Anchorage School Board candidate Q&As: Why are you running?

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 includes questions suggested by readers. Read all the mayor and school board candidates’ responses here.

Q: Why are you running?

SEAT B (1-year-term)

Mark Anthony Cox

We need leadership that represents the diversity of our great city and gives a voice to a new generation of parents in the Anchorage School District. I come to offer a clear, contemporary perspective as a product of the Anchorage School District and be an advocate for students and parents who need a leader that is transparent, available and flexible to their various needs and expectations in regard to their education.

Judy Norton Eledge

I decided to run for school board because of my concerns about what is happening in our schools. This past year has been devastating for many in our community. Many students, parents and teachers are frustrated about the complete lockdown of our schools to in-class learning and feel their voices were not heard or considered. Many others, as I, are concerned about the low academic achievement for many of our students. Many in our community are concerned that our children are being taught values they do not share, whether it be curriculum or mandates from the federal government. I want to be the voice for all of those frustrated students, parents and teachers.

Kelly Lessens

I’m running for Seat B to improve student outcomes by prioritizing student wellness, equity and evidence-based learning practices.

Marilyn Stewart

I believe that it as crucial that our children return to school safely and soon. I want to make certain that our education system serves our students well and they are getting the best possible results for our education dollars.


Rachel Blakeslee

As a mom, former teacher, and lifelong advocate for kids, I know that education is the greatest tool we can give our children. I fundamentally believe that all students — regardless of their background or zip code — deserve to have access to a high-quality education. Unfortunately, our public education system is not currently set up to serve all kids fully or equally. Long before the onset of COVID-19, more than 50% of ASD students were scoring below or far below proficient in key assessment areas year after year. With the added challenges of this virus, students are only falling further behind and longstanding opportunity gaps are widening. I am running for school board because I believe in the potential of all kids and I believe we can do better at helping them realize it.

Edgar Blatchford

I am concerned about the achievement of our students. I believe our wonderful and hardworking teachers deserve support in and out of the classroom. The school board must provide a positive working and professional environment to get the best out of all of the workers of ASD. This motivation that comes from a positive environment will create untold benefits in the classroom. My second reason is to reflect the diversity of the Anchorage community. Our schools are among the most diverse in the country! Rather than hire Outside consultants to tell us how they create a diversified workforce, we ought to lead the country in how we do it to reflect all of the traditions and cultures from all over the world in our hometown.

Sami Graham

I am Anchorage born and raised and I am concerned for the students of Anchorage and the future of Alaska. Forty percent proficiency is alarming! We can do better. The students and parents deserve better.

Pat Higgins

I am disappointed with the current school board and I am confident I can make a real difference. The school board is taking directions from the superintendent and not representing the public. Academic scores declined in 2019 before the pandemic. The board should give voice to what the community wants and focus on student success, provide operational guidance and ensure accountability for the district. I served on the school board from 2008 to 2017 and we changed outcomes for students. The board expanded CTE, replaced low-performance Everyday Math, administration costs were cut nine straight years. Graduation rates had increased from the low 60 to above 80%, and dropout rates were cut almost in half. The board listened to the public and led the district.

Alisha Hilde*

I’m running for reelection because I’m passionate about making sure every child in our district gets a great education. As an attorney and former teacher, I know education is the most powerful tool for building healthy, vibrant communities. I was raised by a single mom who worked three jobs but still struggled to make ends meet. She trusted my district to provide an excellent education. While many kids in our district receive a world-class education, too many aren’t able to access those opportunities. My husband and I were foster parents, and I continue to work with and advocate for Anchorage’s most vulnerable children. I believe in the power of education to transform lives. I experienced that firsthand and I am committed to making sure all children have the opportunity to succeed.

Nial Sherwood Williams

I am running to provide a voice to the people that have been discriminated against by the unlawful overreach of government. To work to make sure that all children have access to primary education and are not closed out of the schools ever again.


Kim Paulson

This past year opened my eyes to how much control the school board has over our children’s lives, and what and how they are taught in our schools.

Marcus Sanders

My wife and I have children and want the Anchorage schools to be the best they can be. I believe our public schools are the foundation of Alaska’s greatness. We must have well-educated citizens

Dora Wilson

I believe education is the key to success and investing in our youth is an investment in our community. I believe all young people should have the opportunity for a good education and successful life. I am a first-generation college graduate and I want to make sure the opportunity for this next generation does not vanish. Kids deserve the right to hope and dream and achieve those dreams. This starts with an accessible and equitable public education.


Carl Jacobs

I’m running because I have a passion for public service. I’ve spent my career working to protect the public as a licensing specialist for assisted living homes and child care facilities. My work helped ensure vulnerable Alaskans were safe and treated with dignity and respect. I went on to serve as an investigator tasked with maintaining professional standards for individuals in licensed occupations across Alaska. I will bring my experience, knowledge and fresh perspective to help facilitate positive change for all Anchorage School District students.

Elisa Vakalis*

I am passionate about improving education for our children. As someone who was born and raised here, I also want to continue giving back to the community that raised me through my public service.

* Incumbents