Voices of Alaska Education
Our Mission: To advocate for children and youth by assisting school boards in providing
quality public education, focused on student achievement, through effective local governance.
Norm Wooten
AASB Executive Director

Together We Stand

The second session of the 31st Legislature is almost upon us. Important upcoming dates include December 15, the deadline for the Governor to release the FY21 budget, and January 21, the convening date of the legislature.

This is the second session of the 31st legislature, so all bills filed during the first session are still active and able to be scheduled for committee hearings and acted on by the respective bodies.

It is difficult to look into the “crystal ball” and make any predictions on what might happen during the second session. However, there are indicators that will undoubtedly have an effect on the legislative process.

Timi Tullis,
Associate Executive Director

Turning Learning
Into Action

There sure has been a lot of learning happening over the past two months!

From AASB's 66th Annual Conference to our Winter Academy, we’ve offered a LOT of information to assist board members in enhancing their skills and knowledge. Now that you’ve gotten home, unpacked your luggage, and are feeling energized, its now time to share all you learned with your board; but where do you start?

Here are five follow-up tasks to complete after conferences that will help to ensure that the benefits continue long after the event is done.

Heather Coulehan , Social and Emotional Learning Coordinator

Trauma Engaged Professional Learning
to Transform Schools

“We need authentic ongoing conversations to integrate training across agencies… Our staff need time to participate in reflective practice including local cultural activities.”
- Alaska school board member

 “Authentic ongoing conversations” are at the heart of school transformation. Chapter 5 in Transforming Schools: A Framework for Trauma-Engaged Practice in Alaska explores how real and lasting change requires ongoing and embedded professional development rather than one-time training.

AASB and Statewide Partners Work to Improve Alaska’s Early Childhood Care and Education System
By Betsy Brenneman, Preschool Development Grant Coordinator
“We need to get Head Start back in our community.”
  “A basic definition of kindergarten readiness is needed.”

“More money is needed for pre-K grants.”

“Universal pre-K! Statewide.”

“We need a plan to grow our own teachers and their pay.”

Those were just a few of the comments from AASB members during last month’s annual conference in Anchorage at a working lunch and snapshot sessions focused on early childhood care and education in Alaska. They echoed what AASB members identified as needs at an early childhood lunch conversation in April at AASB’s Spring Academy in Juneau. Participants strongly expressed the need in their communities for more accessible, affordable and high-quality early learning programs to prepare children for school and for more engagement with families of young children.

Your school district is a vital member of the Association of Alaska School Boards, our state’s leading advocate for public education. Together, we work to ensure equity by strengthening the connections between schools, families, tribes, communities, and government so that every Alaskan child has the opportunity to receive a quality public education.

The many services AASB offers are designed to provide maximum benefit to our members in meeting their district's goals. Check out our Membership Benefits brochure and let us know how we can assist you!

STEPS Spotlight
Articles in this section are excerpted from the AASB STEPS Alaska Promise Neighborhood Newsletter that focuses on the work in progress among the Supporting Transitions and Educational Promise Southeast Alaska (STEPS Alaska) grant regional partners, who are striving to improve outcomes for Southeast Alaska’s youth.
Using Data to Promote Equitable Outcomes
As members of the STEPS community, we are all dedicated to providing the most equitable education for all students in Alaska. We are familiar with the collective and intergenerational trauma caused by Alaskan boarding schools and strive to promote a trauma-informed and culturally-responsive approach to education.
We know that recent research into adverse childhood and community experiences, or ACCEs, shows that schools are not currently prepared to adequately support students who have experienced trauma, either first-hand or intergenerational.

How then, can we present this issue to people who are unfamiliar with this history, and start to move the needle towards enacting culturally-responsive teaching methods across Alaska?

ELA scores/4-Year graduation rate for Alaska Native/White students.

Alaska CAN! Uses Data to Help Build Workforce & Support Students
Data has been a driving force behind the work that the statewide Alaska Post-Secondary Action and Completion Network (or Alaska CAN!) has focused on since forming five years ago. The Network used data to set a goal; 65% of Alaskans will have a credential by 2025.

The goal, which refers to college degrees and certificates like Occupational Endorsements, is splashed all over their website. Using data to track progress has allowed the Network to focus the conversation on the systemic barriers and the meaningful work that needs to happen to improve outcomes for ALL students. The goal is to train Alaskans to fill Alaska’s future workforce needs.

