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

Advocacy Tip:
Never Forget You
Are Elected Officials

This column has frequently addressed the important role of school board members in their advocacy role. This is a board responsibility that is seldom addressed when one decides to stand for election to the School Board. Yet, it is a critical responsibility of board members. The most effective advocates are school board members. You are unpaid volunteers, and your representation occurs because of your passion for public education.  

By Emily Ferry, AASB Collective Impact Coordinator

The Right Choice
for Alaska

When my eleven-year-old tells me he can’t wait to get to school to finish his research project on Mezo-America, or my nine-year-old is psyched to dive into division, my mom-heart does a happy dance.
This is the goal, right? To have kids who are engaged, excited about, and taking ownership of their education. Back in 1990s, when school choice became a hot topic, optional programs like charter and language immersion schools became available to Alaskans.

Lon Garrison, Director of Membership Services

It Takes Two
To Tango

The Board and Superintendent relationship can be like dancing the Tango. When the Board leads well, supporting the Superintendent during tricky maneuvers and daring moves, disciplining itself not to overstep and trip up its partner, and provides clear expectations for where the dance will go,
As I reflect back over the last three years of working with boards that are seeking new superintendents, I have observed where this leadership Tango has often gone awry.

AASB In Action
Alaskans Around the State Help Build the New Early Childhood Strategic Plan
Betsy Brenneman, Preschool Development Grant Coordinator
AASB continues its work coordinating the new statewide strategic plan for Alaska’s early childhood system with guidance, concerns and suggestions from around the state.
Betsy Brenneman
Families, caregivers, parents, early childhood teachers, administrators, school board members and funders from a variety of communities and members of the advisory Early Childhood Joint Task Force have been actively sharing their passion and ideas to improve early childhood care and education with contractor Denali Daniels + Associates. The new strategic plan and the needs assessment on which it is based were funded by the federal Preschool Development Grant (PDG) awarded to the Alaska Department of Education.
Communities visited so far include Kodiak, Bethel, and Kotzebue, with upcoming visits to Klawock/Prince of Wales Island, Interior Alaska, and the Anchorage/Mat-Su area. Presentations and/or engagement sessions have occurred with members of the Alaska Early Childhood Coordinating Council; AASB; Kindergarten Ready Network; AEYC-Anchorage, tribal administrators and statewide Head Start directors.
To stay up to date on the project:
Kodiak families and early childhood providers were enthusiastic participants during three meetings held during the first site visit on December 10, 2019.
After three intense work group sessions on the strategic plan framework, the full Early Childhood Joint Task Force advisory body came together on Jan. 27, 2020 to hammer out draft goals of the plan.
Bethel families, teachers, program administrators and health care providers spoke out at two meetings on February 4, 2020 about what their region needs to improve early childhood care and education. 
The family-friendly community meeting in Kotzebue drew a large crowd of adults and children on February 10, 2020 and resulted in concrete ideas to include in the new early childhood strategic plan.
The project described was supported by the Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five Initiative (PDG B-5), Grant Number 90TP0012, from the Office of Child Care, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Office of Child Care, the Administration for Children and Families, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Fly-In Highlights
Board Members, Superintendents and Students Fly In and Weigh In
Over 100 Fly-In and Youth Advocacy Institute attendees from across Alaska spent five days in Juneau attending workshops, meeting with legislators and administration officials, and testifying before House and Senate committees.
AASB's Annual Legislative Fly-In and Youth Advocacy Institute (YAI) focused on Board/Superintendent relationships, learning about key issues for this legislative session, and guidance on how to effectively advocate for public education. A new feature this year was a Friday preconference session focusing on Superintendents and School Board Presidents.

High School students attending this year’s Youth Advocacy Institute (YAI) had opportunities to develop advocacy & leadership skills, learn about current legislative education issues, and spend time with school board members and legislators to discuss issues faced by students in Alaska schools.

The Fly-In was a great opportunity for education advocates from around the state to come together and engage legislators in crafting solutions to the challenges districts face. Read on to learn about some of the week's highlights.
We’re hoping for an even bigger turnout at the next Fly-In!

Join us March 28-31
New Venue:
Centennial Hall, Juneau

Addressing Awkwardness

The gleefully divergent viewpoints of attorney John Sedor and former superintendent Rich Carlson epitomized the unintended friction that can be generated between superintendents and board presidents.

During their lively interactive workshop, "AWKWARD! Working Through Those Uncomfortable Moments in the Board President/Superintendent Relationship," the pair explored strategies to effectively deal with delicate and potentially challenging situations.
Rich Carlson and John Sedor
Topics covered included contract negotiations, meeting conduct, and superintendent evaluations. The afternoon preconference session at Centennial Hall was free to Fly-In attendees.
Surveying the Political Landscape

Norm Wooten and Dr. Lisa Parady provided an overview of the realities, issues, and distractions driving this year’s legislative session. They discussed teacher recruitment and retention, PFD size, new revenue streams, the legislative lawsuit against the governor regarding separation of powers and forward funding, the Dunleavy recall effort, and diminished oil revenue that has resulted in Alaska realizing more income from the Permanent Fund than from oil. 
Whose Role Is It Anyway?

AASB Board President Michael Swain and Superintendent Dr. Karen Gaborik of Fairbanks North Star Borough School District facilitated a deep dive into the differences between governance and management, and specific roles of the board and superintendent.

