Anchorage School Board candidate Q&As: Do you have areas of concern about student achievement?

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

Seat A

Margo Bellamy

Yes, Anchorage students have not had a “normal” year of school since the 2018 earthquake, which has resulted in learning loss for many students. We need to look closely at individual assessments and meet students where they are at now.

Mark Anthony Cox

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.

Dan Loring - Did not respond to survey.


Cliff Murray

Our reading and math scores are dismal, in the bottom 40% of the country, to say nothing of the rest of the world. Cut out the waste and focus on the basics and things will improve.

Seat B

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

Dustin Darden

When you step foot in school you should be able to achieve basic procurement of fresh, un-poisoned drinking water and not bombarded with EMF radiation.

Kelly Lessens

We know that the shift to online learning exacerbated gaps in student achievement, changed students’ study habits, and challenged their mental health. Teachers are dealing with students who are months — if not years — behind their peers, both academically and behaviorally. Shortfalls in students’ reading proficiency are most evident in our youngest learners and among students who are economically disadvantaged, who are still learning English, or who qualify for special education. To make improvements, the district needs to continue to use teacher input and data to strategically direct resources to support at risk student groups while also meeting the ongoing needs of students who have stayed on track. Other parts of the solution include: summer schools, in-person tutoring options, reading instruction specialists, and capping K-3 classrooms under 15 students. We need to recruit and retain teachers. None of this is possible without addressing the state-level funding or benefit issues.

Rachel Ries

Reading, writing and math proficiency continue to trend downward. Scores for minorities and males have historically been low and continue to underperform. If the past policies set down by the School Board worked, why hasn’t this changed? I would look for schools that are doing well, as well as look back to when ASD was academically excellent. Look to those best practices and implement them as applicable based on feedback from each school about what they specifically need.

• • •

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?