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Michelle Johnston

Posted: September 21, 2012 - 10:55am
Michelle Johnston  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michelle Johnston

Resident of Juneau since 2010. Resident of Ketchikan from 1994-1995 and 2005-2010. Born in Virginia into a military family, was raised in the South Carolina, moved to Utah for college where I lived for 18 years.

Occupation(s): State of Alaska, Department of Professional Licensing.

Family: Mother of five, two adult children and three of school age.

Community service: Tongass School of Arts and Science APC Board, President, Ketchikan, September 2007 to December 2010.

Girl Scouts of Utah, Millcreek Events Director, Salt lake City, Utah, 2002-2004.

Girl Scouts of Utah, Troop Leader , Salt lake City, Utah, 1998-2002.

PTA Board, Howard R. Driggs & Cottonwood Elementary Schools, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1996-2002.

1. What is your highest priority for the school district to accomplish during your term in office? Explain why this change is a priority and how would you facilitate this change.

I do not have a specific agenda. I want to make sure that as we face tough budgetary constraints that the School Board has strong, conservative leadership to enable the best decisions are made for our students as well as our teachers.

2. What would your plan be to address bullying, discrimination, racism, and other equity issues in our schools?

Maintaining a no tolerance, mandatory reporting policy.

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.

Yes, I would support this. We cannot expect young people automatically to become citizens in a well-functioning democratic system, nor should we overlook the powerful relationship between effective, knowledgeable and engaged citizens and the vitality of democratic life.

4. What role should the No Child Left Behind federal testing standards play in the Juneau community’s evaluation of its public schools?

I believe it is one of many measures. While we need to be mindful of the funding which is attached to this measurement, we should also consider that the No Child Left Behind federal testing may not be the best and certainly is not the only measurement of school/teacher performance.

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?

Max. of 20 for elementary grades and 28 for high school

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 believe that arts and music are invaluable within our educational systems. With budgetary constraints we need to look for creative measures and balances to make sure we do not loose these opportunities for our students.

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?

Yes, I believe a student who cannot pass the High School Qualifying Exam should be required to attend a class created to specifically target basic reading, writing, and Math. The class should not replace core learning , but be held as a mandatory elective which would compliment their core learning. Additionally, there are several great programs in Alaska created specifically to target the needs of students who require additional help to pass the HSQ exam. We should look to and learn from the approaches other Alaska school districts have taken.

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?

I believe our schools should play a supporting roll. It is important that we keep support staff in place to back up our teachers and provide our students with the outlet they need when issues arise. Additionally, many school districts have been successful in creating crisis intervention teams with their teachers and support staff to be prepared for emergency situations as they arise.

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?

I believe that when funding needs to be cut, we should take a “tighten the belt” reduction approach across the board rather than slashing whole programs and staff. Their will be extremely difficult funding decisions to make over the next several years and we need strong leadership to make sure we are able to keep a balance in our education.

10. What measures would you suggest to increase Juneau’s high school graduation rate?

We need to expand our vocational programs and thus give students we have the potential to loose an incentive to stay by providing them the opportunity to receive an education which will provide them tools to be successful in their future. We need to further foster relationships with UAS to provide these opportunities.

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