Anchorage

Anchorage School Board candidate Q&As: 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?

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: 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?

SEAT B (1-year-term)

Mark Anthony Cox

Transparency, availability, flexibility and a clear contemporary perspective are what I am committed to offer to the Anchorage School Board and District. I seek to create more opportunities for the community to voice their opinions, suggestions and comments to us and will utilize my technological experience to propel initiatives to reach the Anchorage community through social media platforms in a contemporary manner versus how we are currently conducting as a board and district.

Judy Norton Eledge

I do believe any organization can improve its transparency and do not believe many parents think the district is transparent. They often find out about curriculum changes and other changes after they happen. Much of the community “input” given is by select individuals that tend to share the same values as the district wishes. Often times those “committees” have more educators than parents on them. I do not think there is enough time given to discussions with varying opinions. In our world today, many conservatives feel their voices are not being heard and when as parents, they raise concerns, they are labeled. That absolutely has to stop.

Kelly Lessens

ASD Board members need to venture beyond the boardroom and community councils into other community groups to truly get a pulse for community members’ concerns. I think that communication between ASD and Anchorage-area voters could also be increased if the board members were not elected at-large, and instead, were able to represent the people living within more defined geographic areas, much like the Assembly. I’m open to learning more about the possibility of changing this structure, as I do think it would make the tasks of representation and communication more manageable.

Marilyn Stewart

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.


SEAT E

Rachel Blakeslee

I’d advocate for an equitable distribution of resources and learning opportunities to start closing opportunity gaps and ensure that our most underserved student populations receive the resources they deserve. This includes allocating more resources toward our students with the highest needs. It also means improving equity in access to specialized programs like charter schools and gifted education by fighting for school bus transportation to charter schools, examining who and how we evaluate which students receive admittance to specialized programs (processes that perpetuate biases and create additional barriers for our most marginalized kids), and addressing inequities that require students have inherent resources already at their disposal in order to compete.

Edgar Blatchford

I believe in open government; I believe in transparency. If there are any changes to be made they could come only after strict adherence to personnel matters of the student, teacher, parent and staff.

Sami Graham

One hundred percent transparency is important.

Pat Higgins

I believe in transparency and am disappointed that it is not a higher priority to ASD. I believe there needs to be a regular report to the public that clearly reports ASD successes and failures. Academic scores need to be clearly reported and not buried in a pile of numbers. A major concern to me is the response of the superintendent and board to staff concerns. There is no clearly understood process for investigating and resolving staff safety and compliance concerns within the district, and the board is not providing direction to resolve this serious issue.

Alisha Hilde*

I am a strong proponent of open and transparent decision-making. I am intentional in making sure our board work complies with the Open Meetings Act, and our whole board is in the habit of being aware of our compliance. But the goal isn’t just compliance, it’s providing meaningful opportunities for our community to be informed and participate in decision-making.

Nial Sherwood Williams

ALL meetings are open to the public. Let the public give its input. Don’t just listen to your donors, listen to all the shareholders of Anchorage.


SEAT F

Kim Paulson

I am fully committed to the transparency of the school board and Anchorage School District as this fits in with my priority of more parental awareness.

Marcus Sanders

School board members should maintain open and honest lines of communication to keep citizens, parents, teachers and students informed on decisions that are made in the best interests of ASD.

Dora Wilson

Transparent communication is a top priority of my campaign. The decisions related to the pandemic have made clear that there are not enough avenues to ensure effective communication between the school board and the Anchorage community. I would ask the ASD to determine current better/best practices for listening to and communicating with students, families, staff and teachers. It is the job of the board to act in the interest of students, staff, and parents and it will be much easier to act on their behalf if we collectively are more in-tune with the ideas, questions and concerns as they arise. As a member of the school board, I commit to reaching out and encouraging more partnership and greater connections within the community.


SEAT G

Carl Jacobs

While school board meetings are public, most people don’t know how to find them or how they work. I’d like to see structural changes to make meetings easier to follow. I’ve made it a habit attending meetings and providing short recaps on social media. That’s not something I see the current school board doing, so the work that’s getting done isn’t getting done in a way that serves the public. In addition, a review of publicly available information demonstrates the current board president routinely fails to show up to community council meetings where those updates need to be shared. We must include the public because it’s their students, their families and their futures that we’re shaping. No one knows better how to meet those needs than the students, families and teachers.

Elisa Vakalis*

In my first year as a board member I advocated for the creation of the data dashboard to improve transparency with our information to the public. Today, there are several ways for the public to see what we are doing as a district. I believe we need, as a board, to focus on more two-way conversation with the public to better understand the issues and desires of our community. I have always been a huge advocate for transparency and accountability.

* 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?

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