Anchorage School Board candidate Q&As: What other important issue would you like to discuss?

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: What other important issue would you like to discuss?

SEAT B (1-year-term)

Mark Anthony Cox

COVID-19 has been surprising, but does not have to set back our children irreparably. The issue I hope to see remedied post-COVID is a desire for parents to be more involved with their children’s education than ever before. As an Anchorage School Board member, I hope to hear from you all so as a community we can offer our children better than what we had growing up at their age.

Judy Norton Eledge

As a large district it is very difficult to keep an atmosphere of community. I would like to look at ways to divide the district into smaller districts per area of community when discussing issues. Not all areas of the city have the same concerns and issues. I would suggest looking into other larger but more successful districts and investigate ways that make students, parents and teachers feel valued and their voices heard. I believe many of ours do not.

Kelly Lessens

ASD offers many options, ranging from schools-within-a school, to language immersion programs, to optional, alternative and charter schools. In theory, these programs permit any child to attend a school of choice regardless of zip code, and offer differentiated learning at a structural level. However, there are significant barriers (related to transportation, food services, and/or available supports for ELL or SPED students) that may dissuade or prohibit every interested student from enrolling in a lottery-based program. I’m encouraged by the new Board Guardrail which instructs the superintendent to not leave any demographic underrepresented in ASD’s schools of choice, and I look forward to seeing the administration pave a smoother path for all students to explore ASD’s options.

Marilyn Stewart

No answer provided.


Rachel Blakeslee

The school board makes short- and long-term policy decisions that directly impact families with kids in school now, families that will attend ASD schools in the future and the overall prosperity of our community There are a lot of candidates on the ballot, and that can make the process of sifting through all of them feel daunting. However, given the stakes, I strongly encourage Anchorage voters to research a little about each candidate, learn more about their priorities and make informed decisions that will serve the best interests of our students.

Edgar Blatchford

Politics. Education should never be a political matter. Educating a student is an obligation of the teacher and parent has to guide that obligation.

Sami Graham

Residing IN Anchorage while serving on the Anchorage School Board is imperative. There have been board members who live outside of Anchorage and that should never happen.

Pat Higgins

The public should be proud of the job that ASD staff do every day for students. I find it interesting that surveys of parents rate teachers very high, schools lower and public education in general much lower. There are serious issues to be addressed with ASD and the board is responsible for addressing all of those issues, but to all the staff who are dedicated to helping students, my sincere appreciation.

Alisha Hilde*

While my focus is on student learning, one of my favorite things to talk about is multi-year bonding. You’ll notice there isn’t a school bond on the ballot this year. That’s because voters generously approved our first multi-year bond last year. Thank you! Because of that vote, our district could focus on COVID-19 mitigation and on safely returning students to school instead of preparing a time-intensive bond. Multi-year bonding is a huge cost savings in both time and resources. I would like to see us move to three- and even five-year school bonds as we improve our long-term planning. All of those time and resources then get to be refocused on improving student learning.

Nial Sherwood Williams

Reopen all schools now. Stop discriminating against those who cannot wear the mask. Do not discriminate against those who refuse to vaccinate. Give the children their desks back.


Kim Paulson

Thank you for taking time to research the candidates before voting. The outcome of every April election plays such an important role in our daily lives. Thank you for voting!

Marcus Sanders

The use of technology to engage the community and improve math and reading proficiencies

Dora Wilson

For the past 20 years I have spent a tremendous amount of time in Anchorage schools as a mom, Therapeutic Foster Parent, School Business Partner and even as a district employee. This has given me the opportunity to get to know staff and it has given me a firsthand look at the dedication and commitment of educators. This experience helps me to be better informed when making decisions, because I am able to talk directly to the stakeholders and know what the issues are. I believe it is important to spend time in the schools and develop relationships in the community to work together to improve the success of all of our youth.


Carl Jacobs

A full majority of the Anchorage School Board will be on the ballots mailed out on March 15th. It is not hyperbolic to say the future of education in Anchorage will be decided by those who participate in this election. Please vote, and encourage your friends, family and coworkers to do the same. As a district, we have a noble and ambitious set of goals and guardrails to achieve and monitor in the next three years and beyond. Please consider if you are truly happy with current operations, and can trust the leadership responsible to make our goals a reality. If you believe the Anchorage School District is in need of positive change, I ask for your vote on or before April 6, 2021. Thank you.

Elisa Vakalis*

The importance of governance versus management and how it impacts student outcomes.

* 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?