Anchorage School Board is deciding what’s next after board member’s attendance falls below requirement

The Anchorage School Board is deciding its next move after one of its member's attendance at meetings fell below what's required in board policy.

Over the past two years, board member Bettye Davis, 80, has shown up in person to 29 of 41 regular school board meetings, or about 71 percent. Board members must "physically attend" 75 percent of the meetings over a two-year period, according to school board policy. If they don't, the board can decide whether it wants to start the process of removing them from office.

Davis has been having health issues, said Starr Marsett, school board president. Marsett said she plans to meet with family members of Davis this week to help determine how to move forward. She said she hoped to have an announcement about what's next at the board meeting on Monday.

"I want to move forward in the most respectful way of Bettye," Marsett said.

Davis didn't answer phone calls Monday or Tuesday. A woman who answered the door at her house Monday evening said Davis wasn't home.

Anchorage voters re-elected Davis to the school board in April 2016. She is currently serving her second consecutive three-year term. She previously served on the board in the 1980s and 1990s. She also served in the state Senate, the state House and as the chair of the State Board of Education and Early Development.

There are seven board members on the Anchorage School Board. Board members earn an annual salary of $27,977, plus $8,295 in benefits. The board president gets $31,810 in salary, plus $9,432 in benefits.


According to information on the Anchorage School District's website, Davis has missed the last three regular school board meetings, which are typically held every other Monday, with a break during the summer. Two of those absences were excused, Marsett said. Davis was in the hospital, she said. However, the board's 75 percent attendance policy doesn't take into account whether absences are excused or unexcused. If a board member calls into a meeting, it also doesn't count toward the 75 percent attendance minimum.

Of the last 41 meetings, Davis called into five and was marked absent from seven, according to the district.

Marsett said at last week's school board meeting that if the board wanted to begin the process of removing Davis from office, it would need to take a vote and two-thirds of the board would have to agree to it.  That vote would initiate a process set in municipal code.

It's not an easy topic, Marsett told the board, but they needed to discuss it.

"It is our civic duty to make sure that all of our board members are present at our board meetings and that they are actively involved and contributing," Marsett said at last week's meeting.

Some board members asked questions at the meeting about the Anchorage Assembly's attendance policy and whether Davis intended to return. Marsett told them that Assembly members got credit for phoning into meetings and she had not yet heard back from Davis. Board member Alisha Hilde said she wanted to have more discussion before putting the issue to a vote.

"I would want to make an informed decision," she said.

If a school board seat is vacated, the remaining board members appoint someone to fill the spot.

In 2013, the school board named Kameron Perez-Verdia to a seat vacated by Gretchen Guess who resigned for a job move to Florida, according to a Daily News article.

The attendance of former school board member Pat Higgins became the subject of news articles in 2012. He was working in the Marshall Islands at the time and phoning into board meetings. Of 33 regular meetings, special meetings and work sessions during the 2011-12 school year, Higgins called in 13 times and was physically there 20 times, said a Daily News article.

In November 2012, the board changed its attendance policy to say that board members must physically attend 75 percent of regular board meetings over a two-year period.

Tegan Hanlon

Tegan Hanlon was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News between 2013 and 2019. She now reports for Alaska Public Media.