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.
MAY 2022
  • Commissioner Dr. Michael Johnson - Alaska Science of Reading Symposium
  • AASB School Law & Policy Day
  • Statewide SCCS Results
  • Fall Boardsmanship Academy
  • AASB 69th Annual Conference
  • June Nelson Scholarship Winners
  • John Sedor - A Free AND Ordered Space
  • Ann Macfarlane - Jurassic Parliament
  • Ask AASB
  • Bulletin Board
  • Federal, State, & School District News
So, What Now?
Lon Garrison, AASB Executive Director

It has been one heck of a roller coaster ride for education this final part of the 32nd Legislature. We still have yet to see what happens as the dust settles and the governor prepares to analyze and reform the budget sent to him. I am hopeful that with the passage of the reading bill, the red veto pen will be kinder to education funding than it might have been.

However, what is very disappointing is that during an unprecedented spending spree, a sustained and significant increase in the BSA still did not happen. Unfortunately, a majority of Alaska legislators still believe student outcomes are not directly affected by education funding. It is incomprehensible to me how it can be argued and acknowledged that the cost of living for everyone has dramatically increased, thus the need for a large PFD. Yet, the same economic challenges apparently are not there for public education. It seems Alaska has a hard time investing in the future, whether putting some excess funds in savings or investing in our future through well-funded public education. Our work must continue to change this reality.

While many will become utterly discouraged that, yet once again, greed, politics, and the culture of “ME” have prevented any sustained increase in education support, I believe in the resilience of local school boards working with their superintendents, staff, and communities focusing on student outcomes is our shining hope.

12 Tips for Being a Great Board!
Timi Tullis, Associate Executive Director

Recently at the end of an on site Board Workshop the Board Chair asked “What are the things really good boards do to make them function well?” It got me thinking and talking to other colleagues about this topic. Here are some of my thoughts!

Heather Coulehan selected as School Counselor Champion of the Year

AASB Social and Emotional Learning Coordinator Heather Coulehan has been chosen as the 2022 School Counselor Champion of the Year by the Alaska School Counselor’s Association.

In her nomination letter, incoming Bering Strait School District Superintendent, Susan Nedz, praised Ms. Coulehan's passion for community engagement and expertise in bringing people together to work on a project or shared vision.

"She is a torchbearer, casting the light wide and inviting everyone into that work," said Superintendent Nedz. "She is a trailblazer for counselors in our state, helping community members, school board members, administrators, teachers, and folks from other agencies understand the importance of our work."

We at AASB are incredibly excited and proud that Heather is being recognized for her many contributions and tireless work to provide much-needed support to families, districts, and schools across Alaska. Congratulations Heather!

HIGHLIGHTS: Alaska Science of Reading Symposium and AASB School Law & Policy Day

April 28th through May 1st AASB teamed up with DEED and R16CC to host an event at the William A. Egan Civic & Convention Center in Anchorage that focused on two critical Alaska Education matters: Education Funding and Reading.
Highlights from both events are presented below.
Attendee discussion during the Alaska Science of Reading Symposium
Alaska Science of Reading Symposium
Commissioner Dr. Michael Johnson, Department of Education and Early Development

Alaska is at or near the bottom in reading proficiency when compared to other states. There’s no way to spin the data to support an argument that the status quo in literacy instruction is working for Alaska’s students. Fortunately, our NAEP results are not our destiny. They are our call to action.

The great news is that we know how to fix Alaska’s reading challenge. At the end of April, nearly a thousand Alaska education stakeholders came together in Anchorage to learn about a proven scientific approach to literacy instruction. Many school board members participated in the Alaska Science of Reading Symposium. The Association of Alaska School Boards also sent staff members and contributed to a successful convening.

Adding to the momentum, just last week the Alaska Legislature passed the Alaska Reads Act. This legislation provides voluntary Pre-K, interventions to get struggling readers back on track, and extra support for districts that need it the most.

Both the Reading Symposium and the Alaska Reads Act bring people from across the state and political spectrum together around a shared commitment to our students and their reading proficiency. We will no longer accept our current reading outcomes. We can and will implement effective and proven statewide reading policy.

Effectively implementing statewide reading policy for Alaska’s students will require collaboration. All children deserve the opportunity to learn how to read. Together, we can provide the support necessary for all children to have a skilled reading teacher.

The science of reading is based on a convergence of evidence. The research has demonstrated that our brains are hardwired to learn how to listen and speak naturally. Yet we are not wired to learn how to read. It must be explicitly taught.

Research also shows that all brains learn how to read the same way. However, evidence-based reading instruction is by no means a one-size-fits-all approach. Culturally relevant instruction is essential. At the Reading Symposium, Dr. Tracy Weeden stated in her keynote that words are “containers of power” that we cultivate in students when we teach them the structure of the language, and that knowledge is “transferable currency” that is valid across dialects and languages. We must respect and build upon the language variation that children are loved in. Effective statewide reading policy is an essential step in revitalizing Alaska’s indigenous languages.

However, teaching reading effectively requires more than being culturally responsive. Improving our students’ ability to read will require leaving ineffective techniques behind. Dyslexia affects one in five people, and people with dyslexia make up a substantial portion of those with learning disabilities. A scientific approach to literacy instruction will help teachers identify and reach dyslexic students so that they are able to learn and enjoy the fruits of reading.