Each table group was assigned discussion topics that included Policy, Budgets/Finance, Curriculum & Instructional Material, Personnel, Collective Bargaining, Students, Facilities, Meetings, and Community Engagement. After some discussion, each group gave examples of when things went well, when they didn’t, and suggestions for improvement.
Oversight or Overstep?

Timi Tullis took a break from arm surgery recovery to team up with Lon Garrison for a participatory presentation on the "do's" and "don’ts" of appropriate board behavior. Attendees voted on whether various scenarios the duo presented were "oversights" or "oversteps." Topics included hiring policies, a board member advocating for firing/hiring a substitute teacher position or requesting to see a staff HR file, a board member requesting a plan be developed to increase staff retention, passing on a parent concern to the superintendent, a board member attending a staff meeting to “show support,” and a board member referring a parent to board policy. Take-Away Point: The impact of overstepping undermines trust between board and superintendents.
All About the Budget

AASB Board Support and Training Coordinator Rich Carlson outlined board and superintendent roles in the budget process. "—It is the board's job to approve the budget based on district goals, priorities and the strategic plan. —It is the superintendent’s job to manage the budget," Carlson said.

He pointed out that budgets are moving targets and are based on projections. As a result, they need to be monitored and revised 2-3 times during the course of the year. He explained budget terminology and how each term relates to the budgeting process, and provided an example of how the foundation formula is used to determine a district budget, generating attendee questions about the legislative activity around the foundation formula and the BSA.
Commissioner Takes Heat

DEED Commissioner Johnson fielded attendee questions on several hot topics. Alaska Reads Act: $90 million will be spent over the next 10 years. The bill says students “should,” not “must,” reach proficiency. Parents are part of the process. Teachers can gather evidence that a student is reading at proficiency. Students can demonstrate proficiency in multiple ways. Legislative committees will decide the definition of a reading specialist. Tribal Compacting: They will be public schools, just like the others. Don’t be afraid of the TC discussion. Tribal leaders, legislators, the governor, and school boards share the burden in figuring out how TC will work. SEL for ACES kids: Conditions must be in place in home, school, and community. Attracted to the idea of involving H&SS, as educators are not generally equipped for mental health discussions.

Communication Tip: Remember the "Reverse Golden Rule"

Juneau School Board Member Brian Holst and Superintendent Bridget Weiss focused on communication between the board and the superintendent. Teams accomplish more than groups, and communication is synonymous with relationships. Working as a team is anticipating what other board members need to know to do their jobs. They pointed out that there are both formal and informal sides to communication. Their board participates in group social activities to build informal communications that help with formal communication when the time comes. They allowed time for attendees to discuss whether they are taking advantage of their current opportunities.

Superintendents should know their board members’ individual communication needs and relationship styles work best. Weiss urged attendees to remember the Reverse of the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as they would do unto themselves.” Perception is very important. Handling conflict resolution effectively makes the whole team stronger. How we communicate is personal. The board is the elected “face of the community.” Superintendent perspective: the superintendent is a critical role and we can’t do it by ourselves. Conclusion: Good relationships with the board are critical for effectiveness in the community so our kids can be successful. Board perspective: you get out of a relationship what you put into it.
Board Success, Petersburg Style!
Petersburg Board Members Mara Lutomski and Sarah Holmgrain, and Superintendent Erica Kludt-Painter offered suggestions for how to be a good board member:
  • Learn your role. Attend AASB training opportunities and events.
  • Know your place. The board is not the “boss of the district.” Our most important job is hiring a good superintendent.
  • Be honest, and don’t bring a personal or political agenda.
  • Cultivate and support a culture of respect.
  • Constructively evaluate the superintendent and provide productive feedback.
  • Focus on students and what is best for them.
From left, Mara Lutomski, Sarah Holmgrain, and Erica Kludt-Painter
When hiring a superintendent, who do you envision leading your district? Alaska has a diverse culture, and the lack of “soft skills" can be detrimental to a superintendent. Critical skills a superintendent needs are strong communication, ability to build relationships, excellent listening skills, and ability to accept feedback from the board.

Meanwhile at the Capitol Building, YAI Students Address Issues

Despite busy schedules, legislators made time Saturday to meet with students attending the AASB Youth Advocacy Institute (YAI) to share their experience and insights with young adults eager to learn about the legislative process, and who have an interest in becoming engaged constituents and voters.

Representatives Hopkins, Knopp, Story, and Zulkosky, and Senators Hughes and Kiehl, met with students in the Butrovich committee room at the Capitol to listen to their concerns and answer questions. The conversation covered a range of topics and regional issues. Student questions included:

  • Bethel - Alcoholism 
  • Denali - Teaching domestic violence awareness and prevention in health/sex education
  • Anchorage - The impact of out of school suspensions and how to minimize
  • Cordova - Ferry service - shared impact on their community, asked how to increase service
  • Unalakleet - Early education 
  • Haines - Ferry service (school travel), transportation infrastructure
  • Copper River - request to not flat-fund the BSA 

YAI students also had an opportunity to practice giving testimony at a mock committee hearing, in preparation for actual committee testimony in coming days.

Advocating for Alaska in D.C.

Pete Hoepfner reported on the recent NSBA Advocacy Institute he attended in Washington D.C. Also in attendance were AASB President Michael Swain, President-Elect Katie Oliver, and Past President/NSBA BOD Tiffany Jackson. They were joined by ASD board member Margo Bellamy.

