Anchorage School Board candidate Q&As: If I could change one thing in the Anchorage School District, it would be _____.

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

Seat A

Margo Bellamy

Move towards mandatory and systemic implementation of restorative justice practices, structures, and strategies throughout the ASD. I would review our current discipline policies, practices and structures and require that all schools, K-12, implement age-appropriate restorative justice practices in our schools. This transition will take time and resources but will improve student achievement, school climate and address current disparities in discipline. This will also move us away from the traditional zero-tolerance and punitive discipline model to a behavior intervention model that will still hold students accountable, build meaningful relationships, allow students to make restitution when possible, and allow students to remain connected to the school community. Many schools are already using restorative practices and many others are not.

Mark Anthony Cox

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.

Dan Loring - Did not respond to survey.


Cliff Murray

Our primary focus needs to change. We seem to be caught in a quagmire of non-academic related issues, and we need to focus on academics. ASD is not a place to push political agendas like critical race theory or sex/gender theory. ASD needs to focus on academics for all students, and job readiness for our graduates.

Seat B

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

Dustin Darden

Cut all ties and funding from the federal government, the Anchorage Assembly and mayor. On July 13, 2021, I served a legal notice to all members of the Anchorage Assembly, Mayor Dave Bronson and the health department’s Michael Savitt. To cease and desist any effort to coerce, intimidate, persuade, trick or compel any man, woman or child to receive any experimental gene therapy injection or any other medical device including masks.

Kelly Lessens

Special education. Particularly the recruitment and retention of SPED teachers. When I’ve spoken to families of students with special needs, many are overwhelmed with what they perceive as ongoing needs to advocate for their student(s). They have shared that they would benefit from expanded opportunities for liaisons and support groups, as well as additional blended preschool options. These things all require sizable numbers of dedicated, trained experts. SPED teachers also have concrete needs. SPED has the highest rate of vacancies and turnover in ASD, as many SPED teachers often leave the field entirely after only three to five years due to burnout. Thirty five percent of ASD’s current vacancies are in SPED. We need to address this challenge through enhanced commitments to recruitment, as well as to more mentorship opportunities, additional prep time to adequately design interventions, consistent, planned and coordinated cycles of prof. development, and up-to-date, research-based curricular materials.

Rachel Ries

If I could change one thing in the Anchorage School District, it would be the lack of transparency and accountability demonstrated by the majority of the School Board and certain administrators and staff. The students in ASD are children. They should not be exposed to any ideology, curriculum or program that is not 100% transparent to the parents. Children with involved parents perform better academically, and subsequently have better opportunities in life. The lack of transparency pushes parents out of the classroom. The lack of accountability prevents any meaningful reform if an issue is discovered; intended or unintended.

• • •

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?