Anchorage School Board candidate Q&As: What is a short summary of your background?

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

Q: What is a short summary of your background?

Seat A

Margo Bellamy

I am Margo Bellamy and Anchorage has been my home since 1973. From the flight into Anchorage, I knew that this sacred land held the promise that is measured by the hopes and dreams of its citizens, unlimited opportunities and access to quality education. Today, I still feel this sense of awe in my hometown! I was born and raised in Miami, Florida, where I met my husband, Howard, now a retired veteran. As a middle child, I quickly learned the values of teamwork, respect and compromise. While my education career shaped my passion for human rights, inclusion, equity, diversity, and social justice. Howard and I are the proud parents of two adult children who graduated from Polaris K-12 and Bettye Davis East Anchorage High Schools, and two grandchildren who currently attend ASD Schools.

Mark Anthony Cox

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.

Dan Loring - Did not respond to survey.


Cliff Murray

I was born in Fairbanks and raised in North Pole, where I graduated from North Pole High School. My parents still live in North Pole and their values helped shape me into who I am today. My mother is a retired teacher of 26 years, and my father is a retired correctional officer. I have a daughter in ASD and have been working with children of all ages for more than 30 years. I have a keen interest in seeing our public education system succeed. I believe that under new leadership, and with some creative thinking, we can solve the problems that are facing ASD in the coming years.

Seat B

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

Dustin Darden

We are in the middle of a climactic shift in what was and what’s about to crack off. The No. 1 thing you need to keep in mind is having your heart right with God, and if you have not yet asked Jesus Christ to be your Lord and savior now is the acceptable time. There is no sin He won’t forgive, no sick He won’t restore, no broken heart He can not heal, and forgiveness always. Do that, even in battle to have a clear understanding of eternity, for even those that hurt us, is a profound acceleration chains and burdens that can hold us back from loving. I believe Alaska will be restored to a greater glory, then before you thought it was acceptable, I see it not only stronger but an example to nations, a beacon of hope, a people of gentle loving kindness that restore peacefully in justice.

Kelly Lessens

I’m a mom, classroom volunteer, and education advocate who was elected to Seat B on the Anchorage School Board in April 2021. Before moving to Alaska, I earned a B.A. from Stanford and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. I ran for the School Board in 2021 on the basis of my prior nonpartisan advocacy to improve local student outcomes. I currently serve as board treasurer, chair of the finance committee, and a member of the communications committee. I’m also a member of UA’s Early Childhood Advisory Board. I believe deeply in collaborative, evidence-based decision making that is centered on doing what’s best for all of our students.

Rachel Ries

Rachel Ries is a retired veteran, with three children, one grandchild and four rescued fur babies. Rachel served in the military as an enlisted soldier, noncommissioned officer, and commissioned aviation officer. She performed MEDEVAC helicopter operations in Afghanistan. Rachel served in multiple roles — paralegal, auditor, trainer, operations planner, auditor, and as a commander on multiple projects before retiring in 2016. Rachel graduated from CSU Fresno with a Bachelor of Political Science. She is currently attending University of Alaska, Anchorage, to finish her Master’s in Project Management. Rachel and her family moved to Anchorage permanently in 2016, having first visited in 2010. Anchorage is her chosen home after living across the United States and traveling overseas.

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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?