Candidates in Oct. 7 election face JDHS students' questions

Teachers' raises, second high school among the issues students raised

Posted: Thursday, September 25, 2003

Juneau-Douglas High School students want to know whether teachers will get raises, why a second high school will be built and why the city supports a third lane on the Douglas Bridge, among other issues.

On Wednesday morning, students from history and government classes questioned candidates for the Juneau Assembly and Juneau School Board in the school commons. They rotated among the candidates, who came and went as their schedules allowed.

"OK, gang, welcome to your Wednesday morning civics class," mayoral candidate Dick Knapp told a group of students. "Don't let (candidates) go until you get an answer."

Brianna Gunderson, a 16-year-old student, asked the three School Board candidates present at the 8 a.m. start whether it was intelligent for the board to give administrators raises.

The board has authorized the same sort of raises to teachers that it gave to other staff last spring, a step up on the salary schedule. The schedule rewards employees with higher pay for an added year of experience or further education. Teachers have asked for an increase in the pay rates on the schedule, as well, and negotiations have not produced a contract.

Candidate Sam Guthrie said the bigger question was why teachers don't have a contract this school year.

"How can you expect the school district to make cuts if the administration did not?" he asked.

Candidate Dave Williams said: "It's very important that we pay well so we get good people."

Candidate Rhonda Befort said the teachers contract should be negotiated.

"I see how many hours they put in at work," she said. "They put in far more than 40 hours a week."

Students such as Heather Dillon, who will soon be 18, asked why a second high school will be built.

At Wednesday's forum she registered to vote, although not early enough to vote in the Oct. 7 city election. Part of her motivation for registering is to vote in the future for School Board candidates. She's concerned about issues such as teacher contracts and the new high school.

"I think there should just be one (high school)," she said in an interview. "I think the money that went into this school (for the JDHS renovation) was a good thing, but I think they should have gotten the opinion of what we wanted, not just the parents."

Guthrie said he doesn't think the city should build a new high school. He would have preferred to build an annex to JDHS.

But other candidates said local voters approved bonds for the school after years of discussion, and the task now is to build it within its budget.

Assembly candidate Dan Peterson, whose term on the School Board is expiring, urged students to register and vote, because they'll have to live with choices about their community that are made now.

"A lot of young people don't vote," he told students. "Eighteen- to 20-year-olds have the lowest vote there is. Part of that is people want to be listened to. If they're not, they don't feel they have a stake in the process."

• Eric Fry can be reached at

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