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Carlson transitions into new role with state

Former rural education director now coordinating Parents as Teachers program

Posted: August 25, 2012 - 11:12pm
Phyllis Carlson  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Phyllis Carlson

Phyllis Carlson is having a busy year.

After serving as the state’s first director of rural education within the Alaska Department of Childhood and Early Development for nearly three years, Carlson is now the inaugural holder of another new position at DEED, that of Parents as Teachers program coordinator.

“It’s a new program to the department, and it was just funded this past legislative session,” said Carlson Friday. “What we will be doing is trying to expand the number of PAT programs throughout the state.”

The Juneau resident is also running for reelection to her school board seat.

According to its website, Parents as Teachers was founded in Missouri during the 1980s, and now has affiliates in all 50 states as well as in several other countries. It provides an educational curriculum and model for parents of young children.

“It is helping parents become involved in understanding child development — the early years, and how important they are. It gives information about those zero to five years,” Carlson explained.

Many PAT programs also provide a forum for parents to meet and discuss their children’s development, sharing advice and operations, Carlson said. Some also provide health and developmental screenings for children, she added.

“So it’s a pretty comprehensive program, and it is focused … on having children and families be school-ready,” said Carlson.

The Anchorage-based nonprofit organization Rural Alaska Community Action Program, Inc., or RurAL CAP, currently administers the most PAT programs in Alaska.

“We have 18 Parents as Teachers programs serving 428 children and their families,” said Kristin Ramstad, RurAL CAP’s PAT director.

Carlson spent much of her week out of town, meeting with Ramstad and other RurAL CAP officials about their programs, Ramstad said.

As Carlson and her staff gather proposals from organizations that wish to receive funding to operate PAT programs, Ramstad said RurAL CAP will be among the applicants.

With state funding, Ramstad said, “We are hoping to expand our Parents as Teachers program here in Anchorage.”

Carlson said the department has about $500,000 to award to successful applicants for implementation of PAT curricula.

“In their first year, they need to become an affiliate of the national program,” Carlson said of the grant recipients. “We want high-quality work and, you know, staff preparation, et cetera. And so the national group has already established those high-level benchmarks.”

On top of her new duties with the DEED, which she assumed July 1, Carlson is also running for reelection to the Juneau School District Board of Education.

Carlson expressed confidence that she can manage those obligations simultaneously.

“I think I’ve managed to find the balancing act between work and serving my community in terms of education, and I think that works because one, my children are out of the school system, so I don’t have that responsibility,” said Carlson. “And two … my passion and my interest, both at work and off work, have always been to make sure our educational system is all it can be for all kids.”

Carlson was first elected to the school board in 2003.

This year, Carlson and four other candidates are vying for three seats on the school board. Andrea Story, vice president of the board, is also seeking reelection. Destiny Sargeant, Will Muldoon and Michelle Johnston are also seeking seats on the board.

The election will be held Oct. 2.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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