Anchorage School Board candidate Q&As: Are there specific curriculum changes you would advocate? Describe them and the reason you want to see a change.

In advance of the April 6 Anchorage municipal election, the Anchorage Daily News asked candidates running for Anchorage School Board a series of issue questions. These include questions suggested by readers. Read all the mayor and school board candidates’ responses here.

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

SEAT B (1-year-term)

Mark Anthony Cox

Ability tracking with every child development stage should be in place so two pathways of education can foster the talents shown; collegiate and vocational. We are losing students in these crucial stages of development by not stimulating neural pathways interconnected to their inherent gifts and talents. This will decrease our attrition rates and keep them engaged and passionate about their future.

Judy Norton Eledge

I am not aware of any I would change but I most certainly would analyze any new curriculums and directives such as the 1619 History project being proposed in many schools nationwide. I would also consider looking at schools that are high performing and investigate curriculum they are using. Just because curriculum experts do not like a curriculum does not mean it is not effective, such as Saxon Math.

Kelly Lessens

One area I’m keen on improving is to integrate social-emotional learning throughout all curricular options. For employers, SEL skills are rated as the most important to success, but are hardest to find. Supporting them in K-12 relates positively to all of the traditional measures we care about: attendance, grades, test scores, graduation rates, success in college, more engaged citizenship and better overall well-being. So in math, for instance, students can be taught to present their thinking, consider others’ perspectives, make and learn from mistakes and receive suggestions from peers. In history, literature, or science, students can be taught to reflect on ethical and moral choices that people have made. SEL needs to be a fundamental part of the entire school day.

Marilyn Stewart

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.


Rachel Blakeslee

I’d advocate for more curriculum that expands relevant and 21st century skills. We are living in a digital age where technological proficiency is critical for students to succeed in today’s economy. I’d push for an increased focus on digital literacy as it is not only essential for remote education, but has long been essential to all learning (e.g., to complete homework, access information, learn basic research skills, etc.) I’d also push for financial literacy to become a core component of our students’ education, as we have a responsibility to equip them with the tools to build the futures they want for themselves. Finally, I’d push for more project-based learning in all subjects, as research proves its effectiveness on students’ confidence, engagement and achievement.

Edgar Blatchford

We must encourage our students to think on their own and outside of the box - respectfully! The board’s job is to be the advocate for high quality education and develop policies that reflect respect for each other in those policies. I believe that every student should have the options of selecting courses in the junior and senior years that prepare them to go to college, military or vocational education. The choice is up the student, with, of course guidance from counselors and parents. I also believe we must find heroes for our role models. We don’t have to have our heroes who have never lived in Alaska or Anchorage. Our heroes will reflect the diversity of our populations Alaska has always had. There is no one dominant culture or tradition. Our diversity reflects our cultures.

Sami Graham

I think it is important to incorporate the voices of parents in the curriculum decisions. The reading curriculum is failing. The data is clear, the teachers have voiced concerns and I would change it immediately. The new math curriculum has been adopted so I would make sure there is adequate professional development, not just a half a day of training. Comprehensive sex education has political forces driving it and children should not be used as political pawns.

Pat Higgins

I have no specific curriculum changes because I believe we need a professional audit of the current curriculum programs before deciding on changes. I am concerned about two issues. First, that recent changes to the reading program may be contributing to a drop in academic scores. Staff, students and parents have raised this concern. Second, I want to ensure curriculum that will help all students advance at least a full year academically every year. There are programs that will help achieve this goal and ASD needs to adopt them

Alisha Hilde*

In general, I support more STEAM based curriculum. I would like to see more incorporation of coding and hands-on learning. A good deal of that is dependent on having enough time in the day to support those additional educational opportunities. While curriculum is important, what helps the most is a pretty good curriculum with really great teachers. Highly skilled teachers are our best investment.

Nial Sherwood Williams

Eliminate sexual education. Eliminate Planned Parenthood slaughter clinic training. Eliminate transgender training. Eliminate anti-racism training. Replace with mandatory classes about the Bill of Rights, United States Constitution and Alaska State Constitution. Also teach children how to balance a checkbook and to do taxes.


Kim Paulson

At this time I would be concerned with any curriculum that would promote racism or shame children for something they have no control over, such as their skin color. I am very much against any type of political or social indoctrination.

Marcus Sanders

ASD need to return to proven teaching methods that work on improving English Language Arts (reading) and math. Return to basics and in-person teaching.

Dora Wilson

The school district does a great job of creating pathways for youth that are planning to move to a university setting after graduation. However, there is more work to be done in providing pathways to the many opportunities in the vast number of career options like skilled trades, vocational technology and apprenticeship. It is important to educate students about these pathways at an earlier age. The earlier students are exposed to a variety of career fields, the more relevant subjects become.


Carl Jacobs

We constantly need to be working toward a curriculum that prepares students to function as adults. While I appreciate the goal of Alaska studies classes, I think we need to be teaching comprehensive experiences and perspectives when in history, and that’s best accomplished by working lessons about Native Alaskans, Black history, the history of the Filipino community and Pacific Islander communities throughout our lesson plans. Whether it’s in music classes, English classes or science classes, these contributions to our society need to be recognized at every step.

Elisa Vakalis*

We need a full curriculum audit. While we have adopted an ELA and math curriculum, we need to look at all curriculum in the district, from PK-12. Over the years, there have been a couple big changes, and several small ones. There is no appropriate way to answer this question without an audit to know the value and expected outcomes of what we already have.

* Incumbents

Read more Q&As with Anchorage School Board candidates:

Why are you running?

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

What’s your vision for education in Anchorage?

Rate the school district’s performance during the pandemic. What specifically would you have done differently?

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

If you could change one thing in the Anchorage School District, what would it be?

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

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

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

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?

Does Anchorage need better preschool options?

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

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

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

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?

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?

What other important issue would you like to discuss?