Anchorage School Board candidate Q&As: What makes you qualified to serve on the Anchorage School Board?

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

Seat A

Margo Bellamy

I am a lifelong learner, public servant, and advocate for youth and families. More importantly, I am the mother of two adult children who both graduated from the Anchorage School District; and Nana to two grandkids who are currently attending ASD schools. My leadership experience includes the classroom, the library, and the boardroom. I believe in the power of community and have served on several local, state, and national youth-serving committees and boards of directors. ASD will need committed, innovative and experienced leadership to keep us on track and focused on students. I am more than prepared and qualified to continue serving Anchorage students, parents, and community members for three more years on the school board.

Mark Anthony Cox

As the most recent graduate of the Anchorage School District to later serve his country in the United States Army; be a guest speaker and mentor in Anchorage Title 1 schools and University of Alaska Anchorage; start a charitable nonprofit to serve his community in the midst of COVID-19; and teach 12-19 year old youth about the importance of faith, family, and finances; it has been shown that serving the future and families is a way of life to me and not a political position. I have a track record that shows I can do more with less as president of my homeowners association and as an owner of multiple businesses. It would be an honor to serve the community of Anchorage in this capacity as a member Anchorage School Board in Seat A.

Dan Loring - Did not respond to survey


Cliff Murray

With over thirty years of working with children, parents, and nonprofit organizations, I believe that I am the only candidate for Seat A with the skills to make a positive change.

Seat B

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

Dustin Darden

I grew up in Anchorage. I went through my entire school career going through Anchorage Public Schools. Before entering ASD I attended Saint Mark preschool which is located on the other side of Lake Otis across from Wendler Middle School. In preschool I majored in Play-Doh, digging objects out of a large sandbox, building structures out of blocks made of cardboard, finger painting, Bible studies, and hammering nails into a large block of wood. Upon completion of my time at Saint Mark preschool I went onto kindergarten and first grade at Abbott Loop Elementary. The second grade through sixth grade at Willard L. Bowman Elementary then I went to Hanshew Middle School for seventh and eighth grade. Then I attended East Anchorage high school from ninth grade to 12th grade. During the time at East high I simultaneously Attended King career center, where I studied radio and TV production and welding. I then attended the University of Alaska Anchorage making pottery and wheel-thrown ceramics. And then was accepted into the Southern Alaska carpenters training center, graduating from the program and working in the field to become a certified journeyman carpenter.

Kelly Lessens

I am the only candidate for Seat B who is a parent of children currently enrolled in ASD and who worked to improve local student outcomes long before running for the school board. I have kept the board focused on what’s best for Anchorage students. I have provided strong fiscal oversight – including finding savings that we’ve reappropriated to student learning. I’m proud to have earned endorsements from local educators, who are the bedrock of what makes our schools succeed. Over the past 10 months on the board, I have supported student learning by focusing on reading and math proficiency as well as “career, college and life readiness.” We need to hold ASD accountable for growth in these areas. I’ve advocated for a safe commitment to in-person school throughout this year, for increased student mental health supports, for small class sizes, for access to additional preschool and CTE opportunities, for teacher retention, for adequate funding, and more.

Rachel Ries

Personally, I am a parent with a school-age child and a member of this community who cares about education as the best way for our community to thrive. Professionally, I am an experienced manager, with an emphasis in personnel and training, as well as planning and completion of complex projects. As a military veteran, I have experience in leadership at every level, from noncommissioned officer to command of a unit. I know how to provide leadership that empowers others to achieve.

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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?