While visiting Capitol Hill, the grou p met with members of Alaska's Congressional delegation and their staffs to advocate for public education issues, including increased broadband access, faster internet speeds , preventing increased Erate funding from affecting the Federal Disparity Test, recruitment and retention of teachers, implementing a “glide path” to increase IDEA funding annually to achieve the 40% threshold, and preventing public funds from being diverted to private schools.
What A Difference A Year Makes

During his luncheon address, newly appointed OMB Director Neil Steininger provided an o verview of the state budget, Alaska’s fiscal challenges, and how the education budget fits into the picture. He said Alaska has reached a point where there's not enough money in our savings accounts to fund the operation of state government after 2021. "Together we will have to decide how we want to shape the state," he said. In response to questions, Steininger assured attendees that departments will be more engaged in the legislative budget process this year and encouraged districts to reach out to DEED for specific information on state K-12 education spending. He also fielded questions on the Foundation Formula, new revenue sources, education forward funding, Alaska Reads Act funding, how PFD donations will be distributed, and funding for intensive needs students.
Gazing Into the Crystal Ball

AASB Executive Director Norm Wooten prognosticated on which bills might have the best chance of passing this session. Highlights included:

  • SB 6 - Alaska Reads Act is "moving like a greased pig." See Norm's slideshow at the link below for a section-by-section summary of the bill.
  • HB 24 - Limited Teacher Certificates; Languages Alaska has the least number of alternative forms of certifying teachers. Kreiss-Tomkins introduced the bill and is very interested in the issue of indigenous language instruction. AASB provided a letter of support for this bill.
  • HB 75 and SB 74 - Internet for Schools Adequate bandwidth is not an urban or rural issue, all communities large and small, don’t have enough. Current speed is 10 Mbps. These bills would increase the speed to 25 Mbps, but is dependent on Internet Service Providers. If passed, districts would get an E-Rate increase. Would not affect the Federal Disparity tax. It fwould be funded by E-Rate and is not a cost to the state.
  • HB 204 and SB 151 - Pre-K/Elementary Ed Programs. Both bills are in play and will likely be passed. BSA would remain at $5930.
  • HB 236 - Increase Base Student Allocation. Representative Story’s bill would increase the BSA over 2 years.
  • SB 136 Tribal Compacting AASB has no resolution on TC, but we are all about academic success for students. It has not yet been defined how it would work, so we have no current position for or against it.
  • HB 237 - Early Literacy Programs in Public Schools. Bill sponsors are Representatives Story and Drummond. Would provide two year funding: First year $10 million, second year another $10 million.

Issues the legislature is currently focused on:
  • How to fund the budget without depleting the CBR
  • Definition of what an intervention is.
  • Retention exemption, so not punitive to the child.
  • What metric will be used to determine student/district performance.

Identifying Regional Commonalities

Sunday afternoon was devoted to like size district forums. Attendees broke into small groups based on district sizes to discuss issues their districts have in common and develop lists of legislative priorities. The whole group came back together to compare notes and develop talking points based on the priorities they had identified.
Setting Legislative Priorities

Following the like size district forums, Lon Garrison facilitated a whole group discussion in which each of the groups shared their top two legislative priorities:

  1. BSA: Need sustainable, predictable funding.
  2. Teacher recruitment and retention.

Mid-size & Single Site
  1. Alaska Marine Highway System. Very important to coastal communities, families need to pay more for activities, students lose instructional days, affects supply chain/nutritional needs of some students, no wifi on ferries. Charter planes are not affordable.
  2. SB 6 - Alaska Reads Act concerns: funding issues; excessive reporting regulations; unfunded mandate; student retention is damaging; specialists and interventionists not financially feasible.

  1. SB 6 - Alaska Reads Act concerns: DEED being the primary implementer; finding reading specialists; assessments and curriculum used; exemptions for retention; effective date; funding for teachers, transportation; space availability; public competition with private schools; stair-step funding; definition of "developmentally appropriate."
  2. HB 204 - Pre-K/Elementary Education Programs and Funding concerns: cut to education; increased healthcare cost; SEL needs; reading needs; intensive student needs (currently have 30 M + BSA).

The top priorities identified by districts were compiled into the following set of talking points on key bills and issues that are most relevant to regional concerns. Attendees spent time refining their messages for use during appointments with legislators and testimony to committees in the following days.

Tribal Compacting: Equity Versus Equality
Representative Tiffany Zulkosky of Bethel was the guest speaker at Monday's breakfast gathering. She was instrumental in setting up the legislature's first-ever Tribal Affairs Committee, which she says has opened the door to interacting with tribes in a different way.

"We cannot assume that every community has the same opportunities," said Zulkowsky, adding that the Tribal Affairs Committee has focused on understanding the difference between equity (everyone treated the same) and equality (what you need to be successful).
Representative Tiffany Zulkosky
She said there is lots of energy and excitement around tribal compacting in the legislature this session, and anticipates lawmakers will be looking for opportunities to apply it to education. She does not see tribal compacting as a cost savings measure that divests the state’s responsibility without resources. "It must be meaningfully funded," she said, "while also looking at what opportunities exist with the funding that is already coming into our communities."

