Resident of Alaska and Juneau for 16 years. Born April 19, 1984.
Education: High School Diploma.
Occupation(s): Computer Technician.
Community service: I have been serving on the KTOO Board of Directors since 2010, and am an active volunteer for KXLL. I helped found the “Friends of the Skate Park” Community Advisory Board, and have organized fundraisers for several local and international nonprofits, both with Captial City Rotaract, and independently.
Other experience: I’ve been a computer programmer and technician in this town for the past several years. I’m also a product of the Juneau School District. I have helped coordinate several nonprofit ventures in my adult career.
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.
We need to implement technology as an assistive aid to our teachers. Juneau is behind other districts statewide when it comes to embracing and implementing technological changes. According to Jim Davenport, a systems analyst for the Anchorage School District, they have seen an overall time savings of 15 to 20 percent after switching Human Resources and Special Education to a paperless Enterprise Content Management. If we are going to continually ask staff to do “more with less” we need to streamline this process. As the only candidate who is a product of the Juneau School District, and a current computer technician I feel that I am able to uniquely identify these problems and possible solutions.
2. What would your plan be to address bullying, discrimination, racism, and other equity issues in our schools?
I feel that bullying has been adequately addressed in District policies, specifically in 5560 and generally covered in 5510. As for racism, I think it may be time to implement what parents and committees have been asking for over the past decade: a specific board policy regarding racism, and perhaps an HR officer to immediately respond to claims of racism. We see a majority of the kids in our “Early Scholars” program go on to college, yet according to the United Way’s “Indicator Trends Report” we are still witnessing a Native Alaskan dropout rate that is constantly about twice that of the JSD dropout rate. This is an issue that needs immediate addressing.
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.
We currently have regional affairs, American history, and world history as part of our middle school curriculum. In both high schools, we offer Alaska Studies as an elective, both World and American history as requirements, and Government for our seniors. While I feel that the Social Studies Curriculum Guide could use an update, given our current fiscal situation and forecast, I would be against adding any major classes to the program. I am a product of this School District, and feel a great debt of gratitude for my teachers sparking my interest in Civics. If Laury Scandling hadn’t arranged an internship with Senator Kim Elton for me, I don’t know if I would be as passionate as I am today.
4. What role should the No Child Left Behind federal testing standards play in the Juneau community’s evaluation of its public schools?
With Alaska being already being granted a partial waiver, and applying for a full waiver on September 6th, I feel that the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development’s three point plan will best address the requirements and standards of Alaskan Students. The state has already implemented phase one; its college and career-ready standards. According to the state’s waiver application, changes to the annual Standard’s Based Assessment will be occurring in 2013. Phases two and three, which handle accountability, support, instruction and leadership, are being drafted to not only meet federal standards, but to do so while understanding issues unique to our state.
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?
I feel that somewhere between 20-1 and 22-1 is about the optimum range. My main concerns is that the way we calculate our PTR is fundamentally flawed: it doesn’t take into account specialists and support staff, both of whom influence the teachers ability to manage classes, and both specialists and support have been prone to staff reductions. With the cutting of these positions over the past three years, I think that the PTR paints an unrealistic image of how our classrooms are being managed. Younger students and students with special needs are obviously going to need more direct support, and we are doing them and those that educate them a disservice by simply relying on one figure for calculations.
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?
Juneau is a close-knit community with a high percentage of artists and musicians. I imagine the rain and lack of an exit route gives people the impetus to express themselves creatively. Unfortunately we have been under-funded for several years, and this year doesn’t look to offer much in the way of changing that. Last round of budget cuts affected the arts disproportionately, with all elementary schools losing a .5 full time equivalent, and the loss of an arts specialist. Short of the city and state increasing the BSA, I really don’t know what is left for the District to do. I feel that the JSD has had to play a forced hand over budgeting in the last few years.
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 board went to great lengths in the last several years to address these issues, adding dropout specialists, a high school qualifying exam teacher, and a truancy officer. Unfortunately, the majority of these positions are already gone. We desperately need them back. The BSA allotment and State budgeting are done on a year-by-year basis, which tends to hurt these specialty programs disproportionately. I think it is unrealistic for us to try and have a practical discussion on addressing these issues, if anytime the board makes headway on an issue; the programs are immediately in jeopardy come next budget season.
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 think that schools should be as engaging as possible. Encourage students to come to a safe, healthy place to learn, and keep the parents engaged and a part of the process. I feel that regardless of what is going on at home, the vast majority of families recognize the importance education plays in the development of an individual.
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 think now is a great time to start implementing the heavy-lifting capabilities of technology. We need to couple enterprise content management with assistive teaching technology. We simply can’t cut our way back to efficient, quality teaching. If Anchorage can save 15-20% time via ECM, there is no reason that we shouldn’t also see that benefit. Assistive teaching technologies will also have a time-saving benefit. Teachers could then use this time to do their most important task: teach. I think that also as a community, we need to push for reform regarding education funding. I cannot see us continuing on this path of gambling year to year with the legislature and the governor on our children’s futures.
10. What measures would you suggest to increase Juneau’s high school graduation rate?
I feel that the “Next Generation Plan” is a great idea, as it is theme based and allows the students to be proficient in not only core skills, but to excel at their passions and interests. If we fine-tuned it somewhat and brought back the positions regarding truancy and dropout specialists, we could be on the fast track to improving our dropout rate. Statewide, Alaska has had a tough time grappling with its dropout rate, and I am confident that when point three of the Department of Education and Early Development is implemented, that we should an increase in High School Qualifying Exams and a reduction in the dropout rate throughout the state.