Brodersen says his short term on board was worth it

School board member may serve into August before leaving for college

Posted: Wednesday, June 25, 2003

A June high school graduate who is resigning one year into his three-year term on the Juneau School Board said it is still worthwhile for voters to elect students to the board.

"It is definitely a concern," said Carl Brodersen, who will attend Whitman College in Washington state this fall. "What you have is people finally getting into the swing of it and leaving just as they learn to swing. But it is important to have multiple ages (on the board), and the number of high school students running is rare, so you don't have to be overly concerned about it."

Brodersen, 18, was elected in October 2002 and said he may serve into August. The board is expected to appoint a replacement to fill his seat until the Oct. 7 city election.

Brodersen is the second high school senior elected to the Juneau School Board in recent years. Dan Peterson, then 18, was elected in 2000. The board includes seven elected members and a non-voting high school student.

During his campaign, Peterson said he would attend the University of Alaska Southeast and has done so. Brodersen said the Empire has misstated what he said during the election campaign about staying in Juneau if elected. Brodersen said he always maintained he might attend college Outside.

"What I said is I would consider staying," Brodersen said recently. "There are many factors you have to take into account."

Not only young people leave the board early. In 1999, Joe Cladouhos resigned in the middle of his second term to move to Anchorage, and David Reaume left after serving nearly all of his first term to move to Washington state. Stan Ridgeway won election to the Juneau Assembly in 2002 after serving one year of his second School Board term.

Still, Brodersen leaving the board after 10 or 11 months raises the question of whether voters will want to elect 18-year-olds, whose futures are more fluid than those of older people.

Mike James, last school year's student body president at Juneau-Douglas High School, said the issue highlights a problem: The non-voting student position on the board is short term but powerless, yet a student motivated to run for an elective three-year term also would be likely to want to attend college Outside.

It takes a while to learn the board's procedures, how the school district is administered and what the educational issues are, said current and former board members.

"I feel that I really hit my stride somewhere toward the end of my first year," Peterson said. "That's when I felt I had more to contribute at meetings and signed up for more (board) committees."

Former School Board member Carolyn Spalding had served on several school district committees and school site councils before being elected. Nonetheless, she said it took her a year to get up to speed on the issues.

"It took a year to get through the full cycle of the business of the district, so things weren't such a surprise," she said.

"Dan is a very bright guy and he listens very attentively," said Ridgeway, whose term overlapped Peterson's on the board. "When he engaged, what he had to say was very insightful and useful. But he was very quiet the first year. I was very quiet the first year. A lot of people are."

When young people run for the board, they often say the board needs a student's perspective. Brodersen said in a recent interview that he saw himself as a voice for students.

But when students get elected, they discover they need a broader view.

"The real threshold difference between when I was a candidate and a person on the board is there's a real perspective that comes in," Peterson said. "When I was on the board, I had to consider the whole school district. Just dealing with the whole picture was the big difference."

Students also learn that change is a slow process.

"It's very hard to get things done in every policy-making body because there are so many checks and balances." Brodersen said. But, he added, "It's better than having one person deciding everything."

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