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Voters will have a field of 12 candidates to consider for the five open seats on the seven-member Juneau School Board.
Three of the five open seats are for the usual three-year terms. The three candidates with the most votes win those seats. A fourth seat is for two years, to complete the term of board member Carl Brodersen, who resigned this fall to attend college out of state. The candidate finishing with the fourth highest number of votes will fill that seat. The candidate finishing fifth fills the one-year balance remaining from another truncated term.
Alan Schorr, a 12-year veteran of the board, and board president Chuck Cohen are seeking re-election.
The 10 new prospects are Phyllis Carlson, 53, a program manager for Educational Programs; Sam Guthrie, 39, a finance program analyst for the Coast Guard's civil engineering unit, Lee Kadinger, 23, an assistant wrestling coach at Juneau-Douglas High School; Bill Burk, 57, a taxi driver with a master's degree in special education; Andi Story, 44, a JDHS site council member; Megan Mayron, 27, who moved to Juneau two years ago and works at the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association; Bill Peters, 37, vice president for Alaska USA Federal Credit Union; Rhonda Befort, 31, an employee of Arbitre Consulting; Julie Morris, 43, the special assistant to the director for the state Division of Public Assistance; and Dave Williams, 52, Administrator Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services.
Many of the candidates are parents of school-aged children. They all share a passion to participate in a very demanding arena of public service.
The League of Women Voters/Juneau Empire Voters Guide published last Sunday provided a review of each candidate's background and their perspectives on meeting the daunting challenges the school district faces.
Topping the long list of challenges is an anticipated $2.9 million funding deficit for the next school year. Added to this are tough decisions the new board will face on compensation for teachers and staff, along with a big hike in the district's contribution to the teacher's retirement plan. Teachers have begun this school year without a contract.
Other factors confounding the funding problems relate to the unfunded mandate encumbered in the No Child Left Behind Act and other federally directed but insufficiently funded requirements such as the special-education law.
The new board must also address the growing challenge of recruitment and retention of quality teachers, the need for better nutrition in the school lunch program and the enormously complex issue of planning and programming required of the transition to two high schools.
Juneau taxpayers have opened their wallets time and time again in support of education to fund a new high school and renovation and improvement of existing schools. They will be asked to do so again next Tuesday as they weigh in on Proposition 2, a $7 million bond qualifying for state reimbursement to fund long overdue improvements at Floyd Dryden and Harborview elementary schools.
Fortunately, 12 individuals have stepped forward to serve. Amid the field are a sufficient number of qualified candidates to fill the five vacancies and set a fresh, new course for the school district.
The choice voters will make next week is eminently important to the future of education in Juneau. Each candidate should be evaluated on the basis of leadership, vision, financial acumen, dedication to the time commitment, collaborative skills, diplomacy and the ability to climb a steep learning curve.
Make your voice count, please take a few moments to vote next Tuesday.
Voters can view candidate profiles online at: www.juneauempire.com/votersguide