Anchorage School Board candidate Q&As: Are you satisfied with current preschool options?

In advance of the April 5 Anchorage municipal election, the Anchorage Daily News asked candidates running for Anchorage School Board a series of issue questions. Read all the Assembly and school board candidates’ responses here.

Q: Are you satisfied with current preschool options? Explain.

Seat A

Margo Bellamy

I believe that universal preschool should be available to every family who desires it. We know that to ensure the academic, social emotional and life goals for our students, we must ensure students have the opportunity to hone the critical readiness skills that preschool provides.

Mark Anthony Cox

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.

Dan Loring - Did not respond to survey.


Cliff Murray

I would need to see more data showing the benefits of preschool options before I answer this question.

Seat B

Benjamin Baldwin - Did not respond to survey, suspended campaign.

Dustin Darden

Having fun, engaging activities and teach the fundamentals of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in interactive Bible lessons is critically important at this age. Children at this age need to be protected from evil; anyone telling children a man is a woman or a woman is a man should not be able to work in a school. It’s sad that these basic statements must be made but currently ASD is receiving large amounts of money from the global elite to push such perverse ideas that you can pick what gender you want to be when in fact it was God almighty that made that decision when He knitted you together in your mother’s womb. You see the consistency of the globalist’s evil playbook, anything they do is to undermine the supremacy of The Lord God. Keep in mind it’s not the globalists that come up with this evil but principalities and powers in high places, we pray and act.

Kelly Lessens

No, but I recognize that they are a work in progress. ASD (and Anchorage as a whole) continues to need additional preschool options to increase options for all families and improve kindergarten readiness district-wide. Only 18% of our kindergarteners in the 2019-2020 year entered having mastered all 13 DEED competencies assessing kindergarten readiness. Meanwhile, 23% of Anchorage-area children between 0-5 are in unlicensed care facilities, and another 18% of families with children in this age range have unmet needs for child care. Nationwide, evidence has shown that every dollar invested in quality early childhood programs yields returns between $4-$16, increases high school graduation rates and decreases suspension, grade-retention and needs for social services or special education.

Rachel Ries

Pre-K is an important part of education for many families within ASD. I would like to see Read By 9 and Pre-K robustly supported in the schools. The caveat for Pre-K being that the focus must be on actually prepping children for kindergarten with primary skills, and providing feedback to parents so they can take an active role in preparing their child(ren) for kindergarten.

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Read more Q&As with Anchorage School Board candidates:

What is a short summary of your background?

Why are you running?

What makes you qualified to serve on the Anchorage School Board?

What’s your 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?

If I could change one thing in the Anchorage School District, it would be _____. Explain.


Do you have areas of concern about student achievement in the Anchorage School District? What are your specific suggestions for improvement?

Do you have ideas for how ASD can improve its career and technical education curriculum?

Are you satisfied with current preschool options? Explain.

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?

Rate how the Anchorage School District has handled the pandemic, and why? What would you have done differently, if anything?

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?

What are your thoughts on how the topic of racism and its history in the United States should be taught in public schools?

What other important issue would you like to discuss?