School Board elections: Ridgeway says board experience has taught him reality of moving issues ahead

Posted: Monday, September 17, 2001

When Stan Ridgeway was first elected to the Juneau School Board three years ago, he had spent the previous year attending its meetings. But it's not the same on the other side of the desks.

"The reality of sitting in the seat is not anything as cut and dried as you think from the outside," Ridgeway said in an interview last week. "Almost everything is a negotiation. If you don't have four votes, your issue fails."

Ridgeway and School Board President Mary Becker are running in the Oct. 2 city election for the two open seats on the seven-member School Board. The terms are three years.

"I feel like I've learned a lot, and there's a long way to go and there's more I'd like to accomplish," he said.

Stan Ridgeway

Age: 53

How long lived in Juneau: 11 years

Family in Juneau: wife Margie; son Rhett Ridgeway; daughter Kelsey Baptiste.

Education: Bachelor's degree in vocational education from Auburn University in Alabama, and a master's in rehabilitation administration from the University of San Francisco.

Public offices held: Member, president and vice president of the Juneau School Board.

Occupation: Deputy director of the state Division of Insurance.

Interests: Running, collecting and rebuilding autos, traveling.

Ridgeway, who served as the board's president for part of his first term and now is vice president, said the board's successes in his first term include working to get a bond proposition passed to renovate Juneau-Douglas High School and build a new high school at Dimond Park. Those improvements will provide an adequate and safe environment for students, he said.

Among other board accomplishments, Ridgeway cited an added vocational teacher at JDHS and new contracts with employee unions.

"One of my goals in all of these negotiations was to get everyone on the same cycle," he said, so that one union wouldn't be bargaining during a year when the district had extra funds, and others were negotiating in lean years.

He also cited the School Board's decision several years ago to increase teaching staff by about 25, using added state revenues and savings from early retirements. The school district reduced the number of teachers this year by about 10 because enrollment declined.

The most recent increase in state funds this year went toward pay increases for teachers. Ridgeway said it was time for that.

But Ridgeway said state funding isn't enough, given students' deficits in math and English, as shown on benchmark tests in grades three, six and eight, and on the high school exit exam.

The high school needs smaller classes and more remedial classes so struggling students can meet state standards, he said.

"They've passed mandates, and we have to meet these mandates, and (legislators) have to pass the funding to do it," Ridgeway said.

Ridgeway also said he'd like to see the School Board work on its relationship with the Juneau Assembly.

The city now gives some money for after-school activities, which fall outside of the state-mandated cap on local funding. But there are other expenses in the school budget that the city could pay for outside of the cap, such as leases for the charter school and the alternative high school, he said.

So far, the school district has helped students meet standards by aligning its summer courses and regular curriculum with the standards, and by buying new textbooks, Ridgeway said.

But Juneau faces the same problem as the rest of the state - a higher dropout rate among Native students than among whites, and a disproportionate number of Native students who aren't proficient on standardized tests.

Ridgeway said some programs for Native students, such as Indian Studies in the grade schools and Early Scholars at the high school, work well because they rely on parents' involvement. The Early Scholars program prepares Native students for college.

"I think it makes a big difference in our Native student learning process. These are programs we know are working and we need to expand them," he said.

The School Board also has been looking at issues of bullying and harassment, which may affect minority students, he said.

Eric Fry can be reached at

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