Anchorage School Board candidate Q&As: Why are you running?

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: Why are you running?

Seat A

Margo Bellamy

I am running for reelection to continue the journey that compelled me to run in 2019. I believe in the power and promise of public education, and I remain focused on the education, safety and well-being of ALL children, and the adults that teach and care for them daily in our school. In the last three years, we have made great strides toward identifying and implementing the community’s vision and values for public education in Anchorage. We listened to community input to create the district’s 2021-2026 strategic plan (goals and guardrails) to improve student outcomes in reading, math and life, college, and career readiness. In the next three years, I am committed to onboarding a new superintendent; supporting mental health services; prioritizing resources that address learning loss; reimagining the district’s plan for student wellness/safety; and recruiting a qualified, diverse, and culturally responsive workforce.

Mark Anthony Cox

I foresee the path that our current educational system is taking is not in the best interest of our city nor for our children. I commend the parents who have supplemented their children’s education to the best of their ability and the taxpayers who have enriched our district financially, but I would like to see exponential growth in proficiency and a return on our investment which I deduce can happen if we start to manage our resources more effectively.

Dan Loring - Did not respond to survey.


Cliff Murray

We are a failing school district. We should, and can, do better. With ingenuity and strong leadership, I believe we can turn things around.

• • •

Seat B

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

Dustin Darden

The leadership In the Anchorage School District has become infected with gross corruption. All current Anchorage school board members are clearly conspiring, it runs as a dark lie fueled by power, control and deception. I not only intend on sitting on the Anchorage School Board for a short while and the United States Senate in Washington for years to come, but on my way, I also intend on exposing this dark agenda of control by working with people that love life and liberty. This exposure will come by the roots of solid education, critical thinking, and discerning truth from error. You that are reading this are part of a pivotal time in history. If the light is in you then you are part of the exposure of darkness. We all have our part, we all have a unique call. On our lives I would like for you to take a moment to consider what it is you are going to do about the situation we are in, because I know Anchorage, Alaska is a special place that is to shine.

Kelly Lessens

For years, my daughter came home from school saying “Mom, I didn’t have time to eat!” So I dug into the research, mobilized other parents, and got ASD to implement evidence-based lunch and recess times that improved students’ hunger, happiness and classroom behaviors. From the very beginning, I got involved for my kids, and for all Anchorage kids. I’m running for reelection to continue to improve student outcomes and build a stronger community. I’m proud of the work I’ve done since being elected last May, especially when it’s come to keeping our schools open and focused on student needs. I have served on the board for ten months, and there’s more I want to get done. We need to address the district’s pending fiscal cliff, promote teacher retention and recruitment in the face of national shortages, and engage families because students do best when parents are involved. Most importantly, I will work collaboratively to restore trust within ASD and between ASD and the community.

Rachel Ries

To bring the focus back to excellence in education, restore and protect parents’ rights, to expand and protect school choice, and to prioritize spending in the classroom — with an eye to reducing wasteful, redundant spending within ASD.

• • •

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?