Now is the time! This year's election for the five school board positions is pivotal. We are fortunate to have excellent candidates and we need to pay close attention for whom we vote this Oct. 7. Our state's financial woes mean difficult times are here. Teacher morale is very low. A teachers' strike is very possible by early November. I know from personal experience that a strike has a long-lasting negative effect on a community and leaves scars that sometimes never completely heal. Teachers have always been well-regarded and supported in this community as highly competent and dedicated professionals. The community needs to continue that support in order to provide the best possible learning environment for our children.
We need to elect competent, informed people who understand educational systems, who know our teachers and the issues from personal experience, and who can project a sense of openness, respect and fairness. This is critical for the mental health of the school district. The school board will have difficult decisions to make. It is important that they project an image of fairness and support for teachers, students and education. Cutting programs and eliminating teaching positions is not the answer. A campaign emphasizing previous school board experience alone is just not good enough.
Alaska Natives represent 22 percent of the school district's population. Their disproportionate rate of underachievement is so critical that it has been one of the district's strategic plan goals for some time. Phyllis Carlson is an excellent choice for the board because of her extensive knowledge base in Alaska Native education issues. In addition, Phyllis' warmth and sense of fairness will provide a conduit for all families to communicate their concerns and needs.
I believe Rhonda Befort and Andi Story are an excellent combination of scholarly talent and professional education experience. They have years of service in the trenches with activities such as serving on site councils and working with special needs children. They would bring to the district creative ideas to seek additional funding sources such as working with the Legislature for increased educational funding and pursing grant monies. They would help re-establish solidarity once again in the Juneau School District by giving the educational community the support they need and deserve at this pivotal time.
Remember just because you have five votes, does not mean you have to vote for five. Vote for only those you feel strongly about. The top vote-getters fill the positions. Not voting for somebody you do not feel strongly about is effectively a "no" vote. To the contrary, giving a candidate your vote and not feeling strongly about the person is still giving that person your vote. We want the best candidates to win. Vote for only those candidates you want to see on this school board. The Juneau School District deserves it and needs it.