Changing outcomes for our students requires everyone to step up. Alaska’s teachers are skilled and dedicated. However, too many educator preparation programs have been slow to adopt the best practices in literacy instruction and have continued teaching teachers pedagogy of methods that have been proven ineffective. Our universities must change so that when a person earns a teaching degree, they are equipped with the knowledge they need to effectively teach reading to all students. For those already in the field of education, the Department of Education and Early Development, together with our partners, will continue to provide professional development for both teachers and administrators. We have set aside funding to hold the 2023 Alaska Science of Reading Symposium next April 27-30. The Department will continue to provide curriculum supports and communicating with stakeholders to support teachers.

We have reached an exciting point in our efforts to improve Alaska’s education outcomes. AASB helped us get to this remarkable time of optimism and opportunity. I want to thank the entire AASB staff and look forward to working closely with you all in the coming months to effectively implement the Alaska Reads Act.

Alaska Science of Reading Symposium video:
Day 1 video – Time 6:57:40
Day 2 video – Time 8:19:33
Day 3 video – Time 4:13:10
AASB School Law & Policy Day
Jenni Lefing, AASB School Climate and Conference Coordinator

AASB hosted a School Law & Policy pre-conference for DEED’s Science of Reading Symposium, April 27-28, in Anchorage. The event was an opportunity for over 100 school board members, district leaders, school staff, and statewide partners to come together to learn about and discuss education funding. Following are highlights from the presentations.
Attorney John Sedor provided constitutional context for Alaska's education funding.
Why Schools Are Funded
The day began with a grounding on Alaska education funding led by John Sedor, in which he provided a constitutional level perspective. His presentation was a history lesson on public school funding, tracing the role of cities and boroughs in the creation and maintenance of school districts from before statehood to the present day.

Mr. Sedor also discussed key legal cases that have shaped public school funding through the years, including the Molly Hootch case that determined the right to attend school in one's community of residence; the State v. Ketchikan Gateway Borough disputing the state's Required Local Contribution (RLC); and Moore vs. State that challenged whether Alaska's education system was constitutionally adequate.
How Schools Are Funded
Luke Fulp, Deputy Superintendent of Business & Operations, Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District presented on How Schools are Funded. He began by stating that understanding education funding is complex.  
Mr. Fulp quoted from the April 8, 2014 Senate Finance Committee Senate Meeting Minutes: “Senator Bishop queried the number of people that understood the education funding formula. Mr. Teal replied that possibly 20 people understood the formula.”

Mr. Fulp went through the six steps that make up the State of Alaska Foundation Formula, to arrive at a district’s AADM (adjusted average daily membership). Each district receives the same amount of money—the BSA—per AADM. However, adjustment factors differ by district, so each district receives a different amount of funding per actual student. These adjustments are:
A School Law & Policy day attendee asks a question during Deputy Superintendent Fulp's presentation.
  • Step 1 is adjusting the ADM for a district, which is the average number of students at a school for a school years 
  • Step 2 The ADM multiplied by the district cost factor (a multiplier that is set in statute for each district). 
  • Step 3 The Count is then multiplied by the Special Needs Factor, to provide funding for special needs students. This factor is the same for all districts. 
  • Step 4 The count is then multiplied by 1.015, which is the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Factor. This funding is intended for vocational and technical instruction, not including administrative expenses.
  • Step 5 Intensive Special Education (SPED Intensives) students are multiplied by 13. These students are identified by districts as meeting requirements set by the State. 
  • Step 6. The correspondence count is multiplied by .9 for the Correspondence Student Factor.

There have been no changes to this foundation formula since FY 2015.
How Education Funding is Spent
Chad Aldeman, Policy Director of Edunomics Lab at Georgetown, discussed how districts are spending money. His presentation included an examination of the $557 Million that Alaska has received from federal COVID relief legislation.

To start, attendees were asked to share their thoughts on different state financial decisions during the pandemic, and why they held that view. 

One example was  “Facing a shortage of bus drivers, Philadelphia offered $300 per month to parents to get their own kids to school.”

Attendees were asked if they thought this decision was reasonable or if they felt less comfortable with this and to share why they felt that way.  

He explained that some of the examples are “co-production,” “A way of delivering government services in which customers help create and perform the services. Co-production stands in contrast to a model where citizens consume public services which are entirely conceived of and provided by government entities.“ 

In the bus example, the school district provided resources to families to help them in getting their kids to school, when the district was unable to provide busing.
The Importance of Civil Discourse
Law & Policy Day ended with a Civil Discourse on Education Funding co-presented by Commissioner Michael Johnson and Senator Tom Begich. 

Senator Begich explained that to have a civil discourse, one needs to: 
  • Keep the temperature level.
  • Watch for trigger words that will stop people from talking to you.
  • Remain non-partisan; share common values to build on what we agree on, as opposed to what we disagree on.
  • Ask for what you need and back it up.
  • Try to change dialogue from absolutes to possibilities (and determine what those possibilities are).

The civil discourse ended with both presenters expressing their hopes that the Governor and the Legislature have a true civil discourse about education funding to jointly explore the needs of Alaska students and the school districts that serve them.
A Fabulous Investment of Time - AASB School Law & Policy Day
Melody Douglas, Associate Executive Director, Alaska Association of School Business Officials (ALASBO)

AASB held the 4th School Law and Policy Day April 28-29, 2022, in conjunction with the Alaska Science of Reading Symposium held at the Egan Center in Anchorage to a large group of board members, superintendents, business managers, and teachers.

