetary constraints as well as educational concerns, what do you believe is the optimum pupil-to-teacher ratio for Juneau, and how would you work to achieve or maintain it?
This was my top priority when first on the Board. Years later, and after exhaustive study by the Gates Foundation and other experts, I’ve learned that the only in school factor that fully correlates to student achievement is quality of teaching. While small class size is desired, it’s not the silver bullet, attention to teacher quality is.
It is optimal to have K–3 with a lower class size than 4th and above. Stable Legislative funding is key to lowering class size. It will take public pressure, staff support and public relations plan directed at the Capitol to do this. I will continue to testify, and rally state-wide parents, school boards, business and community members for a stable budget plan.
6. What is your position on the value of arts and music programs for students, and what steps would you take to implement that position?
I highly value the arts and music programs. I see the data on academic growth and confidence gained by students who participate. I support continued budgeting for the elementary music grants, and elementary specialists. I support adding back one elementary art specialist, art teacher time at high school and music to keep up with student requests. There is much art and music expertise in our community. I support a focused committee effort to plan for consistency for our integrated K–12 arts and music programs. I will continue to advocate at the Capitol for a stable budget plan, it will take all of us speaking out.
7. What additional programs should be developed to assist high school students having difficulty passing the High School Qualifying Exams? Would you be in favor of offering specific classes in reading/writing and math that would target these students?
Due to our data system, the district knows each student not passing. The teachers in the student’s core classes work to strengthen the areas the student needs. There are built in extension times during the school day that students must attend, for extra instruction, taught by their current math and/or English teachers.
Extra instructional supports have been added, outside of the school day. There are qualified math teachers that are available to tutor students after school. Sealaska has helped with after school classes. C.A.R.E.S. exists to help students with credit recovery and mastery of Core subjects that students have not passed. There are a number of opportunities on-line, like www.tutor.com. I will continue to support these efforts in the budget.
8. Health and family problems impact the quality of the classroom experience. In your opinion, what should the school district do, if anything, to address such problems?
The district should continue to fund school counselors to support students and families and be working to strengthen community partnerships for easy access to services. Education on suicide prevention, depression, health and positive communication from their counselors and other school curriculum builds up our children’s health, character and problem solving skills. Many agencies and service groups work with our schools: providing healthy breakfasts; the Assembly paying for transportation costs for homeless students; and business donations to support volunteer drug testing program. I would like to see the Governor and Legislature fund school nurses through the Health and Social Services budget. For many families the school nurse is their only provider and they are an essential service at school.
9. Given that the school district will most likely face a fourth year of budget cuts, what approach would you suggest to live within available resources and with legislative funding uncertainty?
Nothing, nothing is more valuable than the development of our children. It is our most important resource in Juneau and Alaska. I am confident that the Governor and legislature will realize the importance of a stable funding plan for public education. I will continue to work for funding certainty with our elected officials and parents and community members. Staff is working hard to identify and find efficiencies. The Board is working to evaluate programs for effective budgeting. Fixed costs continue to go up, so if flat funding, cuts may be unavoidable. I will work within our budget process to keep the cuts as far away from the classroom as possible.
10. What measures would you suggest to increase Juneau’s high school graduation rate?
Pre-school and early learning. Help parents understand that if children start school behind, it is hard to catch up. Use radio ads, publicity and partnerships on importance of early childhood reading and talking with children. Support early interventions.
The majority of children who leave school are not connected with a teacher/staff/counselor, or activities like music/arts and/or sports, or have some family, health issues. Encourage increased opportunities for student engagement and involvement. Gather student feedback to make sure classes are relevant to life after high school. Expand technology instruction, hands on learning, and maintain career related pathways and electives. One size instruction does not fit all, support AVID ( Advancement Via Individual Achievement) and C.A.R.E.S. (Credit Achievement Recovery & Employability Skills).