As a member of the Juneau Board of Education, I appreciate the Juneau Empire Editorial Board’s suggestion of adding another person to the negotiating team. It is important for our community to know that although there are only three individuals who sit at the table during collective bargaining sessions — the superintendent, the Juneau School District administrative services director and the human resources director — that team directly represents the Board of Education.
The Juneau Board of Education is made up of seven longtime residents, some of whom are Juneau graduates and all of which have students or graduates of the Juneau School District. We have friends, family members and neighbors who are students, staff members and stakeholders. It is our duty to approve fair contract language and make responsible financial commitments that both support our staff and lead to improved student achievement.
Four years ago, the Board of Education adopted a strategic plan. This plan is designed to build our capacity to prepare Juneau’s students to graduate and be ready to compete on a global scale.
As a result of the strategic plan, learning standards are now higher, new curriculum materials have been chosen by teachers to support literacy and math instruction, and district-wide training is in place to provide continuing education for our staff. We know that the most important factor in student learning is the instructional quality of teachers.
Although lots of our students are successful, there are still too many we are failing to reach. For this reason, it is critical that our system continues to seek new ways of working with students we know are very capable of growth and success. As a public school system, it is our responsibility to teach every student.
Much progress has been made toward the board’s instructional priorities under Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich’s leadership. The graduation rate this year went up from 70 to 79 percent. Graduation rates for student populations we have historically struggled to serve, such as Alaska Native students, went up even more significantly, from 50 percent to 71 percent. This is thanks to the excellent work done by our staff at all levels.
Despite cutting $11.7 million and 100 jobs over the past three years, the school board is unwavering in our pursuit of creating a world-class school system. The board values our teaching staff as well as the educational offerings available to our students. The board has made a commitment to increase student achievement with the revenue given by our state and city governments, while continuing to advocate for resources. The board is working to come to an agreement with the teachers union that is fair to our teachers and will serve our community’s children well during the next few years.
• Andi Story is a longtime volunteer in the Juneau schools and is serving in her tenth year on the Juneau School District Board of Education.