The well-rounded agenda included sessions presented by attorney John Sedor, Luke Fulp, Deputy Superintendent of Business and Operations, Mat-Su Borough School District, and Chad Aldeman, Policy Director with the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University. In addition, there was an enlightening civil discourse session that closed this extraordinary event.

While the AASB Law & Policy Day is offered by AASB, there was not one of the sessions throughout this event that did not have impactful information for all school district leaders. I encourage you to connect with your superintendent about attending the next AASB Law and Policy Day – it will be well worth your time!

Reprinted from the ALASBO newsletter with kind permission.
HIGHLIGHTS: 2022 School Climate & Connectedness Survey
Jenni Lefing, AASB School Climate and Conference Coordinator

Earlier this month results were released for this year’s School Climate Connectedness Survey (SCCS). Taking the survey is a district’s first step to transforming school climate and strengthening relationships, factors that are linked to student success. 

31 districts administered SCCS to gather perceptions on how students, staff and families feel about their school’s climate, i.e. feeling safe, connected and welcomed. Here are key highlights from the 2022 SCCS survey responses.

Save the Date!
Fall Boardsmanship

September 17-18
Pike’s Waterfront Lodge, Fairbanks

We look forward to hosting our first event for the 2022-2023 school year! AASB staff members are planning a conference that will include networking opportunities and sessions to sharpen your boardsmanship skills and cover topics on your mind right now.

Session topics include: An update for the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (DEED), Statewide Assessments, Updates on Teacher Recruitment & Retention in Alaska, Board Roles & Responsibilities, and much more!

Fall Boardsmanship Academy will be held at Pike’s Waterfront Lodge in Fairbanks. Information on a room block rate will be shared once its finalized.

Registration opens in July!

Please reach out to aasb@aasb.org with any questions. 
Save the Date!
AASB’s 69th
Annual Conference

November 3-6, 2022
Hotel Captain Cook,

AASB’s 2022 Annual Conference is coming together! This year’s theme is “Ensuring Opportunities for All Students” and will feature four days of engaging sessions on a range of timely topics.

Your Help Is Needed!

District Sharing – A key component of the conference is the district sharing of strategies, best practices and lessons learned. There are multiple ways to share! Please reach out to Jenni Lefing if you’re interested in sharing what your district is doing to “Ensure Opportunities for All Students.”

Youth Performers – One of the best parts of the conference is showcasing the incredible talents of Alaska’s youth. We’re seeking youth performers for this year’s event. It’s a great opportunity for districts to share the amazing talents of their students with districts across the state. If you have a student, or student group that would be interested in performing, please email Jenni Lefing.

More Annual Conference details coming soon!
AASB is pleased to announce the winners of the 2022 June Nelson Memorial Scholarship!

Named in honor of long-time Kotzebue school board member and education advocate, the June Nelson Memorial Scholarship is an annual AASB tradition.

Each year, association members, students, and district superintendents gather to raise money to award to Alaskan students to support their post-high school education pursuits. This year’s successful fundraising efforts have allowed AASB to award fifteen, $1,500 scholarships, which may be applied toward the student’s choice of a business, trade, or college institution.

Of this year’s applicants, fourteen graduating Alaska high school seniors and one college sophomore were selected to receive June Nelson scholarships.

Click on the links below to read the essays of this year’s 15 winners!
Kaylee M. Hill
Bristol Bay
Rheanna Esnardo
Corina Rose Morrison Quitslund
Adelaide Poulson
Gerwin Delsocora Mateo
Brooke Lanae Singson
North Slope
Jenna Marie Walker
Lauren Isabella Olson
Julia Spigai
Olivia B Ferguson
Annika Jean Schimmack
Shane Morris
Henry Dustin Erickson
Lake & Peninsula
Aidan Elliott
Fiona Ferguson
College Sophomore
“A Free AND Ordered Space”… Will be Found In a Prayer at the 50-Yard Line
Part 10 of the series
John M. Sedor, Member, Sedor, Wendlandt, Evans & Filippi, LLC

Our theme this past year has been “A Free AND Ordered Space.”
Its simplicity is deceptive. Freedom is the antithesis of order and Order abhors freedom. Nevertheless, the founders of our Nation embedded these two principles in our democratic system. The result? Almost 250 years of systemic tension that can be found in all three branches of government but is most easily seen in the courts. Judges from the Federal District Courts to the Supreme Court must carefully establish the competing tension between freedom and order in the cases that come before them to allow our system to continue to flourish. It is not an easy task and it is, by design, never ending.

Indeed, as we wind down for the summer and conclude this theme, it – the tension between freedom and order – continues to unfold in the news as Supreme Court cases, like so many things nowadays, become lightning rods for segments of society.

Processing motions in Robert’s Rules
Ann Macfarlane, Professional Parliamentarian

There are eight steps to processing ordinary motions in Robert’s Rules. At the right time in the agenda, after the member has been recognized by the chair,

  1. A member makes a motion.
  2. Another member seconds the motion.
  3. The chair states the motion.
  4. Members discuss and/or amend the motion.
  5. The chair restates the motion and calls for the vote.
  6. The members vote on the motion.
  7. The chair states the results of the vote, whether the motion passes or fails, and what happens as a result of the vote.
  8. The chair states the next item of business.

