Alaska Dispatch News asked candidates for the April 4 election to the Anchorage Assembly and Anchorage School Board to answer a series of questions on issues facing those bodies. We're publishing their responses daily. The answers were fact-checked when facts were cited and edited for length, spelling, grammar and writing style.

In this part, candidates explain why they believe they are qualified for a seat on the School Board.

Seat C

Dave Donley

Dave Donley is a candidate for Anchorage School Board in the April 2017 election. (Candidate photo)
Dave Donley is a candidate for Anchorage School Board in the April 2017 election. (Candidate photo)

My wife and I have twins in third grade and want Anchorage schools to be the best they can be. I was born and raised in Anchorage, served 16 years as a state representative and senator and have been volunteering in our schools and community for over 30 years. As a parent, attorney and state senator I have advocated for Anchorage schools. I believe school resources should go to the classroom first. I believe every child deserves a great public education. I want our schools to prepare our children not just for college, but also career and vocational futures.

Alisha Hilde

Alisha Hilde (Candidate photo)
Alisha Hilde (Candidate photo)

I have always been an advocate for children — as a former public school teacher, Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters, and a foster mom (now adoptive mom). I'm deeply committed to serving all the students in our district. I am a small business owner and attorney, and know the skills our students need to succeed academically and professionally across a wide range of careers. I also hold a master's degree in of public policy in law and economics. I rely on well-reviewed research to set policy goals rather than popular convention. I think it's a critical component when spending taxpayers' money.

Tasha Hotch

Tasha Hotch (Candidate photo)
Tasha Hotch (Candidate photo)

I am an engaged parent and community member. I have been participating in the schools, ASD and community activities. I have a real passion for education, a value I grew up with by supporting educators and those receiving education. My passion is evidenced by my commitment to enriching education experiences whether by volunteering in schools, or creating a safe environment for students. I have advocated for resources for students both in ASD, and through programs that serve students managed by other entities such as the Johnson O'Malley Program.

James Smallwood

James Smallwood (Candidate photo)
James Smallwood (Candidate photo)

I am a husband, a father, a former youth pastor, coach, family coach, mentor, community leader, small business owner and a substitute teacher for ASD. I am running for Anchorage School Board because I believe every student can succeed if we make education a priority. Similar to the district's vision, I envision that by the year 2020 the graduation rate will be 90 percent. If we as a community are willing to roll up our sleeves and put in the hard work to ensure our kids do not fail, then our students will succeed.

Christopher Jamison

Did not respond to questions. 

Seat D

Albert Berke

Albert Berke (Candidate photo)
Albert Berke (Candidate photo)

I have experience teaching and counseling at various schools, colleges and universities. I attended Gallaudet College, which is now a university in Washington, D.C. I went to Loyola University in New Orleans, the University of Cincinnati and Boston University. I taught at the American School for the Deaf and also at Delgato Junior College in New Orleans. I have a bachelor's degree in  education, a master's in guidance and counseling and in special education.

Andy Holleman

Andy Holleman (Candidate photo)
Andy Holleman (Candidate photo)

I'm a retired educator with 20 years at the Anchorage School District. For four of those years I was president of the Anchorage Education Association, the one person elected by certificated educators to speak on their behalf. I've been to almost every school board meeting over the past 5 years, and have spent a lot of time observing how the board makes policy, what members' thoughts were, and then working with teachers as those policies played out in classrooms. This has been unique training in understanding how the board works.

Kay Schuster

Kay Schuster (Candidate photo)
Kay Schuster (Candidate photo)

Current challenges demand unique qualifications. I have an 18-year career at  ASD as a special education teacher, a supervising teacher, and as department chair at several schools and grade levels.

I am a born and raised Alaskan, attended ASD schools and the University of Alaska Anchorage and ran an air taxi service with my husband while raising three children. I understand the issues we face.

I know the schools, students and programs and my conservative approach to spending in a time of severe budget cuts is needed on the Anchorage School Board.

Coming Sunday: What challenges does the district face?