School construction, renovation, standards at top of Greeley's list
How long in Juneau: 29 years.
Family in Juneau: Wife Suzanne. Three grown children were educated here.
Education: B.A. degrees in English and education from Western Washington University; most of the work toward a master's of education administration at UAS.
Occupation: Owns an Internet advertising service.
Public offices held: Former president Juneau Education Association.
Interests: Builds furniture.
School construction and renovation is the most salient issue facing the Juneau School District, says school board candidate John P. Greeley.
He favors local ballot propositions to fund school renovations, and he'd like to see the school board lobby the Legislature for more state construction funds.
Greeley, a retired 26-year teacher and twice president of the Juneau teachers' union, is a write-in candidate. He joined the race after only three candidates signed up for three open seats. Greeley the candidate is not the KTOO staffer with a similar name, John Greely.
"I am extremely familiar with board policy, procedure and protocol," Greeley said of his years in education.
Performance standards and tests are a big issue for Greeley. He substantially agrees with the process so far and supports adequate remediation for students who are doing poorly.
Greeley said he favored a rigorous curriculum throughout his teaching career. He also believed in a leveled instructional approach, which allows teachers to target the instruction to a narrower group ability level. Without it, they teach to the 70 percent of students in the middle and lose students at either end, he said.
Greeley experienced a rigid tracking system when he was a student. He favors a looser approach, with parental overrides and students allowed to move among the levels.
Greeley said he supports the concept of charter schools. Juneau has one, and the school board turned down two applicants last school year, citing the lower state funding for charter school students as a partial reason.
The candidate said a charter school proposal should be evaluated on whether it truly educates children and doesn't negatively impact the district's resources. Charter schools shouldn't replace regular public schools, he said.
Greeley wants to see a more careful, measured approach to developing curricula. He cited a math curriculum that needed to be redone several years ago, and the revisions to the most recent social studies curriculum during last school year.
"Too often in the past we've tended to make, for want of a better term, knee-jerk reactions in areas of curriculum," he said. "We've sensed or perceived there was something wrong and we must do something. Too often it's anything."
Greeley also is concerned with hiring and retaining qualified teachers, which he said seems to be connected to compensation. Classroom instruction is the No. 1 priority in setting a budget, he said.
"The budget should be constructed in such a way that instruction is at its core," Greeley said. "We're in the business of teaching the children of the community, and that needs to be preserved at all costs."
Asked about what the district can do to improve the academic achievement of Native and other minority students, Greeley said it was tough to answer.
"I think we can do more. Inclusion of minority coursework, or units, in the schools is a good idea. Because it does deal with their contribution to this community, and that should not be overlooked," he said.
He also supports vocational classes. "It has dismayed me for many years the gradual de-emphasis on vocational courses. I would certainly like to see those things come back."
Peterson a supporter of alternative, gifted programs and charter schools
How long in Juneau: 13 years.
Family in Juneau: Parents and a brother and sister.
Education: Senior at Juneau-Douglas High School.
Public offices held: None.
Occupation: Works part time for an accounting firm.
Interests: Hiking, reading.
Last year, Daniel Peterson was looking for a school project that involved community service. His school program was dropped, but he's still interested in public service.
Peterson, a senior at Juneau-Douglas High School, is one of four announced candidates for three open seats on the Juneau School Board. The others are John Greeley, Alan Schorr and Chuck Cohen.
"There's certainly a decent education to be found in this community," Peterson said from his perspective as a student.
"You have to be willing to work for it, to look for it. We could work harder to keep the system more flexible with alternative programs. With a lot of programs, you have to work to fit yourself into the mold," he said.
Peterson said he supports alternative programs and charter schools.
"They allow for certain specialties, like a Native-oriented elementary school," he said, referring to one proposal the school board rejected last school year.
"I think there's certainly a function for certain schools like that. There is a wide diversity of students and learning styles. Not everyone's learning style is universal, and charter schools can provide an opportunity to exercise other means of learning," Peterson said.
Along those lines, he supports the school district's programs for gifted students and for students who struggle with English. Advocates for those programs have asked for more specialized instruction.
Peterson said he was in the gifted program in elementary school and part of middle school.
"I had some mixed feelings about it. It was a good experience to have one class one period in the day that was a quicker pace, more in tune with what I would be looking to learn," he said. "On another level, it can be alienating."
Peterson said vocational courses are an important alternative, as well, but are just one of many subjects that need expansion.
"I think we've reached an adequate level for vocational education. I don't see a particularly strong need to expand the program more than other programs," he said.
Peterson said the state's new high school exit exam, which sophomores took for the first time last year, will need to be followed up with courses to help students who didn't pass.
"One of the advantages of a new tool for measuring where students are at is it allows us to identify where the students are having problems and which kids, so we would get a better focus for kids having trouble," he said.
Peterson said he's not sure courses specifically geared toward passing the test are the most thoughtful way of helping students. But he didn't have other ideas.
The school board has heard from Natives, during a charter school application, who felt the district hasn't done enough for struggling students. One of the district's goals is to improve Native and minority success.
Peterson said that's a hard question to deal with.
"It's very difficult to say either way with that what specifically can be done," he said.
Peterson supports a proposed new high school and ballot propositions that would fund school renovations.
"It's a very crowded situation in the high school right now. We need to be able to alleviate that problem," Peterson said.
"The maintenance and renovations are certainly necessary. It doesn't do much good to have a school with a high-tech computer lab if there's rainwater dropping on it," he said.
Peterson said he feels "pretty confident" he'll serve out the three-year term if he's elected. He plans to enroll at the University of Alaska Southeast after graduating from JDHS.