Read More > (article includes a downloadable PDF outlining key steps)
Q: Our board would like to start holding workshops so we can have a deeper discussion about issues than board meetings typically allow. How do we post for a work session?

A: Work sessions are posted very similar to meetings. You would share the date, time, and location of the workshop, as well as the fact it is a work session of the board, and what items will be discussed at the work session. Remember, no action is to be taken during a work session.

These are also the steps you would take when your board is attending a training session out of your community. POSTING EXAMPLE: "The _____ School District Board of Education will be in Anchorage for professional development at the AASB Annual Conference on November 3-6, 2022."
Read more answers to frequently asked questions at Ask AASB
Got a question? Email Timi Tullis or Tiffany Jackson.
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.
Our Time Together
Emily Ferry, STEPS Collective Impact Coordinator

There’s nothing like the power of spending time together, preferably over a cup of Naomi Michealson’s healing nettle tea. We are grateful to all who took the time to attend the STEPS gathering this May. While each person had a different takeaway, here are a few of the insights that attendees shared:
What has been our collective impact:
  • The impact of our work impact extends beyond reading & math scores; it is not always captured in numbers but can be seen, heard, and felt in our schools. 
  • School districts & community partner collaboration has deepened our impact.
  • When it comes to relationship building, consistency in staff, programming, routines, and expectations can have a profound impact.

How we think about our time together:
  • Our work together doesn’t have to end even if a grant does.
  • Connecting with people who we can collaborate with is priceless.
  • Our work takes the time it needs to take to do our work right.
  • When meeting, it is always wise to ask, “What is worthy of our time together?" We can get more out of our gatherings by thinking including shared learning opportunities into every meeting.

How does cultural & identity impact our work:
  • Knowing who you are is a source of strength from cradle to careers.
  • Culture is prevention.
  • Non-native teachers have permission and encouragement to share the history and culture of this homeland.

Tying it altogether and sustaining this work is taking care of ourselves and each other.

Click the button below to check out Annual Gathering presentations, original footage of the STEPS partner perspectives video, and other resources.
Attendees listen to a presentation.
Annual Gathering Thank You video
L-R: Lori Grassgreen, Dr. Rosita Worl, Lisa Worl, Heather Powell, and Ben Young
Looking for additional ideas?
Check out the STEPS Resources page for past newsletters
and other STEPS-related resources.
There are so many ways to learn together – from reading a book and making observations to sharing traditions, stories, and songs. The most important thing is time spent together.

#parentingtips #rainorshinelearningallthetime

Nominate a youth hero who makes a
positive difference in your Alaska community!
Alaska Communications and Boys & Girls Clubs – Alaska are seeking youth heroes who make a positive difference in their Alaska community. Up to six selected youth each will be awarded a $1,500 scholarship through 
Alaska 529 and given special recognition in their local communities.

Anyone can nominate a young hero in their life. Tell us about a child or teen, age 6-18, who is improving life for those around them. Whether it was to support others during the pandemic or an ongoing effort. Our goal is to shine a spotlight on youth who are doing good around us.

In addition to providing youth scholarships and recognition, the Summer of Heroes program also supports leading youth development programs. Through the pandemic, Boys & Girls Clubs – Alaska worked diligently, and creatively employed non-traditional methods, to ensure youth were getting the support they need.

In appreciation of their efforts, Alaska Communications pledges to donate $25 to Boys & Girls Clubs – Alaska for every new residential or business internet connection between April 15 and June 17, 2022, up to $15,000 total.

For more than a decade, the Summer of Heroes scholarship program has recognized and celebrated the ways young people are making positive contributions to our statewide communities.
Learn more about the Summer of Heroes program
and obtain a nomination form here:
Nomination Deadline: June 17
Planning for Professional Boundaries Training
for the 2022-2023 School Year

Through our work in relation to school district liability coverage, APEI has recognized a need to help school districts protect their students from sexual abuse. APEI has worked with several organizations and individuals to develop training to help school districts recognize the warning signs of potential abuse. This training, Professional Boundaries for Alaskan School Staff, is available from APEI to all Alaskan schools.

APEI recommends schools provide training in professional boundaries to all staff and volunteers upon hire and every school year. Professional boundaries training helps school staff identify professional boundaries and recognize violations of those boundaries. Training also describes how boundary violations have the potential to lead to sexual abuse, how adhering to professional boundaries can help prevent sexual abuse in schools, and how and when to report boundary violations.

As planning for the 2022-2023 school year begins, schools are encouraged to look into options for professional boundaries training and include the training in the in-service training provided near the start of each school year. Training options available to both APEI members and non-members from APEI include:

  • Live virtual training: APEI pre-schedules training that any interested individual can attend. For a current list of upcoming training and registration links visit https://akpei.com/professional-boundaries-for-educators/
  • Recorded on-demand training: Professional Boundaries for Alaskan School Staff is now available to view on demand and can be assigned to staff to view.

To request access to on-demand training, or for more information on any of these resources, contact Carleen Mitchell or call 907-523-9430.
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.
In last-minute move, Legislature passes early reading overhaul
Peter Segall, Juneau Empire
A comprehensive reading bill known as the Alaska Reads Act was passed in the final hours of the legislative session Wednesday, but its passing divided members of the House Majority Coalition.