"We should be doing everything we can to keep our best and brightest in Alaska," Zulkosky said. "Both students and teachers,"
Fly-In Testimony - House Education Committee
Breaking Down the Language Barrier

Kashunamiut school board member John Atchak spoke to the importance of integrating Native languages into instruction, but teacher shortages and retention issues in his district have made it challenging. He pointed to Chevak school's Cup’ik immersion language program as a success story, "We have two certified teachers to teach fluent speaking and understanding of our language. When little kids become proficient in speaking Cup’ik, they are educating their parents at the same time," he said. "Thinking in two languages connects both hemispheres of the brain."
Queuing Up

Board members, superintendents, and students from school districts across Alaska packed the House Education gallery waiting for their turn to testify to the committee on issues pertinent to their districts and schools. The committee hearing was broadcast live statewide over the Gavel Alaska channel. Archived video of the hearing can be viewed here .
Teens Speak Out On Suicide

Bering Strait School District students Jordan Sagoonick and Florence Saren spoke in support of HB 181 - Public School Mental Health Education. W estern Alaska has the 2nd highest suicide rate in the nation, they said, and students need to develop coping skills to deal more effectively with unhealthy thoughts and feelings that lead to depression, or worse.
Ferries, Teacher Retention,
Flat Funding versus Rising Costs,

Cordova School Board member Pete Hoepfner and teacher Debra Adams spoke to the impact of discontinued ferry service (loss of student opportunities, empty grocery shelves), teacher retention (current retirement system incentivizes teachers to leave the state), and lack of funding. "There's been flat funding for years, while education costs continue to rise," Hoepfner said. " If we want Alaska to grow, we need to support education."
Alaska Reads Act
Implementation Feedback

Kay Andrews of the Southwest Region School Board said that i n Alaska, only 30% of students are proficient in reading. While reading is critical for children, she had concerns about implementing the Alaska Reads Act - frequency of required assessments, finding qualified reading specialists, and added pressure on teachers to become reading specialists. Universal Pre-K and increasing efforts to retain teachers would help, she said.
Fly-In Testimony - Senate Education Committee
Despite Innovative Efficiencies, Program Cuts Eminent

Anchorage School Board President Starr Marsett began her presentation with a profile of the district and strategies they've employed in response to recent funding cuts.

ASD is Alaska's 8th largest employer, with over 46,500 K-12 students—58% students of color, 42% white—and an 84% 4-year graduation rate. The district offers many CTE opportunities, the newest being aimed at "growing our own teachers" to create a more diverse teaching staff who stays in Alaska. The district has partnered with LYSD to bring students to King Tech school. The district also offers immersion schools in seven languages, including Yup'ik. 80% of students in Pre-K are moving into Kindergarten without IEPs.

ASD has closed or merged 5 schools in 4 years, facilitated CTE partnerships with other districts, and placed preschools in open classroom spaces in declining enrollment schools. Even with these more efficient uses of time, space, and funds, the ASD budget this year has a $19.5 million deficit. In response, the district is cutting the IGNITE program and delivering health differently, ASD is also looking at boundaries in an effort to reallocate students among schools that are over or under capacity. "We are doing everything we can," said Marsett, adding "Our prediction is that in the future we will be cutting more programs, even though we are being very efficient"

Yaneri Abreu, a senior from East High School, is involved with student government told the committee she sees the Fly-In as an opportunity to learn more about the legislative process. "We've seen the programs Starr talked about in our school. At East, its amazing for us to be in such a diverse community that is so rich in opportunities," she said. " Having trained counselors in our schools is very helpful. We need more mental health providers in elementary schools. We’re seeing lots of trauma and ACEs showing up in our schools."
Stable Forward Funding Needed

Katie Oliver and Judy Carstens of the Kodiak Island Borough School Board began by thanking Senators for forward funding, and advocated for an increase in the BSA. They spoke to a variety of issues of concern to their district, including s table, predictable and adequate funding inside the foundation formula; t eacher recruitment and retention; and raising internet speeds to 25 Mbps because broadband is critical to instruction.

The district has done preliminary analysis on the Alaska Reads Act. Investments in students reading by the third grade are appreciated, but they have questions about school/student ranking, retention, and funding. Discontinued ferry service is negatively impacting education in rural and island districts. The lack of food is creating student discipline issues.
Statewide Representation

It was standing room only in the Senate Finance gallery as Fly-In attendees took turns testifying to the Senate Education Committee. Topics covered a range of regional and statewide education issues, including teacher recruitment and retention, the need for mental health providers to address growing levels of trauma and ACEs, maintenance of aging facilities, ferry system loss, support for early childhood/preschool, Alaska Reads Act, Universal Pre-K, increase bandwidth, to 25 mbps, and middle college program.

Media Coverage:
Ramping Up Mental Health and Reading Efforts

Kaegan Koski, a Kenai Peninsula Borough School District student, addressed the district's Social Emotional Learning (SEL) efforts, reporting that the Sources of Strength suicide prevention program has been implemented in eleven schools. The program empowers students to connect with each other when feeling depression or sadness, he said, and models how to intervene before a bad situation arises. 

Koski said the district also has a number of early literacy projects aimed at younger students, including the Book Nook project he co-runs that addresses a growing apathy toward reading among young students. Weekly episodes are produced that feature public figures in the community relating their favorite books and stories.

School Board Member Debbie Cary and Communications Director Pegge Erkeneff highlighted district concerns, including aging infrastructure and the need to expand SEL efforts. " If we can address mental heath issues at younger ages, we will have healthier high school students," Cary said. Budget shortfalls have meant dipping into district savings last year. The borough is supporting funding the district to the cap.
Senator Tom Begich
Carpe Diem! (Sieze The Day!)

Anchorage Senator Tom Begich spoke to Fly-In attendees and YAI students at Tuesday's breakfast gathering.