Check out the website to learn more about the 65 by 2025 initiative, and read their data findings at the link below.

AASB Youth Advocacy Institute

February 8-11, 2020

Each year, AASB staff host the Youth Advocacy Institute (YAI) where students from across the state come together to build relationships with their peers and policymakers, while also developing advocacy and leadership skills. This year, YAI will take place Feb. 8-11, 2020 in conjunction with the AASB Fly-In and all participating districts are invited to bring students along. Participants discuss current bills, practice testifying, and meet with legislators and administration officials.

Email Claudia Plesa for more information.

6th Annual Alaska CAN! Conference

February 27-28

The 6th Annual Alaska CAN! Conference focus and goal is to unite cross-sector professionals in increasing the number of Alaskans enrolling and succeeding in post-secondary education. Participants will learn practical skills to overcome common obstacles, new and strengthened partnerships, lessons from stories of success, and identification of opportunities for program alignment. More details will be shared as they are made available. The recap for this year's conference is available in the link below.

STEAM: Southeast Alaska AEYC Symposium

March 12-14, 2020

The Southeast Alaska Association for the Education of Young Children (AEYC), has been serving early educators, families, and community members since 1982.

Their annual symposium is being held in Juneau from Mar. 12-14, 2020. The theme this year is "Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics in Early Education."

Please click the links below if you want to present/find more information.

To learn more about STEPS Alaska projects,

Robert's Rules
Don’t put these 6 items in the minutes!
Ann Macfarlane, Professional Parliamentarian

There are half a dozen things that DO NOT BELONG in your minutes. Here they are.

School Law
E ffective communication: Website accessibility under federal law
Lea Filippi of Sedor, Wendlandt, Evans & Filippi, LLC

Part four of a series: Technology and the Law

School districts communicate with students and their families in ways that range from high tech to very low tech. Districts email, make phone calls, and send notes and newsletters home in student backpacks.
Lea Filippi
In the 21 st century, many districts communicate with their communities and families through apps or a website. The question can arise whether that communication is actually effective, particularly in relation to a district’s legal obligation not to discriminate against people with disabilities for whom some channels of communication may be more accessible than others.

More of the series, Technology and the Law:

More from Sedor, Wendlandt, Evans & Filippi, LLC:

Constitutional Quiz
Test your knowledge of Alaska's Constitution

Q: When are Alaska’s general elections held?
  • On the second Tuesday in November of every even-numbered year.
  • On the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in every even-numbered year.
  • On the first Tuesday in November in every odd-numbered year.

Upcoming Events
Save the Dates!
Legislative Fly-In &
Youth Advocacy Institute

February 8-11, 2020
Join us in Juneau February 8-9 for the Annual Legislative Fly-In and Youth Advocacy Institute (YAI).

Saturday 2/8 will focus on Board/Superintendent Relationships. Sunday 2/9 will be dedicated to learning about key issues for this legislative session, along with guidance on how to advocate for public education.

New this year:  Pre-conference session on Friday 2/7 for Superintendents & School Board Presidents.

AASB’s Youth Advocacy Institute is an opportunity for high school students to:
  • Develop advocacy & leadership skills.
  • Learn about current legislative education issues
  • Spend time with school board members  discussing issues faced by students in Alaska schools.

Registration opens in January!

Registration Now Open!
2020 School Climate & Connectedness Survey
Choose a two-week window
for students and staff between
January 20 - March 20
Join over 30 school districts who measure school climate as a first step to improving and strengthening school environments, relationships, and connections between students, staff, and families.

RTI/MTSS Effective Instruction Conference
The  Alaska Staff Development Network (ASDN)  invites you to join educators from across Alaska at the 2020 RTI/MTSS Effective Instruction Conference, January 25-26 held at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage.

The RTI/MTSS Effective Instruction Conference brings nationally recognized educators right here to Alaska. We invite you to learn alongside your district staff. As the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) and the Legislature focuses on the Alaska’s Education Challenge priority of ‘reading at grade level by 3rd grade’ , school board members may be particularly interested in offerings targeting literacy instruction.

