Anchorage School Board candidate Q&A: Marilyn Stewart (Seat B)

The Anchorage Daily News asked candidates for Anchorage School Board to answer a series of issue questions. Read all of them here.

MARILYN STEWART | Occupation: Semi-retired | Age: 61 |

1. Why are you running?

I believe that it as crucial that our children return to school safely and soon. I want to make certain that our education system serves our students well and they are getting the best possible results for our education dollars.

2. Why are you qualified to serve as an Anchorage School Board member?

I care deeply for our kids. As a dedicated public servant, I have worked at every level of government. Non-white students makeup roughly 58% of the school district students. The minority is the majority. I witnessed firsthand the progress that can happen in our school system when all children are given an equal opportunity to succeed. As a veteran, I will bring the dedication, discipline and a willingness to listen in my role in providing representation for all especially for our children. I am not an educator, but I have the RIGHT heart and the RIGHT attitude to do the RIGHT thing.

3. What’s your vision for education in Anchorage?

Working closely with parents, teachers and students to make certain that we are getting the best possible results for our children’s education. And that the education system serves our students well.

4. How would you rate the school district’s performance during the pandemic — protecting public health, delivering quality education services, serving the community? What specifically would you have done differently?

It hard to say what I would have done differently. The world as a whole was not prepared to handled the pandemic. So, I think the school district did well. I believe it is crucial that our children return to school safely and soon. I continue to support the School District Administrative Policy and Procedure for virtual learning through computer-generated options, homeschooling and those parents who have selected to send their kids back to school.

5. What do you believe is the single most important issue facing the Anchorage School District? How would you address it if elected?

Returning our kids to school safely and soon. I would continue to work closely with the guidelines of CDC and health officials. Most importantly, our teachers must have input and be a part of the single most important issue facing the Anchorage School District, which is the pandemic.

6. If I could change one thing in the Anchorage School District, it would be _____. Explain.

Returning our kids to school safely and soon and making certain that the Anchorage School System serves our students well across all ages, faiths and races.

7. Do you have areas of concern about student achievement in the Anchorage School District? What are your specific suggestions for improvement?

Yes. Summer school, restoring PTA meetings district-wide, an aggressive outreach campaign targeting parent involvement. Special emphasis on reading, math and writing.

8. What are your thoughts on the current and proposed Anchorage School District budgets?

Eighty-seven to 97% of the ASD budget goes toward personnel. With the reduction in student allocation due to the pandemic. I have some concerns.

9. Are there specific curriculum changes you would advocate? Describe them and the reason you want to see a change.

There are no specific curriculum changes that I would advocate for at this time. However, I am open to recommendations and suggestions from others that would like to see specific curriculum changes etc.

10. The school district used distance learning extensively over the past year. Once in-person classes fully return, would you like to see continuing or additional distance-learning options offered?

Yes. The priority is to educate our kids.

11. Does Anchorage need better preschool options for children? If not, what are your suggestions for improvement?

Yes. This is where our young people’s learning starts and their educational foundation is established.

12. What steps should ASD take to improve its career and technical education curriculum?

At this time, I am not familiar with ASD’s career and technical education curriculum. However, if improvements are needed, I will work closely with ASD board members to make the necessary steps of improvements. I care for our kids and I want them to have the best future possible.

13. Achievement gaps persist in the Anchorage School District among economic, racial and ethnic groups of students. What would you do to address the gaps and what should the district do to close them?

I would like to work with the Anchorage School District, teachers and parents to make certain that the ASD, teachers, principals and others represent the diversity of our schools. Minorities are now the majority, therefore our schools, classrooms and curriculums should reflect this. The Anchorage School District places 97th as the largest school district in the U.S. regarding diverse students. Non-white students makeup roughly 58% of the Anchorage School District. I will work hard to ensure that the school system serves all our kids from across ALL ages, faiths and races.

14. Are you happy with current class sizes in the district? Would you suggest specific changes?

No, I am not happy with the current class sizes. Students cannot learn in a packed classroom. It is impossible!

15. Are you happy with current school start times and the length of school days? Explain.

Yes, and I believe our kids are happy with the current school start times also. Furthermore, school start times and lengths of school days should center on the adaptability of the kids.

16. Is the Anchorage School District currently doing a good job of retaining quality teachers? What steps, if any, should the school board take to improve teacher retention?

I believe that the Anchorage School District is doing a pretty good job of retaining teachers. But there is always room for improvements. We probably should look at who is qualified to recruit “good teachers.” How does the Anchorage School District identify “good teachers,” from bad/average teachers? They are not doing a good job in recruiting minority teachers. I would like to see an aggressive outreach campaign/recruitment of minority teachers.

17. Please discuss your commitment to transparency and open government as it relates to the school board and Anchorage School District. Would you push for changes?

I am totally committed to transparency and open government. When it comes to government as it relates to the ASD, I believe in 100% transparency. We work for the people.

18. What other important issue would you like to discuss?

No answer provided.