Bidding for Alyeska not in district's best interest

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, November 09, 2003

I read with trepidation Wednesday about the Juneau School District voting to bid to operate Alyeska Central School. This is a major undertaking which requires careful planning and budgeting.

During the past several elections, I have supported school bond issues which would raise the CBJ bonded indebtedness higher than ever before, almost to legal limits. I understand there is some question whether the state of Alaska will reimburse 60 to 100 percent of these facility capital expenditures as in the past.

I have read in the Empire that the Juneau School District is approximately $3 million underfunded for the current year. While I don't know the exact circumstances that led to this deferral of maintenance and lack of insightful high school facility planning until it reached critical situations, I know the financial circumstances do not bode well for the quality of education in this community and my status as a property taxpayer. Further, they may be indicative of ineffective past planning.

The state of Alaska sees continuing to operate Alyeska as a "no-win" situation financially and they have studied the situation. I would feel more secure in undertaking the Alyeska adventure if the School Board comments on the proposal as reported in the paper had been more positive.

The president abstained because she "has graded papers for Alyeska in the past." I don't see the connection between that and the need to make definitive statements of leadership in accepting, securing and undertaking the Alyeska challenge. Alan Schorr seemed to have the most handle on the situation and even he called it "a financial crapshoot." The only outspoken support came from parents whose children would benefit from the program staying open and having proximity to the teachers, and support making Alyeska a charter school.

The charter school potential is a "red herring" which would add an administrative and even financial burden to any local school district assuming operations. Given the economics of the Juneau school system, the pressures from the federal government to implement the standards of the "no student left behind program" with little federal funding, and the financial and program challenges for the School Board and Juneau education system, bidding for operating Alyeska is not in this community's best interest and may be even detrimental of our current quality of education.

Jerry Madden


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