Anchorage School Board candidate Q&As: What steps should ASD take to improve its career and technical education curriculum?

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

SEAT B (1-year-term)

Mark Anthony Cox

There needs to be an integrated pathway from learning in school to these vocational programs with travel provided for students without transportation.

Judy Norton Eledge

Seventy five percent of students in the state of Alaska do not attend or complete a four-year degree program. I believe there should be career and technical education curriculum in ALL schools, not just King Tech High School. I also believe it should start very early in a child’s education. I also would like to see more apprenticeships offered for credit by working with local organizations.

Kelly Lessens

ASD should expose students to a variety of career and technical options early, perhaps as soon as middle school. This can take place through field trips to work sites or training facilities, the creation of ongoing mentorship-based connections to local CTE organizations and increasing the numbers of options (like apprenticeship programs) within King Tech.

Marilyn Stewart

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.


Rachel Blakeslee

ASD should expand options for blended career and technical education, affording students the option to prepare for a job and postsecondary education, rather than choosing between the two. Strong blended models like this prepare students for admission to college while simultaneously equipping them with industry skills and certifications for specific technical careers. ASD should expand apprenticeship programs that also give students the opportunity to earn college credits, industry certifications and credentials. We should also expose students to more mentors and instructors that represent their identities so students can see themselves in those roles, inspire them to explore those sectors and thus broaden the gender and racial diversity of technical fields.

Edgar Blatchford

I come from a union family background. My Dad was a union man that goes back to the end of WWII. His sons, brothers and many of my cousins retired out of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 302, Teamsters and Laborers. I went to college because IUOE Local 302 gave me the opportunity to learn the skills of the trade. Just as I made the decision to learn the trade at 18 years old, demonstrates to me, that ASD students should have the same opportunities to learn a trade. I did because my Dad was a union man. The ASD has the obligation to prepare the young adult graduates to enter a new, brave world. It is the job of the ASD to prepare the graduate to become gainfully employed in the labor market.

Sami Graham

CTE is a learning link between academics and real life. It is critical and we need more of it, not less.

Pat Higgins

CTE needs to be expanded in all schools. In 2010 I recommended, and the full board approved, expansion of CTE in all schools. Prior to that action, the district was only focused on developing a second King Career Center that could only be used by a limited number of students during the school day. I would like to see ASD partner with other community members to expand CTE opportunities. The CTE facility at West High School was developed with the goal of helping students at West, teachers of CTE classes in other schools and students who already graduated with classes at night and weekends. This plan encouraged other public and private funding that benefited ASD students and the business community.

Alisha Hilde*

ASD has robust career and technical education programs. But like many of the outstanding programs in our district, the challenge is making sure all students have the opportunity to access those courses. There is a CTE component in our board goals because we know that students who take two or more CTE courses are much more likely to graduate. That is testament to the level of engagement and career relevancy CTE courses provide. Improvements in busing options and remote instruction as well as providing more opportunities for middle school students can improve student access.

Nial Sherwood Williams

Math, science and technology should be the focus of training.


Kim Paulson

ASD should offer career and technical education classes at all of its high schools.

Marcus Sanders

After reviewing the career and technical education curriculum it is deep and professional. The only improvement that I would suggest is that the program is better advertised to parents and students.

Dora Wilson

King Tech High School does amazing work giving students the hands-on opportunities to help them select and deselect career paths. Expanding pathways at the other high schools in the district would make these opportunities more accessible to a wider range of students, particularly those students that are not able to attend King Tech or have been discouraged to do so. Seventy percent of our students do not choose the college path to go on to pursue a college degree. Partnering with businesses, organizations and industry that can help educate students on these industries is an important aspect to developing appropriate career and technology education curriculum in their respected fields.


Carl Jacobs

We must build on the vocational programming already in place, including the recently-expanded King Tech High. While each of our high schools has a program focus area, having more options like King Tech is in some ways the future of education, where we center career skills and teach in the context of real-world applications. Encouraging growth in the areas of financial literacy, career training and civic engagement via expanded access to consumer and family science courses would be an important first step.

Elisa Vakalis*

ASD has come a long way over recent years in CTE. I was proud to support King Tech becoming an accredited high school. Students should have a plethora of options as they pursue their dreams. I support both the college and the CTE paths.

* 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?