As the deadline for the end of the Legislative session approaches lawmakers often combine bills into packages in order to get them passed. But this can bypass the legislative process which requires bills to be approved after a committee process in both bodies of the Legislature before being sent to the governor for signature.
A magnet promoting the Alaska Reads Act released sits atop a stack of Alaskan-authored and Alaska-centric books. Lawmakers passed the Alaska Reads Act on the last day of the legislative session, but several members of the House of Representatives were upset with the bill, and the way it was passed. Photo: Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire
One bill passed in such a way Wednesday evening was the Alaska Reads Act, a comprehensive reading bill championed by Sen. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage and Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The act was initially introduced in 2020 in a joint news conference with Begich, the Democratic Senate Minority Leader, and Dunleavy, a Republican. The COVID-19 pandemic derailed that initial effort but the bill was revived in 2021 and reworked in the Senate Education Committee with Republican Sens. Roger Holland, Anchorage, and Shelley Hughes, Palmer.

Bill heading to governor creates roadmap for establishing Tribally operated public schools
Lisa Phu, Alaska Beacon

A bill that creates a roadmap for establishing Tribally operated public schools has passed the Alaska Senate and House, and is headed to the governor’s desk. Senate Bill 34 directs the Board of Education and Early Development to work with Alaska Native Tribal entities on an agreement that would formally recognize the Tribes’ authority to operate and oversee K-12 schools.
Alaska state Senator Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak. Photo: James Brooks, Alaska Beacon
“This creates an option for self-governance in the delivery of culturally relevant place-based education in Alaska, essentially empowering Tribes and their communities to have a direct role in transforming systems and providing the cultural support many students need to succeed,” Bethel Democratic Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky said on the House floor. The body voted 37-2 to pass the bill.

SB 34 had already passed the Senate April 4. “The state-Tribal education compacting is a tremendous opportunity, I believe, to embrace the Alaska Indigenous history, its culture, its language and put that into our curriculum for these schools, not just for Alaskan Natives, but for all students in our state,” bill sponsor Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, said on the floor that day.

Broadband bill passes the Alaska state legislature
Olivia Ebertz, KYUK Bethel

The Alaska State Legislature has passed a bill whose aim is to bring affordable high speed internet to rural Alaska. The bill is now awaiting a signature from Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The bill creates a statewide Office of Broadband, which has a big job ahead of it.

Earlier this year, the U.S. passed a federal infrastructure bill that set aside $65 billion for broadband projects in the U.S. It prioritizes unserved and underserved communities.
Akiak is the first community in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta to access high speed internet. Photo: Katie Basile, KYUK
The representative who wrote the bill, Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham, said that Alaska stands to gain at least $1 billion to $2 billion in federal funding for broadband infrastructure. Though when you account for a separate allotment of broadband dollars headed to tribes, that actual amount will likely be much higher. Edgmon said that his bill sets up systems for the state to receive that funding and direct it towards internet infrastructure projects.

The bill creates a broadband office, sets up an advisory board, and creates a broadband “parity fund” to equalize costs. The broadband office will receive and distribute the federal dollars that come in from the infrastructure bill. But first, it will have to create a map that shows where Alaskans have limited or no access to high-speed internet.

Legislature Passes Bill Protecting Marine Highway and Higher Education
Joe Plesha, Alaska Native News
Funding sources for the Alaska Marine Highway and Alaska higher education scholarships are nearly off the table from future political fights. House Bill 322 passed the Legislature Wednesday, which is designed to protect the Alaska Marine Highway and Higher Education Investment funds from the annual Constitutional Budget Reserve sweep.
The Constitutional Budget Reserve (CBR) sweep provision, established in the Alaska Constitution, requires that money in the general fund available for the appropriation at the end of each fiscal year be swept, or repaid, to the CBR. While the sweep is reversible by a 3/4 vote of the legislature, that outcome has become difficult to achieve in recent years. Moreover, funds previously held harmless from the annual repayment have since been interpreted as subject to the sweep, destabilizing crucial ongoing state services and longstanding funds.

HB 322 removes the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) Fund, the AMHS Vessel Replacement Fund, and the Higher Education Investment Fund (HEIF) from the equation by moving them from the state’s general fund to the state treasury.

Bill aimed at reducing hair discrimination in schools is headed to governor
Lisa Phu, Alaska Beacon

The Senate agreed to accept the changes the House made to a bill that aimed to reduce hair discrimination — including the amendment to strip the protection for employees in the workplace. The bill still retains protection in public schools.

“I’ll be voting yes today. This bill as drafted still protects our children of color,” bill sponsor Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, said on the floor.
Senator David Wilson, R-Wasilla,
speaks on the floor of the Alaska Senate.
Photo: James Brooks/Alaska Beacon
He added: “Just because you have not personally experienced discrimination does not mean discrimination does not exist. Racism in the workplace is not going away and I expect future work on this issue.”

In the bill’s original intent, school boards and employers wouldn’t be allowed to adopt a dress code that: prohibits an individual from wearing a hairstyle that is associated with race; prohibits an individual from wearing a natural hairstyle, regardless of the student’s hair texture or type; or requires a student to permanently or semipermanently alter the student’s natural hair. Natural hairstyle includes, but is not restricted to, braids, locs, twists, tight coils, afros, cornrows, and bantu knots.

Senate tables restrictive transgender sports bill
Peter Segall, Peninsula Clarion

The Alaska State Senate tabled a bill Wednesday prohibiting transgender athletes from competing as the sex they identify with in youth sports, which faced strong resistance from Democrats.

