A former teacher and teachers' union leader has joined the Juneau School Board race as a write-in candidate.
John P. Greeley said he is running to bring competition to the race and because he thinks a high school student who is a candidate has a conflict of interest.
Only three candidates are certified to be on the ballot for three open school board seats: Incumbents Alan Schorr and Chuck Cohen, and Juneau-Douglas High School senior Daniel Peterson.
Greeley said Peterson's intentions are laudable and he isn't running directly against the student. But Greeley said any high school student on the school board would have an ethical problem voting on topics that affected him, such as discipline or attendance policies or curriculum.
Peterson, if elected, would serve about seven months of a three-year term while being a high school student.
"It is, in my view, a conflict of interest a clear-cut one," Greeley said. "Teachers cannot sit on the board."
Greeley said he wouldn't have a conflict himself as a former teacher because his decisions about teacher compensation or working conditions wouldn't benefit him directly.
State law prohibits school board members from being employees of the school board.
City law says municipal officers, which include school board members, don't have a conflict if their personal or financial interest in the matter is insignificant, or is of a type possessed generally by the public or a large class of people the officer belongs to.
Conflict of interest issues are usually specific to a particular vote, said City Attorney John Corso. The issue often depends on how small a group the officer belongs to benefits from a government decision, he said. "If it affected all students, or everyone in the senior class, it probably would not be a conflict."
Corso said he'd have difficulty concluding a JDHS student could not serve on the school board.
Peterson said, "I don't think of it as a conflict of interest, so much as a coincidence of interest. As a student I want the best education you can get. And as a board member I want all students to get the best education they can get."
Peterson said people tell him "it's about time someone on the inside came and made a contribution to the process and spoke to the interest of students."
Carl Rose, executive director of the Association of Alaska School Boards, said he didn't think a student would have a conflict.
Greeley, 56, taught English in Juneau middle and high schools for 26 years before retiring three years ago. He was twice president of the Juneau Education Association, the teachers' union. He now owns an Internet tourist-related advertising site. Greeley the candidate is not the KTOO staffer with a similar name, John Greely.
Peterson's candidacy isn't the only reason Greeley is running.
"Obviously, I believe that I've got the experience and knowledge to serve on the board," he said.
Greeley said his experience as a labor negotiator would make him effective on the panel.
He said he strongly believes in student performance standards and assessments, but thinks teachers should have "great latitude" in how to achieve that. He's also concerned about parental involvement, Native cultural curriculum and teacher pay.
Greeley said he expects to raise some funds for his campaign, but not more than $2,500. He hopes to be asked to attend candidate forums and will run newspaper ads.
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