Other conference session topics include: 
This year’s keynote is ‘All Learning is Social and Emotional’ by Dr. Doug Fisher and Dr. Dominique Smith. 
Full-day strands will be offered on Saturday the 25th, and a wide variety of half-day topical sessions will be offered on Sunday the 26 th  so that participants have a chance to explore one or two interest areas in depth. Lunch will be provided on site both days to provide more opportunities to meet and network with your colleagues.
Feel free to contact  Sam Jordan  at ASDN with any questions.
Spirit of Youth invites school districts to
join their efforts as champions for Alaska’s youth
Spirit of Youth knows that there are good things happening in our state and young people are often at the heart of them. For 22 years Spirit of Youth has empowered Alaska’s youth through statewide, media-based youth recognition programs. Since their start they have shared thousands of positive stories about Alaska’s youth through television, radio, print and public recognition. 

Spirit of Youth relies on community members to let youth know they matter by making a nomination for recognition. All nominees are publicly recognized in their communities and receive a certificate signed by the Lieutenant Governor. Nominations help create opportunities for youth leadership and allow teens to share their voices and get recognized for their contributions.

Of nominees, eight youth or youth groups and eight runners-up are selected to receive Spirit of Youth Awards including a scholarship. All Alaskan youth ages 12-19 are eligible.

Do you know a teen or youth group doing something positive in your community? Nominate them for Spirit of Youth recognition at  spiritofyouth.org  

For more information call 907-272-2875

The deadline to nominate youth is December 31

Alaska School News
The Inside Scoop

Each month Commentary highlights Alaska school and district news to honor student achievements, help promote local events and activities, and recognize the contributions and accomplishments of youth in your district. Add us to your school or district newsletter mailing list.
School Newsletters

Alaska Gateway School District

Anchorage School District

Annette Island School District

Denali Borough School District

Galena City School District

Iditarod Area School District

Juneau School District

Lower Kuskokwim School District

Pelican School District

Southeast Island School District

Wrangell Public School District
Include your school or district news items or newsletter

State Budget News

Becky Bohrer, Anchorage Daily News

Alex DeMarban, Anchorage Daily News

Dermot Cole, Fairbanks Daily News Miner

Sean Maguire, KTUU

Derek Minemyer, KTUU

Peter Segall, Juneau Empire

Associated Press, Anchorage Daily News

Peter Segall, Peninsula Clarion

Shady Grove Oliver, Arctic Sounder

Elizabeth Ripley, Anchorage Daily News

Senator Gary Stevens, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News

James Brooks, Anchorage Dail;y News

Nat Hertz, Alaska Public Media

Peter Segall, Juneau Empire

James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News

Cliff Groh, Anchorage Press

Associated Press, Anchorage Daily News

Helen Howarth, The Cordova Times

Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO

James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News

Associated Press

James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News

Alex DeMarban, Anchorage Daily News

James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News

Nathaniel Hertz, Alaska Public Media

Andrew Kitchenman, Alaska Public Media

Victoria Petersen, Peninsula Clarion

Alaska Education News
Alaska’s Rural Schools Struggle to Attract Teachers Despite High Salaries
Casey Leins, U.S. News & World Report
In Alaska's Bering Strait School District, which serves 1,900 students in 15 schools spread throughout an area the size of Minnesota, sports teams have to travel via small planes to play their opponents.

The smallest school in the district, located in northwestern Alaska, has only 16 students, while the largest has 260, according to Superintendent Bobby Bolen. Each school is located in a rural bush village with no road access, meaning that teachers have to live in the communities where they work.
A yellow school bus parked
in St. Michael, Alaska.
Photo: Wong Maye-E/AP
Because teachers in Alaska's rural school districts usually have to live in isolated areas with high costs of living, the schools have trouble recruiting instructors from the contiguous U.S. In order to boost the appeal, Alaska's rural schools pay their teachers more than rural schools in any other state, according to the Rural School and Community Trust's "Why Rural Matters" report released earlier this month.

Norm Wooten, Executive Director of the Association of Alaska School Boards, says there's another part to the equation: Not only are the rural villages isolated, but they have no running water and heating still comes from wood or fuel.

"Teaching here is not for the faint of heart," he says.

LKSD Offering Transitional Housing To First-Year Bethel Teachers Amid Staffing Issues
Greg Kim, KYUK
Almost all newcomers to Bethel have to find their own housing, a challenge for someone who’s never been here.
This year, the Lower Kuskokwim School District offered transitional housing for some first-year teachers in Bethel, a move that some school board members didn’t think was fairly implemented. The district administration explained that the alternative would have been fewer teachers. 