Senate Democrats submitted dozens of amendments to Senate Bill 140 from Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, in an effort to change the bill in various ways, citing issues with privacy and compliance with Title IX regulations.
Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, first submitted an amendment removing the bill entirely and simply stating that local school boards had the authority to set the policy for their districts. “People feel extremely passionate about this issue,” Wielechowski said. “This is where this decision should be made. Local communities elect those members to the school board, we shouldn’t be micromanaging a local decision.”

The vote on that amendment resulted in an even 10-10 vote in the Senate with two Republicans — Sens. Natasha von Imhof, Anchorage, and Bert Stedman, Sitka, — joining the eight Senate Democrats, but tie votes are not enough to pass an amendment.

Legislature approves budget with $3,200 payout per Alaskan after House balks at bigger figure
James Brooks, Alaska Beacon
Three minutes before 11 p.m. on the last day of its regular session, the Alaska Legislature finalized a state budget that will pay each eligible Alaskan about $3,200 later this year. 

As late as Saturday, it appeared possible that the House and Senate would agree on a $5,500 payment, but lawmakers settled on a lower amount after days of negotiations and a failed vote to spend from savings.
Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, watches as the Alaska Senate votes on the Alaska state budget. Photo: James Brooks, Alaska Beacon
“For the four years I’ve been down here, we’ve practiced fiscal restraint and tried to keep money in savings, make sure we put Alaska’s future on the front foot, and that’s where my vote came from today,” said Rep. Grier Hopkins, D-Fairbanks, who cast the decisive vote against spending from savings to increase the payment from $3,200 to roughly $3,850.

Dunleavy says he supports budget that would send Alaskans $3,200, but vetoes could be coming
Iris Samuels, Anchorage Daily News
Gov. Mike Dunleavy said Thursday that he would not immediately call a special legislative session, a day after the Legislature ended its work on a budget that would send Alaskans $3,200. Dunleavy had hoped for a higher dividend payment of at least $3,700 amid a state revenue windfall that came after war in Ukraine boosted oil prices.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks about
the budget passed by the Legislature.
Photo: Iris Samuels / ADN
But he said he would not push for a special session to increase the dividend since he sees the push as unlikely to pass due to “the nature of the makeup of the Legislature.”
“We don’t think it’s going to lend itself to that,” Dunleavy. “If we thought it would work, we would.”

Speaking to news media, Dunleavy said the budget is “ready to go” and “fully functional.” In past years, lawmakers have failed to meet that threshold, passing unfunded budgets or budgets without effective dates. This year, Dunleavy said, “People can get on with their lives.”

But the governor said he is still considering vetoing some specific pieces within the budget. He has three weeks to delete items from the bill.

Legislature enshrines Tribal Child Welfare Compact in Alaska Law
Joe Plesha, Alaska Native News

Legislation passed the State Legislature that enshrined the historic and landmark Tribal Child Welfare compact in Alaska Statute. House Bill 184 codifies the Tribal Child Welfare compact, a government-to-government agreement between the State of Alaska and eighteen Tribes and tribal organizations that seeks to address the deep structural inequities in the way Alaskan children are cared for across the state.
The Tribal Child Welfare was signed in 2017 by then Governor Bill Walker and was continued in 2019 under Governor Mike Dunleavy. With Alaska’s Office of Children’s Services (OCS) caseworkers carrying caseloads at more than three times the national average, and Alaska Native children representing over 60% of the children in state custody, the compact was designed to aimed to improve outcomes for Alaska’s families. The agreement transferred specific, negotiated service from OCS to the Tribal co-signers, allowing Tribes to provide higher quality services while keeping children closer to home, at a lower cost to the State.

US boarding school investigative report released
Kalle Benallie, Indian Country Today

The U.S. Department of Interior released its investigative report Wednesday on the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. It’s being called the first volume of the report and comes nearly a year after the department announced a “comprehensive” review.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. Photo: Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Indian Country Today
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Bryan Newland, assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, Deborah Parker who is the chief executive officer of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition and James LaBelle Sr., a boarding school survivor and the first vice president of the coalition’s board, spoke at a news conference in Washington announcing the report’s findings.

“The consequences of federal Indian boarding school policies — including the intergenerational trauma caused by the family separation and cultural eradication inflicted upon generations of children as young as 4 years old — are heartbreaking and undeniable,” Haaland said in a statement. “We continue to see the evidence of this attempt to forcibly assimilate Indigenous people in the disparities that communities face. It is my priority to not only give voice to the survivors and descendants of federal Indian boarding school policies, but also to address the lasting legacies of these policies so Indigenous Peoples can continue to grow and heal.”

Newland led the over 100-page report, which includes historical records of boarding school locations and their names, and the first official list of burial sites.

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Connor Matteson, KTUU Anchorage

Safety in schools is a topic on the minds of many people across America following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas — including families in Alaska. The tragic losses in Texas have sparked discussion as some parents are feeling especially uneasy about sending their kids to school right now.

But in the Anchorage School District, many said they feel safe sending their kids and grandkids to schools. “I actually feel safe about it. I feel like everything I’ve seen, Anchorage does a good job,” said Cathy Benedict, who is the grandmother of an Anchorage student.

Many of the elementary schools in ASD already have security vestibules and other measures in place to help protect students and staff. The vestibules, for example, feature a secure outside door. The doors can only be opened from the inside to buzz in visitors buzzed, except for school staff members who have access. Visitors then walk into a secure indoor room where they must again be let in by front office staff to enter. The names of visitors are then searched in various databases, but not all schools have this setup.

