Anchorage School Board candidate Q&As: Is the Anchorage School District doing a good job of retaining quality teachers? What steps, if any, should the school board take to improve teacher retention?

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: 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?

Seat A

Margo Bellamy

Yes, but there is still work to be done. School Board members must continue advocate for adequate state funding and for a retirement system that values the work of teachers. In Anchorage, we do our part by funding our schools through our property taxes, but we also rely on state and federal revenues to operate significant portions of our local governments. The state funding for grades K-12 has not been increased since 2017. In that period, Alaska has experienced a rise in inflation of 11.6%. Prioritizing education, properly funding our schools, and fixing a broken retirement system will allow ASD to retain educators by offer competitive wages benefits, and a plan to retire with dignity.

Mark Anthony Cox

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.

Dan Loring - Did not respond to survey.


Cliff Murray

No, we are not doing a good job of retaining teachers...or principals for that matter. Our school board is more concerned about the racial make-up of our teaching staff than they are about listening to and working with their greatest resource....teachers. Teachers and principals are fed up with the current leadership. We are losing at least 10 principals, and maybe as many as 20. The number of teachers we lose will be an order of magnitude greater. Morale is low, and we need people to help raise it.

Seat B

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

Dustin Darden

We need to remove unconstitutional firearm prohibitions. If a teacher wants to pack heat it should be encouraged. Disband all association with the National School Board association and Alaska School Board Association. Segregate bathrooms, males and females. Purchase some EricHill RT-100 radiation detectors for teachers so they can see how harmful the fluorescent and LED lights are, then allow them to bring in some lamps that take good old incandescent bulbs also if they find unhealthy spikes (and they will) of UT 5G radiation let them disconnect the sources and add shielding. This will not only protect the teachers but also protect students.

Kelly Lessens

The recently settled AEA contract should be a first step toward improved teacher retention. Moving forward, the board and administration will need to continue to improve communication and seek buy-in and feedback. However, one of the key reasons that ASD — like the others across Alaska — struggles to retain and recruit educators is because too many current, new, and would-be teachers lack access to a defined benefit system. Surveys of teachers and administrators identify retirement benefits as the single MOST important issue for improving teacher retention and recruitment. A competitive, state-level focus on teacher recruitment and retention is a must if our state has any meaningful intention to improve student outcomes. The board also needs to focus on increasing the number of teachers of color, who have strong bearing on the academic performance, graduation rates and college attendance among students of color. Our workforce should look like our community.

Rachel Ries

No, ASD is not doing a good job of retaining quality teachers. The school board should review all policies and listen to teachers and administrators as education professionals. Current policy does not reflect this. Instead it micromanages with unnecessary bureaucracy and micromanagement.

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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?