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Four of five School Board seats settled

William Peters leads Alan Schorr by 4 votes as of late Tuesday night

Posted: Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Voters on Tuesday filled four of the five open seats on the Juneau School Board, but the fifth seat was too close to call.

The clear winners on Tuesday were Andrea "Andi" Story with 4,882 votes, Phyllis Carlson with 4,054 votes, Julie Morris with 2,928 votes and Rhonda Befort with 2,926 votes.

But William Peters, in fifth place with 2,536 votes, barely led Alan Schorr, who had 2,532 votes.

At least 630 questioned ballots and 251 absentee ballots, as well as some faxed and mailed ballots, have yet to be reviewed. The accepted ballots among them won't be counted until Friday, city officials said.

The margin between Morris and Befort is significant because the top three vote-getters will win full three-year terms. The fourth-leading vote-getter will serve for two years to complete the term of Carl Brodersen, who resigned after one year.

The fifth-leading vote-getter will serve just one year. That person will complete the term of former member Stan Ridgeway, who resigned two years ago to take a seat on the Juneau Assembly after serving one year of his second term on the School Board. The second year of the term was filled by Paul Gulyas, a temporary appointment, until this year's election.

Schorr is the lone incumbent with a chance to be re-elected. Incumbent Dan Peterson didn't run again for the board - he was elected to the Juneau Assembly instead. And incumbent Chuck Cohen tallied 2,249 votes Tuesday, in seventh place.

Juneau resident Mike Pilling, who voted for Story and Carlson, said he didn't vote for the incumbents because he was concerned that the School Board has brought several bond packages before the public in recent years but doesn't seem to have a long-range plan that's "endorsed by all the players." The School Board has given the impression it's above the public process "and we're paying the bill," he said.

Story, 44, is a homemaker with three children in public schools. She has served on the Juneau-Douglas High School site council for three years.

Story said Tuesday night at Election Central at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School that voters were "really concerned about more positive relationships between the board and the school staff. They're hoping we can start fresh and get that teacher contract going."

The election may place five new members on the seven-member board. The new board still must approve a contract with the teachers, who have threatened to strike, for this school year. And board members go into talks about next year's budget anticipating a $3 million deficit.

Carlson, 53, works with Native education programs for Tlingit-Haida Central Council. She could not be reached for comment Tuesday night. Two of her children were educated in the Juneau public schools.

Befort, 31, has a preschooler in the public schools and a 1-year-old child. She is contracted to assess people for eligibility for Medicaid waivers.

Befort said Tuesday night that she heard a lot of support from voters for a new teachers contract. Teachers are seeking 2 percent raises, among other issues.

"We're looking at a strike and we need to definitely settle that so we can continue with our education for our children" she said. "And (teachers) need our support."

Morris, 43, works as the special assistant to the director for the state Division of Public Assistance. She has five children, three of whom are in public schools. Morris is a certified teacher and has been an activity therapist working with emotionally disturbed students in Juneau schools.

Morris said one of the first tasks for the new board is to develop a business plan for operating the planned Mendenhall Valley high school.

Peters, 37, is the former president of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce and Southeast vice president for Alaska USA Federal Credit Union. He has three children in the public schools.

The first order of business for the new board is "to get a handle on the teacher contract and start taking a real hard look at the (planned) high school to make sure we're on track and on budget," he said.

The other tallies as of Tuesday night were Dave Williams with 2,141 votes; Sam Guthrie with 1,882 votes; Megan Mayron with 1,641 votes; Lee Kadinger with 1,207 votes; and Bill Burk with 943 votes.

• Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.com.



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