On Wednesday, the Superintendent of the Anchorage School District Deena Bishop issued a press release. “The ASD Operations Department continues to add secure vestibules with controlled access to all elementary schools. This work began four years ago when our team identified the need,” Bishop stated. “We will continue the redesign and construction of our schools’ entry doors until all elementary schools are equipped with this added safety measure.”

Bishop goes onto encourage people to talk to their children about how they’re feeling as “Families and school personnel play a critical role in reestablishing a sense of normalcy and security for children after an act of violence occurs.”
Lauren Maxwell, KTUU Anchorage

Anchorage School Superintendent Dr. Deena Bishop will retire on June 30, after six years of leading the state’s largest school district. Bishop penned a letter to the community on May 13.
“I have enjoyed an amazing career spanning over three decades in Alaska, doing what I do because of my passion and belief that education matters,” Bishop wrote. Bishop’s tenure in Anchorage coincided with some extreme challenges, including an earthquake that shook up Southcentral Alaska in the fall of 2018.
Emily Mesner, Anchorage Daily News

John Kito spent nearly three decades as William Tyson Elementary’s first and only principal. Kito, originally from Petersburg and of Tlingit and Japanese descent, has been principal of Tyson Elementary, located in Anchorage’s Mountain View neighborhood, since it opened in 1996. Prior to that, he worked at schools in the Lower 48 before returning to Alaska, where he worked at East Anchorage High School (now Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School) as well as Muldoon, Mountain View and Klatt elementary schools.
Taylor Burke, KTUU Anchorage

To honor the legacy of the first Black principal in Anchorage schools, Fairview Elementary has a new name. With a unanimous vote back in September, he Anchorage School Board voted to rename Fairview Elementary School as Dr. Etheldra Davis Fairview Elementary School. Dr. Etheldra Davis moved to Anchorage in 1958 and was the first Black teacher hired on contract with the district. She later became principal of Fairview Elementary in 1969, another first for a Black educator.
The Cordova Times

Forty-two students from Anchorage’s Dimond High School on a recent environmental field trip cleaned up 122 pounds of marine debris from a Prince William Sound beach, including Styrofoam blocks water bottles, oil cans and buckets. The event was organized by Catherine Walker, a science teacher at DHS, through grant funds from the NOAA Ocean Guardian program.
Amanda Bohman, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Borough leaders adopted a new budget plan, adding another $650,000 for public schools. They hope the extra funding pays for hiring one full-time aide for kindergarten classes in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. The Board of Education has full discretion on how to spend the money.
Jack Barnwell, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

A federal waiver providing free meals for school children expires June 30 and the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District is asking families to apply for free and reduced-cost meals for this coming school year and to get ready to apply for upcoming years. “While the district is providing meals at no charge to students, that doesn’t mean students have free or reduced meal eligibility,” said Amy Rouse, the district’s director of Nutrition Services. “In fact, many do not.”
Jack Barnwell, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Talks between the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District and two unions hit a wall Tuesday, according to an update from the district. The district and Fairbanks Principals Association, on the other hand, reached a tentative agreement on a three-year contract that requires union ratification.
Jack Barnwell, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

As the 2022 school year comes to an end, so too will Ryan Middle School’s housing of the Fairbanks North Star Borough District’s art center. The center itself will remain open but will be relocated to the district administration building on Fifth Avenue. Chane Beam, executive director of teaching and learning, said the biggest change will be a lack of dedicated art coaches to support the center. Both art coaches, DeAnn Gardner and Barbara Santora, are retiring after the school year ends.
KINY Juneau

Juneau Community Charter School has selected Nathan Freeman to be the next principal. JCCS is a kindergarten through eighth-grade school in the Juneau School District where students learn in multi-grade classrooms with small class sizes.
Freeman is currently a principal in Teller, Alaska at James C. Isabell School in the Bering Strait School District. His educational experience includes work as a district Ed-tech specialist for North Slope Borough School District in Utqiagvik; classroom teacher at Joann A. Alexie Memorial School, Lower Kuskokwim School District in Atmautluak; and teacher apprentice at Northfield Middle-High School in Northfield, Vermont. He has also supported schools as a Close Up Foundation program advisor, cross country coach, and site technology specialist.
Bridget Dowd, KTOO

Juneau’s two public high schools saw an increase in new COVID-19 cases following their proms. Masks were optional at both events. Juneau Douglas High School Yadaa.at Kalé has reported more than 30 cases since its prom was held at Eaglecrest Ski Area. Juneau School District Superintendent Bridget Weiss says there’s no way to know for sure if that event caused the spike.
Ashlyn O'Hara, Peninsula Clarion

More than 75 students graduated from Kenai Central High School during a ceremony held in the school’s Renee C. Henderson Auditorium. Honor graduate and National Honor Society member Julianna Hamilton, who provided opening remarks, said her graduating class has faced some unique challenges over the course of their high school career. The gap caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, she said, catapulted them into leadership roles senior year, but the adversity has brought them closer together.
Ashlyn O'Hara, Peninsula Clarion

The future of the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s aging school infrastructure could end up in the hands of borough voters this fall. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education earlier this month gave their stamp of approval to a $65.5 million bond package that would address capital projects at school sites throughout the district. That bond proposal, which must also be approved by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly before it can appear on the Oct. 4 ballot, would pay for some of the school district’s biggest capital priorities, from high school tracks to new roofs.
Eric Stone, KRBD Ketchikan

