Lee Kadinger says he will be committed to the Juneau School Board if he is elected.
He's one of 12 candidates competing for five open seats on the seven-person board.
Kadinger cited these tasks: "Doing what it takes to get the funding we need for schools, new technology upgrades for every school in Juneau, better (pay) packages for teachers and getting the new (high) school built so it doesn't have to come to a vote in another two years with another $30 million tacked on."
Kadinger said he would bring the board his experience as president of his college student body and his involvement with Boy Scouts, where he has worked on budgets and grant writing on a scale admittedly smaller than that of the school district. He was assistant wrestling coach at Juneau-Douglas High School last school year.
"I've always been a big believer in working on a team," Kadinger said. "If the School Board, administrators, teachers, parents and kids aren't all on the same page, it falls apart. Everybody needs to be working together to a common goal, and that's not going on right now."
His impressions of the Juneau schools?
"What I see is a school system that's built something great, and it doesn't get updated," he said, referring to facilities and computers.
"In today's world, technology is everything," from the cars we drive to the equipment on fishing boats, he said. "It's all progressing. We can't regress by saying 'We're not going to fund this, we're not going to fund that.'"
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.
Kadinger said class sizes are important to him.
"It's difficult to expect every kid to learn to the best of their abilities when they're having distractions," he said.
"We need to make our teachers happy. We went from being one of the top-paying states in the nation to 10th or so. I think our expectations should be high, as well," Kadinger added.
He said the state needs to increase education funding.
"We need to do something to raise money, rather than cut the budget and hack it to pieces," Kadinger 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.
Improving student achievement should take place in all the grades, Kadinger said. Students shouldn't be preparing for the high school exit exam, which they must pass to graduate, in the 11th grade, he said.
"A big part of that is going to have to be family involvement, at even a higher level than normal," he said.
Students' participation in sports can be a way to require study halls and tutoring, he added. After-school activities keep students involved in school, and are an opportunity for parents to encourage their children, he said.
Of healthy behavior, Kadinger said the school environment is important.
"Environments do wonders, but they can also cause the biggest pain. You have environments that are not the best-suited for learning because they're so filled with kids," he said.
Smaller class sizes can help teachers establish relationships with students in which they feel free to report bullying, he added.
To encourage more parent involvement, the schools should create programs in which families work with teachers, he said.
"Families are so important," Kadinger said. "I deal with families every day. The families that are more involved, in any part, whether it be after school or educationally, the better the student's going to do."
Kadinger said a high school at Dimond Park in the Mendenhall Valley is essential to the longevity and success of Juneau, economically, culturally and socially.
Eric Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.