By their own admission, the three candidates for the Juneau School Board don't have much disagreement over policy issues.
Ed Flanagan, Dick Monkman and Sally Saddler said they all want to see the school's graduation rate go up and the dropout rate go down; improve test scores and graduation rates of Alaska Native students; and bulk up the district's vocational-training opportunities.
"There is a lot of similarity," Flanagan said. "I think we all have people saying, 'I wish I could vote for all three of you.'"
But they can't - there are only two spots open on the seven-member board on the Oct. 7 ballot.
Where the candidates differ is what issues they emphasize.
Monkman said he wants to make schools more welcoming to the Alaska Native population. Flanagan said he wants to expand vocational training. And Saddler said she wants to find ways to make schools help students figure out what careers they want and how to get there.
Those differences might be explained by the candidates' background. Monkman is an attorney who represents Native organizations and corporations.
"We can't have just an entire group of students who are not welcome and are not working up to their potential," Monkman said. "When you look around the town some of our biggest employers are Native organizations ... and those organizations need leaders."
Flanagan was a former commissioner of the state Department of Labor who now works to fill apprenticeship programs.
Saddler worked as the director of a school-to-work initiative before working as a legislative liaison for the state Department of Commerce.
There also are differences in the candidate's style of governing.
Flanagan said he isn't "afraid to shake things up when they need shaking.
"Any group I'm in or board I'm on, when there's hard questions to ask, more often than not I'm the one doing the asking," he said.
Saddler, too, said she's not afraid of asking "tough questions."
"I ... have a rich background and experience in managing programs, multimillion-dollar budgets, managing them for results," she said. "I want to be part of that team that's out there helping every student succeed."
She said she is recently retired and has time to delve into the district's issues.
Monkman said he sees his strength at being able to build consensus between opposing groups to make the district better as a whole.
"We really have ... lots of pieces that work really well in the district, but it hasn't all come together to be an overall success," he said.
The three candidates added that they thought the school district needs to work on restoring credibility and communicating better with the community.
Contact reporter Alan Suderman at 523-2268 or firstname.lastname@example.org.