Juneau School Board: Carlson's strengths come from parenting, school service

Posted: Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Phyllis Carlson, who administers a federal Native education program that places staff in the public schools and who has participated on several school district panels, says her highest credential for the Juneau School Board is her experience as a parent.

"I'm committed to education. It's a family value," she said.

Carlson has served on school site councils, booster clubs and school district committees that set strategies for the school year. She's a member of the Juneau Effective Prevention Program - an anti-alcohol, -tobacco and -drug program - in the schools and the community.

"I think I'm a team player," Carlson said. "I have listening skills. I've been an advocate for parent involvement and student achievement and improved student performance for a long time."

As a manager at the central council, she said, she also has experience working with other managers in a team setting.

Her impressions of the Juneau schools?

"I think that overall in comparison to the state, Juneau is considered a leadership district with many talented teachers and usually ahead of the pack with new ideas," she said.

Carlson cited the district's piloting of the Fast ForWord language program, the Tlingit- oriented classrooms at Harborview Elementary and the house structure at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School.

But, she said, "I think that we still have achievement gaps for groups of students. We still need a lot of communicating to parents about the (academic) standards."

Parents must advocate for their children, but they need to know what children at each grade level are expected to learn and should know how to do, Carlson said.

The school district has five formal strategies for 2003. The Empire asked candidates to discuss some or all of them. The goals are to increase student achievement, increase Native and minority student success, increase healthy behaviors and attitudes, ensure the best staff and communicate with families better.

Carlson, who has worked on committees that set the strategies and searched for ways to implement them, said it could be a deeper process, with greater involvement at each of the schools. The resulting plan should drive the school year and the budget, she said.

"If the plan is done in a more participatory manner, some of the answers would come from the families," she said.

"If we built around each school and community that looked at itself, what they can control, what they know of the student body, and came up with strategies for their own buildings, perhaps the answers would be more relevant and pertinent to the buildings," she said. "You lose interest if you don't see yourself in something."

School district officials anticipate they will face a $3 million deficit in next school year's budget, barring changes in state funding. The teachers don't have a contract yet for this school year. The next school board is likely going to have to make some hard choices.

Carlson said the strategic plan, which states what is important, should guide the school board in setting the budget. The board also should ask teachers how they can do their work more efficiently, and bring out their creativity, she said.

Carlson also said she supports the planned high school at Dimond Park.

"I'd like to see all students being able to achieve their potential," she said. "We need to have expectations of excellence for all so they can prepare for their futures, and see themselves in their curriculum and the meaning of having an education.

"I think that's a basic right that we owe to our kids. I don't think we're meeting that standard for all of our kids. Far too many are getting lost. Very often we teach to those who are easiest to reach."

• Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.com.



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