He discussed the Alaska Reads Act he co-sponsored with the governor. In response to a question about the bill's funding component, he said there is $3.2m for Pre-K in the budget right now and the governor added $40 million over the next 10 years." Is that enough? No! We need a constitutional amendment for forward funding so districts have certainty for budget planning and deferred maintenance," he said.
For so long districts have been used to getting cut, Begich told the group. He encouraged districts to s tart talking about what is needed and what that looks like. Students should think about what they want, not what they’ll settle for. "You never enter a negotiation with your lowest offer, but with your best offer," he said.

Begich offered three points for school boards to consider when advocating for their districts:

1. Be aspirational. Stop thinking that the only answer is to take less. Set targets and know what you want to achieve. Providing the kind of education you want for your students means changing people’s minds, which is not easy. 

2. Shoot for specific targets. Identify things that will change the game, and don’t be afraid to ask for them. Universal Pre-K is one of those goals - prepares youth for better jobs, higher incomes, avoidance of the criminal justice system and health care system, AND these benefits are passed on to their children. It’s generational.

3. Take advantage of moments when they are given to you. You have to want it. If you want universal voluntary Pre-K, you have to get engaged in it now, because there may not be another opportunity in our lifetimes. R ealize the value of this moment, and that you don’t do this work alone.

In the Senate we have transcended party lines to work together, Begich said. I believe this year we will make decisions about education that will move us forward. We ask you to step up and become involved. We received over 30,000 constituent messages, and that changed the mind of the governor. 

Lets take advantage of the moment and use our voices to make this state the aspirational place we know it to be. I believe in the future of Alaska, and in the role of school boards in shaping that future, he said.

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.
Professional Learning and Development in Southeast Alaska
2020 Alaska RTI/MTSS Effective Instruction Conference

The 2020 Alaska RTI/MTSS Effective Instruction Conference was held in Anchorage last month. Several AASB staff members attended and were presenters at this professional development focused event organized by the Alaska Staff Development Network. A variety of workshops were available covering SEL supports, school leadership, pedagogy/instruction, and more. Read Michelle Byers' takeaways from the conference:

Learning Forward Conference

Learning Forward is the national organization that builds educators’ knowledge and skills to lead and sustain effective professional learning. 

Their learning programs provide strategies and tools to strengthen learning systems and build capacity at all levels. 

Please click the link below to learn more about the Learning Forward Conference from AASB's Social/Emotional Learning Coordinator, Heather Coulehan.

Professional Development through Artful Teaching

Professional development doesn’t always require expensive out-of-town speakers or long-distance travel to conferences. Since 2016, the Juneau School District has been strengthening its teaching team from within through the Artful Teaching program. This fall, the district began applying the same model to its efforts to infuse place-based learning into the classroom. Click below to learn more about the Artful Teaching program and its growth over the last few years.

To learn more about STEPS Alaska projects,

Tyler Breen Joins AASB Team

Tyler comes to AASB as a Community Engagement Educator after having spent the last seven years working in education and environmental conservation throughout Latin America. He worked with students in Paraguay as a Peace Corps volunteer, lead high school student groups through the Dominican Republic, and recently taught undergraduate study abroad courses in Costa Rica. During his time in Latin America, Tyler grew a deep appreciation for experiential education and the role of community in driving projects forward. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from UC Santa Cruz and a Master’s of Development Practice from Emory University.
Tyler Breen
School Law
“I always feel like somebody’s watching me”
Clint Campion of Sedor, Wendlandt, Evans & Filippi, LLC

Part six of a series on Technology and the Law

As the famous prophet Rockwell sang, “I always feel like somebody’s watching me…tell me is it just a dream?”
Clint Campion
With the increased installation of security cameras in our society, it is not just a dream. It really does feel like somebody’s watching us everywhere we go. Security cameras enhance our safety and security, but they result in a lot less privacy. Security cameras are watching us at the airport, at the store, at the bank, at work, at the hospital, and increasingly, at schools.

More of the series, Technology and the Law:

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

Robert's Rules
How do you “call the question” in Robert’s Rules?
Ann Macfarlane, Professional Parliamentarian
The motion “to call the question,” which has the technical name of “previous question,” may be the most abused motion in all of Robert’s Rules of Order. It is very common for people to shout out the word “question” or “I call the question” in the expectation that debate will immediately stop, and a vote will be taken. This is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.

When filling a vacant board slot, what questions should applicants be asked during interviews?
Here is a list of questions to ask potential new board members:

Constitutional Quiz
Test your knowledge of Alaska's Constitution

Q: What percentage of all mineral lease rentals, royalties, royalty sale proceeds, federal mineral revenue sharing payments, and bonuses received by the State shall be placed in the Permanent Fund?

  • At least 25%
  • Up to 50%
  • All income received

Upcoming Events
Register Now!
2020 Spring Boardsmanship Academy & Legislative Fly-In

March 28-31, 2020
NEW VENUE: Centennial Hall, Juneau

We’re hoping for an even bigger turnout at our next fly-in!!

Attend the Spring Fly-In to: 
  • Deepen your understanding on Curriculum and your role as a School Board Member
  • Understand what is currently driving the legislature
  • Status of current legislation
  • Connect with school board members from around the state 
  • Develop strategies for the final stretch of this legislative session so that Alaska School Board members have a unified voice

Please join us in Juneau and add your voice to the chorus of education advocates this session. Alaska legislators need to hear from you!

Room Blocks available at Four Points Sheraton and Baranof Hotel.

Hurry, Registration Closing Soon!
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.

