Anchorage School Board candidate Q&As: What’s your vision for education in Anchorage?

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’s your vision for education in Anchorage?

SEAT B (1-year-term)

Mark Anthony Cox

The vision is that Anchorage, one of the most diverse school districts in the nation will also be touted as one of the best school districts in the nation. To see this come to pass, I envision planning and investing into our students paths that lead them into college or vocational training based on their abilities while giving them a strong foundation in literacy, arithmetic, and other testable skills. Paired with a staff that enjoys their work in making a positive impact in the lives of our youth and a community that is involved and supportive as they receive a profitable return on their investment.

Judy Norton Eledge

That every student graduating from ASD will have the skills necessary to accomplish any dream or endeavor they so wish, and to become a productive citizen of this great city, state and country.

Kelly Lessens

We must build all students’ capacity for informed civic participation, for empathy, for critical thinking and for creating a society in which everyone truly belongs. We must prepare children to collaborate, innovate and apply different forms of knowledge throughout their lives. These goals depend on leaders who will advocate for equity and for excellence during children’s formative years. It requires leaders who place children’s needs at the center of our education system, who will buttress those priorities with school and community assets and who will call for the resources required to get the job done.

Marilyn Stewart

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.


Rachel Blakeslee

My vision is to ensure all ASD students have access to a high-quality education. This includes equitably distributing resources to get students back on track and close pervasive opportunity gaps, while offering more 21st century learning opportunities like digital and financial literacy. It also involves growing and retaining a diverse teacher workforce, as research shows teacher quality and representation are important determinants of student outcomes. I want to foster inclusive, nurturing learning environments through expanded social emotional and mental health supports, more fresh air time for kids and culturally relevant instruction. Finally, I’d like to improve ASD’s accessibility and accountability to the community through more two-way communication systems.

Edgar Blatchford

The greatest contribution any teacher can make in the classroom is to motivate the student to do the best. The comes from passion and dedication to the community as a whole. There should never be a special interest in education except to do the best for student. That commitment will reflect well in how bright Anchorage’s future will be in the increasingly global marketplace. Our students must be able to compete at a higher level with students from countries in the Pacific, Europe, South American and all the rest. Our vision to do our best will clearly improve Anchorage’s quality of life, our happiness and gives us an easy explanation of why we live here.

Sami Graham

ASD needs to focus on opening schools, boosting student achievement through rigorous curriculum and strong teacher professional development, and engaging students with strong sports, arts and extracurricular activities.

Pat Higgins

My vision is for ASD to be recognized as a high-performance school district. Teachers, administrators and the school board members work together. ASD established and achieved higher academic goals for all students that eliminated the academic achievement gap. Curriculum that helps all students advance a full academic year every year. Differentiated instruction will allow students to advance quicker and help other students catch up. ASD provides support to families with preschool children to prepare for kindergarten through an effective outreach program. ASD Career Technology Education is being expanded. The public is kept informed and participates in decisions in their school and by the school board.

Alisha Hilde*

My vision for Anchorage is rooted in my deep belief that we can provide a world-class education to all students. I support the school board’s goals of focusing on improving reading and math skills and making sure graduates are ready for the next step of life – be it college, career or vocational training. I don’t want education to look the same five years from now as it did 100 years ago. In visiting with students, they share their excitement over having hands-on learning with STEAM and Career and Technical courses as well as opportunities for rigorous academics. We’re educating children for careers that don’t even exist yet. I support parents, educators, and our community working together to create the innovative changes that best meet the needs of student learning.

Nial Sherwood Williams

To reopen all schools immediately. To give the children their desks back. To have children have their recess time. I will eliminate the Planned Parenthood slaughter clinics from our district and stop the propagandizing of our children against the will of the parents. I will also balance the budget as is necessary according to statute.


Kim Paulson

To maximize every student’s potential, recognizing that some students are geared to learn a trade, while some are ready to enter the workforce, and others are ready to attend college.

Marcus Sanders

I want the best schools for our children. We must have well-educated citizens. I will support and expand educational options including charter, alternative, vocational, language immersion and middle college programs.

Dora Wilson

In my campaign, I have focused on transparent communication, career and life readiness and equity. I am an advocate for college, vocational technology, skilled trades and apprenticeships, with a unique perspective and experience in each of these areas. As a member of the school board I will continue to spend time in the schools, gaining firsthand knowledge of how things work and asking for input on how policy can improve the communication and process in the schools. We must welcome the opportunity to be inclusive, make appropriate accommodations and celebrate the assets of every student.


Carl Jacobs

I have the same vision most Anchorage residents -- that every student from every background is able to receive a high-quality public education that prepares them to live full adult lives after graduation.

Elisa Vakalis*

I have long believed in the ASD mission statement, as it mirrored my own at home. “Educate ALL kids for success in life” is my vision and continued mission. Helping close achievement gaps will make that mission statement for ALL kids come true.

* 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?