Anchorage School Board candidate Q&As: What’s the single most important issue facing the Anchorage School District? How would you address it if elected?

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’s the single most important issue facing the Anchorage School District? How would you address it if elected?

Seat A

Margo Bellamy

Successful student outcomes. School systems exist to improve student outcomes — what do students know and what are they able to do. Each decision I make begins and ends with what’s best for our students. Our data dashboard clearly shows some students are doing well and benefiting more than others. So, in the last three years, I engaged in a four-phase strategic planning process, which translated into the board’s newly adopted goals and guardrails which define the direction for education in the ASD for the next five years. I’ve supported policies, programs, and practices that focus on successful outcomes for all students and foster environments where students, staff and parents want to belong. I voted for the apprenticeship policy, adopted a new math curriculum, voted to re-charter four charter schools, and co-sponsored the anti-racism and instructional equity policies. I am committed to accomplishing our community’s goals, while operating within our guardrails.

Mark Anthony Cox

The single most important issue facing the Anchorage School District, aside from low proficiency, is an environment of low expectations. If elected I would take a three-pronged approach to fixing this purveying issue. First, I would reengage the community more regularly and qualify their testimony and comments rather than deride and/or belittle our community members. Secondly, I would convey the message through our superintendent to let the teacher’s teach so that they may educate our children as opposed to teach them how to take test. Lastly, I would set the bar higher for proficiency outcomes and hold those accountable for substandard performance.

Dan Loring - Did not respond to survey.


Cliff Murray

Our budget. We don’t have the funds coming in to pay for all of the programs we have. If we don’t find more funds, or if we don’t learn how to do more with less, we will fail our students and teachers.

Seat B

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

Dustin Darden

I’m not going to wait until I’m elected, I have began the prosecution process of all Anchorage School Board members along with executive Tom Roth, Superintendent Deena Bishop and administrator Katy Grant. On Aug. 3, 2021, I issued a legal notice to the above parties at a searchable, recorded school board meeting during public testimony to cease and desist all efforts to coerce, intimidate, persuade, trick, compel any experimental gene therapy injection and any medical devices on any man, woman or child. I took arrest documents to Anchorage Police Department so that above parties could be dealt with, currently adding more discoveries and evidence.

Kelly Lessens

We need to restore trust in public education, but we cannot do that if we fail to address ASD’s looming fiscal cliff. State funding does not keep up with inflation. That means school funding is effectively cut every year. This school year, instead of increasing classroom sizes, ASD is using about $25 million in federal relief funds to offset the effective decrease. During the 2022-2023 school year, ASD will use $56.5 million in temporary relief funds just to maintain its status quo metrics. If the district did not have those temporary funds, the ASD’s ratio of 30 high schoolers per one teacher would balloon to 40 high schoolers per teacher. We need to keep identifying efficiencies within our budget — and I have. But if there is no movement from Juneau (and soon) to adjust the school funding formula, ASD will have a $67 million shortfall for the 2024-2025 school year. Anchorage needs board members that understand the magnitude of the problem and who will go to bat for Anchorage schools.

Rachel Ries

True education has given way to a one-size-fits-all model that does not work. Return education to the teachers and administrators at each campus. Allow them to develop working, transparent curriculum that addresses the unique needs of each school’s specific student population. Again, make sure CRT and CRT-like products are not taught or used in ASD.

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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?