Apply to be part of
the Outer Coast Year 2020-21

Application open March 1-May 15, 2020
Decisions made by June 1

The Outer Coast Year offers a diverse cohort of up to 20 Alaskan, Lower 48, and international high school graduates a transformative educational experience in Sitka, Alaska founded on the belief that students should have agency and ownership of every aspect of their academic and personal lives and the responsibility to positively affect the communities to which they belong.

The Year consists of two semesters:
  • Fall Semester (August 31 to December 19, 2020)
  • Spring Semester (January 19 to May 8, 2021)

The Outer Coast Year  is our first postsecondary program, based on the pillars of intellectual inquiry, meaningful service and labor in the community, and student self-governance. Graduating high school seniors and recent high school graduates (including GED holders) may apply online or print a mail-in application.

AEYC Early Learning Symposium

March 12 - 14
Centennial Hall in Juneau
AEYC-SEA is sponsoring an early learning symposium in conjunction with the Juneau STEM Coalition, Thread, Central Council of Tlingit & Haida, and JEDC. The theme is STEAM: Curiosity Unleashed, and is centered around science education for early learners. Activities will include professional development seminars and a screening of Molly of Denali! Scholarships and university credit is available for certain participants. Please click the links below to get more information and register.

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

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
Please note - some news outlets may require registration or a paid subscription for link access. Others may grant free access to a limited number of articles before requiring a paid subscription.
Isabelle Ross, KDLG

Matt Leseman, KTUU

Elwood Brehmer, Alaska Journal of Commerce

James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News

Sean Maguire, KTUU

Andrew Kitchenman, Alaska Puiblic Media

Adelyn Baxter, KTOO Juneau

Andrew Kitchenman, Alaska Puiblic Media

Anchorage Daily News Editorial Board

Jacob Resneck, KRBD

Ben Hohenstatt, Juneau Empire

Derek Minemyer, KTUU

Cliff Groh, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 12th in a continuing series by the author about the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend and the state’s fiscal system.

James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News

Jacob Resneck, CoastAlaska

Nathaniel Herz, Alaska Public Media

James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News

Associated Press / KTVA

Representative Tiffany Zulkosky for the Delta Discovery

June Leffler, KSTK Wrangell

Alex DeMarban & James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News

Joe Vigil, KTVA

James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News

Representative Louise Stutes for the Cordova Times

Jacob Resneck, CoastAlaska

Ari Snider, KCAW Sitka

Michael S. Lockett, Juneau Empire

Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO Juneau

Tim Bradner, Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman

Rich Moniak, Juneau Empire

Sara Tewksbury, KTVF

Larry Persily, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News

Peter Segall, Juneau Empire

Peter Segall, Juneau Empire

James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News

James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News

Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO Juneau

James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News

Peter Segall, Juneau Empire

Zachary Snowdon Smith, Cordova Times

James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News

Joel Jackson & Malena Marvin, Anchorage Daily News

Jacob Resneck, CoastAlaska Juneau

Jacob Resneck, CoastAlaska Juneau

Peter Segall, Juneau Empire

Joe Vigil, KTVA

Sean Maguire, KTUU

Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO Juneau

Peter Segall, Juneau Empire

KINY, Juneau

Henry Leasia, KHNS

Alaska Education News
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Opinion: Our youngest Alaskans deserve the educational opportunities to succeed
Senator Tom Begich, Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman
In this legislative session, we have set out to build upon past efforts to transform how we view public education by providing new opportunities for our youngest Alaskans. To achieve success, we know that all of us – the legislature, the Governor, education leaders, and the Alaskan public – must put aside political labels and work across party lines. If anything should transcend politics, it’s investing in our future leaders.

Senator Tom Begich
Senators: Home-school families can opt out of Alaska Reads Act
Scott Gross, KTVA
Senate Bill 6 — called the Alaska Reads Act — would focus on reading for students in prekindergarten through third grade. It would expand pre-K opportunities across the state and use standardized tests to make sure students stay on track.
However, some parents who home-school their children have concerns. Home-schooling parent Staci Eibert believes that the bill overall is a good idea but the pressure to succeed may become too much.

Sen. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, the sponsor of the bill, added further clarity. "The bill does not mandate that a person who chooses to home-school their [student] would have to do the required tests or the screenings in this bill," Begich said. "There’s clearly been some misinterpretation of that."

Petersburg School District considers the proposed Alaska Reads Act
Angela Denning, KFSK Petersburg
The Petersburg School Board took its first look at a Senate bill called the Alaska Reads Act. The act would create a statewide K-3 reading program with increased screenings among other requirements. As Angela Denning reports, the school board supports that overall idea of the bill, but not some of the details.

The Alaska Reads Act was created by Senator Tom Begich, a Democrat from Anchorage, along with Governor Mike Dunleavy. It looks to screen students from kindergarten through third grade and intervene when students or schools are having trouble.
Stedman Elementary School 3rd graders check out library books from former librarian, Mary Ellen Anderson. Photo: Angela Denning
“This is the first time they’ve ever really put money toward early childhood education in this state. That’s a good thing–a great thing–recognizing how important it is,” said Superintendent Erica Kludt-Painter. “But not a lot of conversation with the local communities about what might already be in place.”

Anchorage School Board restores funding for gifted program and security guards
Matt Tunseth, Anchorage Daily News
Anchorage School Board members dipped into the district’s reserves Tuesday to deliver a late-night gift to some of the school district’s gifted students.

