Story familiar with schools as a parent and volunteer

Posted: Friday, September 26, 2003

Andrea "Andi" Story, a volunteer in the schools and a mother of three schoolchildren, says she would bring knowledge and a parent's perspective to the Juneau School Board.

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

Story served on the site council at Auke Bay Elementary School for three years and has been on the Juneau-Douglas High School site council for four years.

"I know the lingo. I know what accountability plans are. I know what groups are struggling. I'm aware of programs at schools that I feel the board should be supporting and hear more about," Story said.

The school board is the liaison between citizens and the school district, she said.

"I get out with other parents, and I know what they're looking for from the schools. I feel that's so valuable to have that home/school connection. The research is kids will make it if parents are involved."

Story cited, among the school-based committees she is familiar with, a task force at the high school that is working on making ninth-graders more academically successful. Among the suggestions are having homerooms, so that students will have one adult who can mentor them over four years.

She also cited efforts to create a better social climate at the high school.

"You want every kid to walk into school feeling safe and welcome and included, and they're not," Story said.

Story said her impression of the Juneau schools is that "we're very lucky. I think everything is in place here in our school district to have an excellent school system."

"I think the experienced staff tries really hard, and I think the administration is trying to use our dollars wisely," she said. "I think what's happened is we have a lot of unfunded mandates, which take time. Funding has not kept up with the cost of living."

Story said part of her role on the school board will be to advocate for more state funds for schools. She's lobbied lawmakers in past years.

"I want to make parents and our community aware that the Legislature really wants to support education. They're looking at a tough budget situation. ... It's going to take a grassroots effort from the public to contact their elected officials and let them know we want more resources to go to education," Story said.

The next school board is likely to have to approve a new teachers contract. A nonbinding arbitration is scheduled for early October. In addition, the school district anticipates a budget shortfall of $3 million next school year. Story said she would look to preserve the pupil-teacher ratio in budget cuts.

The school district has five formal strategies, which deal with student achievement, Native and other minority student success, healthy behaviors, ensuring a good staff, and communicating with families. The Empire asked candidates to comment on them.

Story said children from Native families with resources do great in school. A larger percentage of Native students than non-Natives does poorly because of poverty, Story said. "We need to find resources to support those families," she said.

Story also advocated for more culturally relevant school events and to incorporate Native culture in more classes, such as Native games in physical education, or reading Native authors in English courses.

She also said it was important for the schools to communicate more with parents, particularly in the middle schools and high school. Not every parent has e-mail, and the daily or weekly newsletters from elementary-school teachers drops off in later grades, she noted.

Story recommended schools organize more student performances, because parents turn out for those, or evening computer labs, to attract families.

Story said the school district needs to pay teachers well and should consider ending the school day early at times so teachers can work with each other on the best teaching practices.

Finally, Story said she was a strong advocate of the planned high school at Dimond Park in the Mendenhall Valley. A joint school district and city committee continues to plan the school, scheduled to open in 2006.

"I think it's crucial," Story said. "It goes back to positive climate ... and I think that students will achieve more."

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