Peters says he can offer the school board leadership

Posted: Thursday, September 25, 2003

William Peters, a credit union executive and former Juneau Chamber of Commerce president, says he would bring strong leadership to the Juneau School Board.

He's one of 12 candidates for five open seats on the board.

"I bring some strong financial management experience," Peters said, noting he's a past president of the nonprofit Big Brothers/Big Sisters in Juneau. "I have a strong community perspective from the volunteer sector, working with Big Brothers/Big Sisters."

Peters said he's worked on nonprofit budgets and knows how to be creative in budgeting to ensure schools are looking at the right opportunities for children.

As a businessman, Peters said, he knows how important the educational system is.

"We need to be creative in our education so we keep people in Juneau. We need to be sure we're offering the right educational opportunities through the high school," he said.

Peters has three children in the Juneau public schools. He's served on the Mendenhall River Community School parent-teacher organization. His impressions of the school system?

"I think we're doing a good job. I want to see us continue to move in the right path, the right direction. I think I could lend a lot of experience to the board," he said.

"I don't know that I come to this with a slate of changes, or a slate of recommendations," he said. "What I see is we are headed into what can be some difficult financial times. I have a concern for our teachers. We need to get the new high school built. We need to keep it in budget."

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.

"I struggle with increased class sizes," he said. "I don't think that's a direction we want to go. Are there opportunities that currently exist in the district that can be re-evaluated and retooled, whether it's at the district level or the facilities level? I can't fathom cutting salaries for teachers.

"Difficult financial situations are a cause for us to be thorough in our fiduciary responsibility to manage the funding. Always, if we're open to change and the composition of this new board is effective, you're going to find new ways of thinking and new ways of addressing our financial situation that will create better situations for our families and our youth."

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.

Peters said he's been pleased with the academic achievement at the schools his children have attended.

"There's a really strong interest from the teachers to push kids to meet their full academic potential, and I want to see that continue," he said.

He wants to be sure teachers have the resources they need. Peters said the district does a good job getting information to families.

"Parents really have the opportunity to shape education," he said. "If we can keep our parents involved in the schools, there's a lot of resources there. Parents play a key role in the classroom and they're a good follow-up for the teachers."

Peters said he supports the planned high school at Dimond Park in the Mendenhall Valley. A team of school district and city officials continues to husband the project through its planning and budgeting stages.

"It can't be whittled away," he said of the new school. "I don't want to see us continually debate what it should look like. We need to get it built and we need to get it built within the budget. I would sure like to see my sixth-grader have the opportunity to be in a new high school."

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



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