After nearly six hours of discussion and public testimony , the board voted 5-2 to pass an $882.2 million budget for 2020-21 that includes $2.3 million in one-time funding for the IGNITE program for gifted students and another $286,000 to pay for security guards at Chugiak, Dimond and Service high schools and Polaris K-12.

From left, Carter Vigil, Luke Mackay and Chloe Vigil hold signs urging the Anchorage School Board not to reorganize the district's IGNITE program during the board's meeting on Tuesday at the ASD Education Center in Anchorage.
Photo: Matt Tunseth
KIBSD receives $1.9M funding increase
Iris Samuels, Kodiak Daily Mirror
Kodiak Island Borough School District will receive a $1.9 million increase in funding from the State Department of Education and Early Development, due to a spike in the number of Kodiak special needs students that qualify for intensive services.
The district identified 86 students who require intensive services at the beginning of the year. Of those, 81 were recently approved by the state, leading to the additional state funding. Intensive-needs students qualify for 13 times the regular student allocation from the state. In total, the district received $31.6 million from the state for fiscal year 2020.

State Awards LKSD $34 Million Grant To Build New School In Eek, But Overlooks Other Sites In Need
Greg Kim, KYUK
The state has awarded the Lower Kuskokwim School District $34,450,733 to add another school building in Eek, with the district chipping in $703,076. However, Eek is only one of several schools in the district needing new facilities. LKSD Superintendent Dan Walker explains why Eek got a new school and other villages, like Napakiak, didn’t.

$30 million bond package to address aging school facility needs
Victoria Petersen, Homer News
A $30 million bond package proposal is in the works to tackle nearly 20 different deferred maintenance projects in school buildings across the peninsula, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent John O’Brien announced at Monday’s Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education meeting.

The district is working closely with the Kenai Peninsula Borough on a $29,940,000 bond proposal that will fund facility projects district-wide, including a new school in Kachemak Selo.

Principal Michael Wojciak stands in front of one of the buildings used as the Kachemak Selo School, Nov. 12, 2019, in Kachemak Selo, Alaska.
Photo: Victoria Petersen
Aid expected after Kaktovik's only school declared a "total loss" from fire
Gilbert Cordova & Taylor Clark, KTUU
According to D.J. Fauske, Director of Government and External Affairs with the North Slope Borough, news of the school burning down has brought in aid and support to Kaktovik less than 12 hours after the fire started.

They said a local business will allow their kitchen to be used to prepare school meals indefinitely; emergency equipment and supplies will be flown in Saturday morning on a charter continuing as needed; Kaktovik’s community center will be used as a learning space; and the North Slope School District and Borough IT departments are putting together servers and laptops for the students to use.

Photo Courtesy Melvin Kayotuk
Cantwell School to stay open despite enrollment decline
Kris Capps, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
The doors of Cantwell School will remain open for the coming school year, even though there are fewer than 10 full-time students enrolled in grades K-12. That means the Denali Borough School District will operate the school without funding from the state, which only provides funds for schools with 10 or more students.

Although that is a loss of about $150,000 from the state, there are other costs involved in operating the school. After agreeing unanimously to keep it open at current staffing levels, the school board voted to move $450,000 from its unrestricted carryover account to the district budget to cover that cost.

Three generations of one Cantwell family stand outside Cantwell School. Marie Gore and her daughter Windy Thorn both teach at the school.
Photo courtesy Caitlin Santos
Students compete in Alaska’s first sanctioned eSports state championship
Mayowa Aina, Alaska Public Media, Anchorage
Esports, or competitive video gaming, has been steadily growing in Alaska schools for the past few years. The new activity is helping foster community within schools. East High School in Anchorage recently competed against Petersburg for a spot in Alaska’s first sanctioned eSports state championship game.

East High School students play the video game League of Legends online against Petersburg High School. Photo: Mayowa Aina
Leading students down path to success, ANSEP celebrates 25 years
Scott Gross, KTVA
What started as a scholarship program for one undergraduate student at the University of Alaska Anchorage in 1995 now is guiding thousands of middle school students across the state down the path to bachelor's degrees. 

Photo: KTVA
School board to consider new epidemic policy and graduation requirements
Eric Stone, KRBD
Federal health officials warned Tuesday that Americans should prepare for the coronavirus to spread to the U.S. And Ketchikan’s school board is taking that advice. It’s set to consider a new policy on epidemic and pandemic emergencies during Wednesday night’s regular meeting.

The model policy provided by the Association of Alaska School Boards outlines how the school district would communicate with local health authorities.

ASD is taking precautionary measures against the Coronavirus
Gilbert Cordova, KTUU
The Anchorage School District says it’s taking precautionary measures to be ready if the Coronavirus surfaces in Anchorage. The district shared some of the symptoms of the virus and what criteria would need to be met in order to merit a screening for the newly-discovered virus:

Image: KTUU
Petersburg School District considers pandemic/epidemic policy
Angela Denning, KFSK
Petersburg School District is moving forward with a new policy that addresses what to do if a pandemic or epidemic outbreak hits the town or the school district. The school district doesn’t have a policy like this yet.
Image: FDA.gov
Board member Sarah Holmgrain is on the district’s policy committee. She says the timing of it has probably been influenced by the contagious coronavirus that’s been spreading throughout China and threatening other countries. "We haven’t had this situation in Petersburg,” Holmgrain said, “but like a lot of things you’d rather have a policy in place in the event it does. Trying to figure out after the fact is never a good policy.”

The policy is recommended by the Association of Alaska’s School Boards. It identifies the health, safety, and welfare of students as the top priority.