Ketchikan’s school board rejected a measure that would have changed district policy to remove a ban on supervisors dating subordinates. The school board’s policy committee had proposed replacing a nearly 20-year-old policy barring family members and romantic partners from supervising each other with a new version from the nonprofit Association of Alaska School Boards. The policy also places limits on hiring relatives of the superintendent or school board members. Superintendent Melissa Johnson said the change was an attempt to make board policy consistent with state law.
Alex Appel, Kodiak Daily Mirror

There will be approximately 50 new teachers in the Kodiak Island Borough School District next school year. Of those, 10 will be filling new positions, and the other 40 or so will replace teachers who are retiring or leaving the district, said KIBSD Assistant Superintendent Kim Saunders. These incoming teachers will be teaching across all grade levels and subject areas, Saunders said.
Miriam Trujillo, KNOM

The final Nome Public School’s Board of Education meeting of the school year discussed graduation, past school trips and sports meets, and future educational programs for students and teachers alike. The school district is “at this point in time” preparing to hold graduation in the school gym without any COVID-19 restrictions at all, Superintendent of Schools Jamie Burgess said.
Alena Naiden, Anchorage Daily News

Qutan Lambert loved coming to Nikaitchuat Iḷisaġviat Tribal School as a child, especially when it was circle time.
“My first memories were made here,” Lambert said. “We got to do so many things culturally. … We’d always have elders come in and show and tell, and tell stories.” Years later, Lambert’s daughter comes to the same language immersion school in Kotzebue, learning to speak Iñupiaq as well as cut caribou meat, pickle herring eggs and train dogs for mushing. This is part of what all students at Nikaitchuat do every day: The school offers language classes and traditional activities, taught in accordance with the subsistence cycles of the local Iñupiaq culture. Learning the Iñupiaq language in Nikaitchuat involves more than learning new words, grammatical structures and pronunciation. It also means preserving or revitalizing cultural identity — the relationship the Iñupiat have to the land, community and past, said one of the school founders, Pete Schaeffer.
Angela Denning, KFSK Petersburg

Petersburg School District is hoping to buffer some of its expected increased costs and lost revenue with extra money from the borough. The school district faces inflation while losing some per-student funding next year.
Angela Denning, KFSK Petersburg

Petersburg School Board will vote on a three-year contract agreement between the district and the classified union. The union includes support personnel like aides, food service workers, custodians, and technicians. Through negotiations, wage increases were agreed upon: $2/hour raises for this coming year, a two percent raise the second year, and a one percent raise the third year. The new contract includes additional paid days over winter break for employees working 10 months or less. It also broadened some use of leave categories.
Katherine Rose, KCAW Sitka

When Mt. Edgecumbe High School Seniors graduated on May 5, they weren’t alone in saying their farewells to the school. After 17 years as the school’s principal, Bernie Gurule is retiring. Originally from Los Lunas New Mexico, he spent over a decade in education there, most of it teaching social studies and coaching, before moving to the front office as an athletic director. Then he moved to Lake and Peninsula School District in Western Alaska, then to Sitka to be the principal at Blatchley Middle School. After several years there, he moved one island over to Mt. Edgecumbe. Of his 42 years in education he’s been here the longest. That’s because to Gurule, Mt. Edgecumbe is special.
Robert Woolsey, KCAW Sitka

One applicant has submitted a letter of interest to serve out a vacant term on the Sitka School Board. Former assembly member and mayor Valorie Nelson was the only person to provide a letter to the district office by the May 20 deadline.
The school board will interview Nelson at its June 1 meeting, and is scheduled to make a decision on the appointment that evening. The board is not obligated to appoint Nelson, and may choose to extend the deadline in order to attract a broader pool of applicants.
Naomi Stock, Anchorage Daily News

After finishing in the top five of a national shoe design competition hosted by the company Vans, the Wrangell art department will get a much-needed infusion of funds amounting to a $15,000 award. The winner, Moanalua High School in Honolulu, Hawaii, took the $50,000 top prize.
AASB Workshops for You and Your Board
AASB now offers condensed, distance-delivered versions of our popular workshops and training sessions. Member districts receive a special rate for AASB sessions: $600 includes preparation, up to 3 hours of training, and a post-training report.
  • Board/Superintendent Relations
  • How to run Effective Meetings
  • Board Self Evaluations (with a resulting board improvement plan)
  • Parliamentary Procedures
  • Board’s Quasi-Judicial Role
  • Using Your District’s Data for Planning
  • Data for School Boards
  • School Budget & Finance
  • Family Engagement
  • Youth Engagement
  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Policy
  • Facilitated Superintendent Evaluation
  • Advisory School Committees
  • Charter Schools
  • Communications with your board
  • Labor Relations
  • Ethics
  • School Climate: What does School Climate & Connectedness look like now?
  • Trauma-Engaged Schools
  • Specialized facilitation:
  • Focus on particular issues
  • Choice of program
  • Scheduling to meet the needs of your board members and administrators
  • Team building
We can also provide customized solutions based on your needs. 
Please reach out to us.

- For More Information -

Email Timi Tullis or call 907-463-1660
AASB Superintendent Search Service
Looking for a New Superintendent?

The Association of Alaska School Boards has been conducting successful and economical superintendent searches for over twenty years.
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

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!

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