School board to hear about district’s cell phone policies and sex education curriculum
Angela Denning, KFSK
The Petersburg School Board is holding their monthly meeting Tuesday to consider passing a policy that restricts sex offenders on campus. The school board approved a policy in its first reading at their meeting last month and were figuring out details of how to include the auditorium and gym in the policy.
Photo: KFSK
The Association of Alaska School Boards is suggesting that all school districts adopt their own policy as there is none at the state level. The school board will also consider approving a curriculum for sex education in the schools. A state law requires that the instructors and curriculum are approved every year.

Unalaska school district goes $15k over budget chartering planes after fatal PenAir crash
Hope McKenney, KUCB
The fallout from last month’s  fatal plane crash is hurting the Unalaska City School District’s budget. In the wake of the accident, RavnAir Group suspended regular flights to and from Anchorage for about four weeks.
Photo: Berett Wilber, KUCB
During that time, Superintendent John Conwell said the district had to pay for  expensive charters for traveling sports teams, student government reps and school board members, as well as cover unexpected hotel stays.

Opinion: Thank You, Unalaska!
Cordova High School Swim Team
To Residents of Unalaska,

We are writing to try to express our deep gratitude for the amazing support we received October 17 and 18, 2019.

Our high school swim team was traveling to Unalaska from Cordova. Following the traumatic incident upon the landing of PenAir flight 3296, we were shaken up and without many basic necessities for our team members and chaperones...

Photo: Hope McKenney, KUCB
Celebrating an icon: Local project ships Peratrovich book to libraries, schools for free
Ben Hohenstatt, Juneau Empire
When Carolyn Brown went looking for an Elizabeth Peratrovich biography about 10 years ago, she had a hard time finding one.

Now, she’s part of an effort that will bring a book about the Alaska Native civil rights icon,  “The Fighter in Velvet Gloves: Alaska Civil Rights Hero Elizabeth Peratrovich,”  to shelves in schools and libraries across the state.

League of Women Voters of Juneau volunteers prepare book about civil rights leader Elizabeth Peratrovich, for mailing to libraries and school across Alaska. Photo: Michael Penn
Youth-led protest held on Delaney Park Strip against climate change
Sean Maguire, KTUU
Dozens of protesters gathered at the Delaney Park Strip, urging state lawmakers to combat climate change and for the governor to reinstate an environmental action committee.
Photo: KTUU
The protest was part of Fridays for Future, a movement started by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg who would go on strike from school every Friday to call for more environmental awareness.

Cassidy Austin, 17, a student at West Anchorage High School, is the Anchorage coordinator for Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA). She helped organize Friday’s protest that coincidentally fell on Black Friday, saying it sends a strong message about the costs of consumerism.

Broadband will open a host of opportunities for work, health and education in Yakutat, tribe says
Ari Snyder, KCAW
Slow internet and spotty cell phone service are common problems for small communities throughout Alaska, and Yakutat is no exception. The lack of connectivity has made it harder for the town to attract businesses, invest in telemedicine, and develop distance education services. Now, thanks to a federal grant, the whole town is getting an upgrade.

Yakutat is a coastal community of about 600 people on the Gulf of Alaska’s northern coast.
Photo: Emily Kwong, KCAW
A new English-Yup’ik preschool may soon open in Bethel
Greg Kim, KYUK
Bethel parents may have another daycare option soon. This January, the Lower Kuskokwim School District is hoping to pilot a dual language preschool in Bethel. However, there are some major hurdles to be overcome before the district can move forward. 

Director of Elementary Christina Robbins says that LKSD found some extra money this year for some extra teachers, so they started talking about a Dual Language Enrichment, or DLE, preschool in Bethel. “We’re definitely hopeful that this happens this spring,” Robbins said.

The Pledge of Allegiance,
written in Yup’ik.
Photo courtesy Sally Benedict
Healing in the classroom: Juneau school tries new tack to help students
Michael S. Lockett, Juneau Empire
Just as a house built on a shattered foundation won’t stand straight, mounting research points toward a child’s earliest years as setting a pattern that will last their whole life.

“What happens early in your life has really big and dramatic impact on the later parts of your life,” said Alex Newton, the counselor at Glacier Valley Elementary School – Sít’ Eetí Shaanáx. “All development for kids starts with their early caregiver experience.”

