Anchorage School Board candidate Q&As: What other important issue would you like to discuss?

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 other important issue would you like to discuss?

Seat A

Margo Bellamy

The pandemic, the 2018 earthquake, and recent national and local school incidents have expanded the definition and expectation of student health and safety. Our students and staff must feel physically, mentally, socially and emotionally safe in school, whether walking our halls, learning in our classrooms or riding the school bus. The district’s response to these expectations, now and in the future, requires a comprehensive and inclusive plan to address all definitions of safety.

Mark Anthony Cox

The sweeping changes we desire as voters require us to make a decision against the status quo. With your vote for Anchorage School Board Seat A, I aspire to improve the quality of our education, the management of our resources, and fiscal responsibility. As we further distance ourselves from the status quo, we can hope with a surety that better days are truly ahead of us. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Dan Loring - Did not respond to survey.


Cliff Murray

I would like to see less discussion of gender/sex theory in the school district. It is not academically related and should remain in the purview of parents.

Seat B

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

Dustin Darden

Sometimes life can be tough, we all are going through something, people offend us and it can hurt, but my best advice is to be quick to forgive. It’s possible to walk with peace, with everyone that kind of peace can really only be achieved through the eyes of eternity. I’ve heard stories of people that pass on see a glimmer of eternity and recall all these issues we made such a big deal about spending hours years and decades running, then in the end, all that didn’t even register a thought. I just encourage everyone to consider forgiveness and see what happens. I look forward to what God is going to do through our amazing city, when we all start taking a stand or a seat like good old Rosa Parks, stuff changes. You see in the Bible, Jesus was always taking a situation and doing something that was so simple but so amazing. He walked this earth, did amazing things and when we take our circumstances and surrender all to Him, He always shows Himself to be good, so yes, this Jesus Christ is King.

Kelly Lessens

ASD offers many options for students to choose among, ranging from schools-within-a school, to language immersion programs, to optional, alternative and charter schools. In theory, these programs permit any child to attend a school of choice regardless of zip code, and offer differentiated learning at a structural level. I was delighted to support the recharter of three of those schools this year and the expansion of a fourth. However, significant barriers (related to overall knowledge about, transportation to/from, and access to district-provided food services and/or available supports for ELL or SPED students) may dissuade or prohibit every interested student from enrolling in a lottery-based program. I’m encouraged by the Board Guardrail which instructs the superintendent to not leave any demographic underrepresented in ASD’s schools of choice, and I look forward to seeing the administration pave a smoother path for all students to explore ASD’s options.

Rachel Ries

The school board’s main purpose is to set, amend or cancel policy. The current policies have a top-down approach that does not allow parents to maximize their involvement, does not allow teachers and administrators to maximize their effectiveness, focuses on trendy social topics through micromanaged policy items, and is rife with redundant and top-heavy spending. It is well past time for reform across the board.

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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?