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Phyllis Carlson

Posted: September 21, 2012 - 10:53am
Phyllis Carlson  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Phyllis Carlson

Born and raised in Alaska, resident of Juneau for 35 years.

Education: BA Sociology.

Occupation(s): Preschool Teacher/Fisherman/Education Program Manager/Director Vocational Training Facility/Director of Rural Education & Coordinator of Parents As Teachers at EED for State of Alaska.

Family: Husband, Jan; daughters, Marit & Anya; son in law, Michael; and grandson, Ryker.

Community service: School Board Member: Past President/Vice President, Chair of Committees; UAS: Campus Council, Advisory for PITAAS, (Past) MAT; JSD: Site Councils, Booster Clubs Community: Board Member of Communities In Schools, JAMHI, (Past) Kids Voting, United Way, Juneau Youth Service, Homeless Coalition, Mayor’s Task Force on Youth, School to Work Advisory

1. What is your highest priority for the school district to accomplish during your term in office?

Ensuring each and every student achieves a minimum of one year of academic growth annually and graduates with skills and knowledge to be successful beyond high school. I would continue to work with the board and administrators to align limited resources with our most effective practices (using MAP test data to diagnose areas in which students need more instruction, fostering professional learning communities to identify successful instructional strategies, intensifying the professional development and coaching of all staff, encouraging family/community connections.) Many of these instructional changes are being implemented and I believe we are at a critical point in which to stay the course to see the benefits of these strategies on student learning.

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

We have been working in our district for a number of years to address these issues through updating policy and through an Equity Committee that is developing guidelines of best practices. This is an area that calls for continued professional development and intolerance of such behaviors.

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.

This is of importance to the district but given the current budget, I would not promote a required course. JSD incorporates these aspects in a variety of ways: through clubs, activities, and service learning in required courses such as Government and US History. Students have the opportunity to participate in student governments, serve on site councils at the secondary level and hold a seat on the Board of Education. They also do projects for their whole school, community or segments of it with a focus on community service. The schools implement curriculum and discussions around major elections and open the doors to candidates to give students the opportunity to question them and hold mock elections.

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

NCLB is a law and a means for the public schools to show accountability for the resources they receive from the Federal Government. Accountability is important although the NCLB reports are not very meaningful nor does it really show the progress students/schools/districts have accomplished. The state has applied for a waiver so that assessments are more reflective of the progress schools are achieving. JSD uses the MAPS assessment tool which gives the district and individual students, a more accurate measure of where they are on a national comparison and if we are making progress on district and individual goals. JSD also developed student standards that match the national standards a couple of years ago.

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?

Pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) is an important factor in learning, although the quality of teaching has been shown to have a greater effect on student success. Keeping the PTR low at the youngest grades is most important. Until this year, we’ve been able to maintain a 21:1 ratio at K-2 for several years, even as other class sizes rose. This year PTR again increased by one and this trend will continue if the revenue side is not increased. JSD has eliminated nearly 100 jobs in the last three years and it is challenging to maintain services without raising class sizes. This is a statewide issue that we as school officials need to work on collectively. We know it’s a priority for families.

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 am a strong supporter of the arts/music programs. For many students the arts and music is a means to learning academic content. Life without art, creativity or music is unthinkable. JSD has had a program to help mentor all teachers, particularly at the elementary level, in how to integrate the arts into the academic goals. In this past year of budget cuts, choices regarding resources for supporting staff and programs had to be made. I support any opportunity we have to incorporate the arts/music and our community, which has much to offer in this arena, to partner with JSD in many ways to enhance this need. Glacier Valley staff comprehensively made the arts a cornerstone in their teaching.

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?

The district is required to provide special classes to students who aren’t passing the HSQE. The bigger issue is making sure we intervene much sooner and that we know our students well enough to know that they have not been receiving adequate instruction. With the MAPS testing process JSD has incorporated into its assessment tools, we are able to determine each student’s level of proficiency and more importantly, each student is able to tell where their current level is and where they need to improve. The schools also offer before and after school tutorial programs through the district and with community partners.

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?

One of the things that is very important to our schools/district is the partnerships of expertise we have with the community. We have several groups that work within the district that address some of these concerns and they are very important to the learning process so we do need to continue to develop appropriate resources/partners. Things the district can promote are tutorial programs, incorporate technology such as ipads and laptops, breakfast clubs, snacks, extra-curricular activities, internships where appropriate, advisory program, college prep programs such as AVID, postsecondary campus visits, summer bridge programs, big brother/sister programs, teen health clinic, counseling, etc.

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?

We need to continue to work smarter. Our district leadership has been looking at ways to do this through examining how we do business, where there is duplication and finding more efficient ways to accomplish the district goals. We also need to work collaboratively to accomplish all the same goals and learn from practices that have proven desirable outcomes. The district leadership has been working toward combining personnel roles having systems in place that help the staff work more efficiently, such as improvements in the technology system and evaluation processes.

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

Start early. Interventions should be happening in a proactive way, identifying those students who are struggling to stay engaged. Early intervention and routinely monitoring is an important drop out preventive. Literacy skills in early primary grades is an area I support and with a district wide approach. We need to reach/teach for all students and understand what is it that they need to succeed. We have to believe all children can learn, maybe not at the same rate or from the same starting point. The CARES program demonstrates the importance of flexibility for students life needs as some students need to work during the day and evening courses are a solution for them to be on track.

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