School board candidates voiced their opinions on how successful Juneau grads are and what needs to be done to improve at a forum held at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday.
Candidates Kim Poole, Ivan Nance and Barbara Thurston are vying for two open seats. The two with the most votes get spots on the board.
Candidates were asked how successful the school district is at producing non-college track kids with marketable skills.
Poole responded with a question: What skills is the district giving students to go on to college?
"There are a lot of kids coming home after their first year (of college) because they weren't prepared," she said.
Poole suggested everyone should go to a vocational-technical school before continuing on with a career goal.
Thurston agreed the district isn't meeting many of the students' needs.
"For the group not planning on going to college, we need to beef up the vocational education," she said. "We have a few (programs). We have kids coming out who aren't prepared to go into the trades."
Thurston said while students may not want to go to college at age 16, they should have the skills necessary to continue their education a few years later should they decide on a career.
Nance said the Chamber and community need to get more involved to better prepare students for wherever they go.
They also were asked what they would do to expand after-school programs for at-risk students.
Nance said the upbringing of youth is a joint responsibility between schools, parents and the community.
"It has to be an engagement in all three elements," he said, suggesting there be more open communication from the school district presenting specific volunteer opportunities.
Poole said after-school programs are expensive and families are responsible for paying for them. She said there are many who can't afford to allow their students to participate, so more donations and sponsorships of students is needed. Poole said as a business owner she helps when she can and notices other do too.
"If we expand to the degree and the level that we need to keep the kids off the street, it's going to take all of us," she said.
Thurston said the programs available are good, but agreed with Poole that funding is an issue.
Candidates were also asked what one thing they would bring to the board that would make them a better choice.
Thurston said she's been actively involved with the district for many years, attending board meetings and school site meetings. She said she can jump right in and already knows the issues.
Nance said he brings a slightly different perspective and analyzes things as if they are business propositions.
"I'm good at finding the important facts and analyzing them," he said.
Poole said she has a degree in education and, while she chose not to get the teaching certificate, she volunteers in a classroom, has managerial experience with her own business, has compassion from her experience as a pastor and encourages consensus. She said she believes a 4-3 vote is not a decision and more work needs to be done in cases like that.
Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at email@example.com.
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