The Anchorage Daily News asked candidates for Anchorage Assembly to answer a series of issue questions. Read all of them here.
Mark Anthony Cox | School Board Seat: A | Age: 27 | Occupation: Business owner | macforanc.com
What is a short summary of your background?
Mark Anthony Cox is an Anchorage School District student who became an Army veteran, family man, self-help author, nonprofit founder, real estate and business entrepreneur, and is now the candidate for Anchorage School Board-Seat A. Mark Anthony’s passion is for helping others realize their talents and purpose. He volunteers in his local church teaching 12-19 year old youth about faith, finances and the importance of family. His aspiration for the Anchorage School District is to have a school district that is ranked top in the nation as well as a strong bond in the community between politicians, parents and teachers, where students can have help and support in any direction they want to go.
Why are you running?
I foresee the path that our current educational system is taking is not in the best interest of our city nor for our children. I commend the parents who have supplemented their children’s education to the best of their ability and the taxpayers who have enriched our district financially, but I would like to see exponential growth in proficiency and a return on our investment which I deduce can happen if we start to manage our resources more effectively.
What makes you qualified to serve on the Anchorage School Board?
As the most recent graduate of the Anchorage School District to later serve his country in the United States Army; be a guest speaker and mentor in Anchorage Title 1 schools and University of Alaska Anchorage; start a charitable nonprofit to serve his community in the midst of COVID-19; and teach 12-19 year old youth about the importance of faith, family, and finances; it has been shown that serving the future and families is a way of life to me and not a political position. I have a track record that shows I can do more with less as president of my homeowners association and as an owner of multiple businesses. It would be an honor to serve the community of Anchorage in this capacity as a member Anchorage School Board in Seat A.
What’s your vision for public education in Anchorage?
I envision the future of public education being a choice that both parents and students can make that ensures the student’s readiness for higher education and adulthood. This education will be transparent and collaborative amongst teachers and parents. Funding for this education will include provisions for funding to follow the student with preferred school choice, which encourages natural competition for schools to produce high-quality education and environments for learning. The taxpayers and business owners will see a return on investment from their support in reduced crime and an increase in the quality of the emerging workforce. This is my vision for public education in Anchorage.
What’s the single most important issue facing the Anchorage School District? How would you address it if elected?
The single most important issue facing the Anchorage School District, aside from low proficiency, is an environment of low expectations. If elected I would take a three-pronged approach to fixing this purveying issue. First, I would reengage the community more regularly and qualify their testimony and comments rather than deride and/or belittle our community members. Secondly, I would convey the message through our superintendent to let the teacher’s teach so that they may educate our children as opposed to teach them how to take test. Lastly, I would set the bar higher for proficiency outcomes and hold those accountable for substandard performance.
If I could change one thing in the Anchorage School District, it would be _____. Explain.
If I could change one thing in the Anchorage School District, it would be the reason why students go to school and why parents drop their students off. Our parents are disappointed in our schools’ ability to teach, which ranks among the lowest in the country. Our taxpayers are disappointed in seeing the school board increase spending while our student population declined, which raises our property taxes without seeing results. Our students are stressed, over-tested and not receiving much value from the information being presented to them nor how it is being presented. We are ranked among the highest in the nation for spending the most money per student enrolled, but where are the results? We need to create an environment of achievement and success that a community can come together and marvel at the many benefits of it. We can do this is by letting teachers do their jobs and not give them curriculum that doesn’t work. We also need to control our spending and manage our resources efficiently.
Do you have areas of concern about student achievement in the Anchorage School District? What are your specific suggestions for improvement?
Our students aren’t statistics, but representatives of their families values, hopes, and dreams. Taking time out of the regular school day to test them repeatedly and find out they are not proficient is not the way toward getting them to proficiency. We are all aware and can assess that we have had the greatest setback this past year educationally, so we need to focus on teaching our students. How important is graduation rate when students have to take remedial college courses if they go into UAA or other colleges across the country. The quality of our education, I would suggest, should be our main focus.
Do you have ideas for how ASD can improve its career and technical education curriculum?
Expanding our King Tech facility/curriculum to students who demonstrate the High school required proficiency before junior and senior year as well as establishing similar programs within existing schools would offer increased opportunity which I discern is more valuable than further diversifying curriculum. We can instead work in conjunction with other organizations that offer more diverse programs that our students should be able to utilize at no additional cost to them.
Are you satisfied with current preschool options? Explain.
The thought of our current school district, which has not proven its ability to ensure more than 60% proficiency in any grade level, hosting preschool options is not wise. In better financial circumstances, I foresee the school district being able to engage parents prior to their students entering kindergarten with material and training to teach their children to a level that they can adequately handle the rigors of public education. This has a benefit of us as a school being able to set expectations that the families can help to improve, as well as open the dialogue for conversation and relationship-building that can positively continue for the next 12 years.
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?
There are teachers who can do their job well within their current parameters, but there are not enough. Our school district currently fails to retain quality teachers due to limiting the teachers’ ability to the point that they must read from a script with certain curriculum. As a school board member, we set the vision and hold the superintendent accountable for not meeting the community’s expectation. To improve teacher retention, we can advocate for those teachers who are limited by the parameters impersonal curriculum presents by hearing firsthand accounts and reporting to the superintendent of the deficiencies within our educational system. Teachers, much like parents, want to be heard and we as school board members have not only the privilege, but the duty, to listen and be proactive to their needs.
Rate how the Anchorage School District has handled the pandemic, and why? What would you have done differently, if anything?
Rating: poor. COVID-19 presented unprecedented challenges which caused states to adopt each other’s policies and to make adjustments as further guidelines and evidence was given. What would be the most beneficial differences that could have been done by the Anchorage School Board is to set the vision of giving parents and teachers/staff an educated option of whether or not they wanted to do face-to-face instruction; while simultaneous preparing our facilities with necessary health equipment and mitigation procedures in place for those who would stay, and approving a virtual curriculum for those who would be home.
Many students are struggling due to pandemic-related challenges, both academically and behaviorally. What are some strategies the school district should prioritize to help students recover from that period?
The paramount lesson for the school district and school board to prioritize is to not repeat this type of decision-making process of following the news of organizations rather than the firsthand accounts of the parents who entrust us with their children to teach and educate.
What are your thoughts on how the topic of racism and its history in the United States should be taught in public schools?
Declined to answer.
What other important issue would you like to discuss?
The sweeping changes we desire as voters require us to make a decision against the status quo. With your vote for Anchorage School Board Seat A, I aspire to improve the quality of our education, the management of our resources, and fiscal responsibility. As we further distance ourselves from the status quo, we can hope with a surety that better days are truly ahead of us. Thank you for your time and consideration.