JAHMI Health & Wellness, Inc., Juneau. Photo: Michael Penn
2YH: ASD looks into benefits of extended lunch and recess through a wellness initiative
Ariane Aramburo, KTUU
Education specialists say that nutritious food and physical activity are essential components of a child's healthy development.

But how much time is enough for lunch and recess?
Kindergarten students taking part in indoor recess at Kasuun Elementary.
Photo: KTUU
To test out the theory that increasing lunch and recess times could actually help improve educational outcomes, the Anchorage School District along with a parent organization ASD60 created a wellness initiative looking at the benefits of extending those periods.

Dunleavy administration pursues partnering with tribes for public education - and wants your input
Tegan Hanlon, Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development is pursuing agreements with Alaska Native tribal governments to operate K-12 schools, and it wants community input to help create a new bill.
That bill, which Gov. Mike Dunleavy plans to introduce during the upcoming legislative session, would set up a legal framework so interested tribal governments could run public schools in Alaska. To do so, the tribes would enter into an agreement, called a compact, with the state.

Compacting isn’t a cost-saving measure, said Niki Tshibaka, assistant commissioner at the education department. It’s an effort to improve academic outcomes, from school attendance to dropout rates.

Assembly and school board discuss education budget
Iris Samuels, Kodiak Daily Mirror
The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly and Board of Education held a joint work session Tuesday to discuss the school district’s initial funding request for fiscal 2021.

The school board requested from the borough an identical annual appropriation to that received for fiscal 2020, slightly over $10 million.

Reconfiguration discussion draws heightened emotions
Iris Samuels, Kodiak Daily Mirror
School reconfiguration is not on the table for the upcoming school year, said Kodiak Island Borough School District Superintendent Larry LeDoux to a packed room of parents and community members, following a board of education discussion and public hearing on the topic.
Parents, teachers and community members listen to the board discuss school reconfiguration.
Photo: Kodiak Daily Mirror
The reconfiguration plan proposes to rearrange North Star Elementary, East Elementary and Main Elementary schools, so that students will be divided into separate schools for kindergarten and first grade, second and third grades, and fourth and fifth grades. Currently, all three elementary schools are K-5 and students are divided into schools according to where they live.

Substance infractions double in Fairbanks schools
Kyrie Long, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
The Fairbanks school district reports it has seen nearly double the amount of infractions related to prohibited substances in a year, attributing the increase to vaping among students. 

Photo: Tony Dejak
Spotlight on Youth: Introduce a girl to engineering day
Charlie Sokaitis, KTUU
Female representation has come a long way in the American workforce but it hasn’t been evenly spread across the board. In some STEM fields there are still major discrepancies.
Photo: KTUU
That’s why ExxonMobil, Girl Scouts of Alaska and the Anchorage School District combined their efforts to put on “introduce a girl to engineering day” at the Egan center.

Juneau School District announces two new principals
Ben Hohenstatt, Juneau Empire
Juneau School District’s two newest principals have already been at work for a while.
On Friday, the district announced Molly Box was selected to be principal of Harborview Elementary School and Elizabeth Pisel-Davis was picked to be principal of Riverbend Elementary School. Box was previously the interim principal for Harborview and Pisel-Davis was the the interim principal for Riverbend.

Both new principals were publicly interviewed this week and were the lone candidates publicly interviewed for their respective positions. They have decades of experience in education.

Molly Box is the new permanent principal of Harborview Elementary School, and Elizabeth Pisel-Davis is the new permanent principal of Riverbend Elementary School.
Photo: Michael Penn
Superintendent Search Service
Looking for a New Superintendent?

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Our Superintendent Search Service provides expert facilitation of the entire search process, including identifying the needs of the district, recruiting candidates, conducting background searches, facilitating interviews, and all the steps to help with the hiring process. Learn about our Search Service

If you would like AASB to conduct a superintendent search for your district, or have questions,  Contact Us

 Answer to Constitutional Quiz Question
Q: When are Alaska’s general elections held?
  • On the second Tuesday in November of every even-numbered year.
  • On the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in every even-numbered year.
  • On the first Tuesday in November in every odd-numbered year.

A: On the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in every even-numbered year.
(Article 5, Section 5, Alaska Constitution)

Association of Alaska School Boards | aasb.org