Students bring topic of sustainability to school board
Victoria Petersen, Peninsula Clarion
A call for more sustainable practices was brought to the attention of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education meeting recently. Two Soldotna High School seniors from the school’s sustainability club spoke to the school board in support of introducing and expanding educational programs that promote practices like recycling and composting.

Photo: Pixabay
BSSD School Board Focuses on Safety, Missed School Days, and Cell Phone Limits in First Meeting of 2020
Joe Coleman, KNOM
Debates over cell phone usage and how missed school days will be made up took priority at the most recent Bering Strait School District Board meeting in Elim last week. Cell phone usage is a contentious issue in schools across the district, but as BSSD Superintendent Bob Bolen states, the negatives outweigh the positives.

Gary Eckenwiler gives financial presentation at BSSD School Board Meeting in Elim. Photo: Joe Coleman
Bill that would require state to recognize 229 Alaskan tribes gains momentum
Associated Press
More than 200 federally recognized tribes in Alaska would also be officially recognized in the state under a bill that is gaining momentum with bipartisan support.
The bill is largely symbolic and would not change how tribal governments already operate, since each of the 229 Native Alaska tribes are already federally recognized, lawmakers said. The legislation would instead enshrine in state law what has been the status of these tribes for years and formally recognize tribal sovereignty.

Gifted programs, health classes to see changes under proposed ASD budget
Matt Leseman, KTUU
The Anchorage School district needs to close an estimated $19.5 million deficit with their 2020/21 budget. The one proposed at the Anchorage School Board’s last meeting seeks to do that while also working within the guidelines set by the board.
Photo: KTUU
“We had 3 priorities in mind when we went in,” said ASD’s Chief Financial Officer Jim Anderson. “One was to protect core class size as much as possible, one was to preserve educational opportunities as resources allow, and three was to try and preserve jobs for our employees as much as possible.”

Battle of the Books teaches students to form arguments, critically think and work as a team
Kris Capps, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Think it’s easy to read 10 books and then answer detailed, sometimes obscure, questions about each book? Think again. Every year, students of all ages accept that challenge in the Battle of the Books.

Scorekeeper Nicole Allard and timekeeper Kristin Seavey.
Photo: Kris Capps
Murkowski circles up with Pacific High students
Katherine Rose, KCAW Sitka
US Senator Lisa Murkowski took time during the congressional recess to make a swing through Sitka this week. She did all the expected things, like addressing the Chamber of Commerce and meeting with community leaders to discuss funding priorities. And the senator did one unexpected thing: She spent the afternoon in a talking circle with just over a dozen students at Pacific High School– where one of the most influential voices in Washington had to wait her turn.

Pacific High School students sat in a community building circle with U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski. Students discussed the positive impacts of the school and the challenges the school faces. Photo: Katherine Rose
Haines Borough to charter a pair of February boat trips between Juneau and Haines
Henry Leasia, KHNS Haines
The Haines Borough will help pay for two private boat charters this month to transport residents between Juneau and Haines. During a special meeting on Wednesday, the borough assembly decided to take responsibility for organizing trips for the public on Feb. 23 and Feb. 29.

Since state ferry service to the Upper Lynn Canal stopped at the end of January, the Haines Borough School District has struggled to find reliable transportation to sports competitions with other schools.

Haines residents board an Allen Marine Tours boat bound for Juneau. Photo: Henry Leasia
LKSD School Board's Decision To Appoint Kimberly Hankins As Superintendent Was About Familiarity
Greg Kim, KYUK
The Lower Kuskokwim School District will have a new superintendent next school year: Kimberly Hankins. The LKSD School Board made the unanimous decision on Feb. 20 after interviews with the two final candidates. Hankins will have a three-year contract with a starting salary of $155,000. Hankins is currently the assistant superintendent of LKSD, a post she took last July. She has worked in the district for 17 years as a classroom teacher, principal, and administrator.

Ketchikan interim superintendent gets two-year contract
Eric Stone, KRBD Ketchikan
Ketchikan’s interim superintendent now has a two-year contract for the district’s top job.
Beth Lougee was named to the top schools job following a 20-minute closed-door session Wednesday evening. Members of Ketchikan’s school board didn’t discuss the contract in public.But its terms were released following the unanimous vote. She’ll be paid $145,000 annually plus benefits. Lougee has held the interim position since former district chief Bob Boyle stepped down in late 2018. She had been the district’s curriculum director.

Terri Walker selected as Northwest Arctic Borough School District superintendent
Wesley Early, KOTZ Kotzebue
After months serving on an interim basis, Terri Walker has been selected as the Northwest Arctic Borough School District Superintendent. The school board selected Walker as the successor to Annmarie O’Brien, who left the position in October. 

Originally from the village of Buckland, Walker has worked for the Northwest Arctic Borough her entire teaching career, starting out as a teacher before moving on to be a principal. She’s worked at the district level since 2016, serving as Director of State & Federal Programs and later Assistant Superintendent.

Arctic Sounder Interview by Shady Grove Oliver: Walker hopes to boost language, culture in classrooms

Terri Walker
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 Answer to Constitutional Quiz Question
Q: What percentage of all mineral lease rentals, royalties, royalty sale proceeds, federal mineral revenue sharing payments, and bonuses received by the State shall be placed in the Permanent Fund?

  • At least 25%
  • Up to 50%
  • All income received

A: At least 25%
 Article 9, Section 15, Alaska Constitution

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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!

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