Anchorage School Board candidate Q&A: Why are you qualified?

  • Author: Anchorage Daily News
  • Updated: March 10
  • Published March 6

The Anchorage Daily News asked candidates for mayor and the Anchorage School Board in the April 3 election to answer a series of questions on issues facing the city and the Anchorage School District. We're publishing their responses daily. The answers were fact-checked when facts were cited and edited for spelling, grammar and writing style.

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

Seat E

Alisha Hilde
Age: 35
Occupation: Attorney

As a former foster mom and Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters, I'm deeply committed to making sure every student in our district receives a great education. I am a small business owner and attorney and know the skills our students need to succeed across a wide range of careers. I am data-driven and rely on well-reviewed research to set policy goals. I am a former public school music teacher, teach Sunday school and teach an after-school music club for middle school students. I am active in the PTA and attend school board meetings. I value collaboration and will bring new energy to our school board. My focus is on finding solutions that work for our students.

Tasha Hotch
Age: 40
Occupation: Program manager for the Alaska Community Health Aide program

I have experience serving on boards, such as the Alaska Native Professional Association, Neighborworks Alaska, Anchorage Tribes Tlingit and Haida Indians of Alaska, and the Mountain View Community Council. I have budget experience as a Commissioner on the Anchorage Budget Advisory Commission, and a delegate for Central Council Tlingit and Haida. I have been a part of education committees such as the Anchorage School District's Multi-Cultural Education Concerns Advisory Committee, and the Johnson O'Malley Education Program with Cook Inlet Tribal Council. I have served on the PTA, and chair the Education Committee for the Mountain View Community Council and Anchorage Tribes Tlingit and Haida Indians of Alaska.

David Nees
Age: Declined to say
Occupation: Retired math teacher, volunteer Alaska Policy Forum education researcher

I have been involved in the Anchorage education since 1979 (my wife walked the line in '79). I substituted in the early '80s at Government Hill and my first three years as a teacher were at the 1,000-plus-student old Clark Middle School. I spent 25 years at Hanshew Middle School with 1,400 seventh and eighth graders. As a teacher, I wondered how the middle school model would raise learning. It did not. I fought against the everyday math curriculum. As a member of the House Sustainable Education Task Force, I have asked for more accountability for state funds distributed to schools before increases in funding. I have watched ASD schools change from centers of education to no-discipline centers of babysitting.

Don Smith
Age: 78
Occupation: Retired Anchorage business owner

My experience was as a businessman in Anchorage for over 40 years and 18 and a half years in Alaska politics. I've served in local and state government. My 10 and a half years on the Anchorage Municipal Assembly gave me experience dealing with government. I also spent three years as a member of the Anchorage School Board. While on the school board I authored and was successful in greatly expanding Career and Technical Education in ALL Middle and Senior High Schools. I also was successful in placing two $20 million bond issues on the ballot to pay for additions to all the schools that were implementing the Career and Technical Education program.

Ron Stafford
Age: 68
Job: Transportation consultant

My wife and I have two children that are grown and on their own now and we did a good job helping them get through school. So I think that's one priority, having had experience in the past. I've also studied a lot in schools for myself, and I see where they fail, in my mind. And I think that those things need to be corrected.

Seat F

Phil Isley

Age: 62
Occupation: A&P Mechanic

I am a concerned member of the community that meets the requirements by law.

Deena Mitchell
Age: 56
Occupation: Currently a parent, volunteer and homemaker. Past: Advertising executive, economics instructor at Indiana University

I've attended many ASD Board meetings, listened to the concerns of parents, students and teachers, and walked the halls of the state capitol in Juneau talking with legislators about the state's education budget, to learn about the issues that affect our education system. This allowed me to work effectively as a founding member of Great Alaska Schools Anchorage. I've challenged the district's spending priorities, and the Alaska Legislature's lack of state funding. I served on the Alaska Education Challenge, and participated in Alaska's Department of Education forums on the new federal education law. I hold graduate degrees in Economics and Finance, which inform my work on fiscal issues.

Seat G

Elisa Snelling
Age: 39
Occupation: Accountant and current School Board member

As a lifelong Anchorage resident and ASD grad, I have a local approach to improving our system. I am an accountant and can understand the vast amounts of data to be processed.

Irene Weisman

Age: 21
Occupation: Stay-at-home mom

I am uniquely qualified to serve as a School Board member because of two things. First, I was raised by a retired elementary school English teacher. She gave me the passion for learning and the education system that I have today, and her coaching is the foundation for my love of reading and language arts, mathematics, history, and art. She also taught me to care deeply about everyone and that every person deserves an amazing education. If one does not have a good education, they are not set up to be successful in society. The second is that I am young. I graduated high school in 2015 so I have inside knowledge and current experience with the problems many students and their teachers face.