Voices of Alaska Education      
Newsletter of the Association of Alaska School Boards
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
Timi Tullis, AASB Associate Executive Director
Election Got You Down? Vote Anyway!
This election has created incredible confusion within the voting public of Alaska. But even more disturbing have been recent conversations with acquaintances who say "This election has disgusted me. I'm not even going to vote!"
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What constitutes an excused absence?
State statute does not specify what qualifies as an excused or unexcused absence and simply leaves it to local boards to define. Here are three examples where districts have made an effort to provide both the board and the public with information or a more defined sense of determination. 
8 Tips to Improve
Your Conference Experience!
Each year our conference speakers and presenters inspire, enlighten, and educate attendees. We hope you leave the event with skills that make you a better board member to advocate for your students. Here are some useful tips to help make the most of your time. 
AASB Conference Keynote Speakers: Inspiration and Transformation 
Nick Hanson
The "Eskimo Ninja"

As a competitor on Ninja Warriors, a TV show where athletes race to complete extremely difficult obstacle courses, Nick branded himself the "Eskimo Ninja" to reflect his Inupiaq lineage.

While many of the other competitors train in state-of-the-art gyms, Nick's Alaska-style training program includes a salmon ladder, equipment made from driftwood and eating traditional foods. Nick is known for getting huge air (30 feet!) in the blanket toss competition at the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics. As a coach for the Native Youth Olympics he is inspiring a whole new generation of athletes. He inspires hope in all that meet him with his never give up attitude.

Nick grew up in Unalakleet, Alaska and It's a small village of about 680 people. Nick once said, "We're only one square mile. If I answer the phone and someone's talking on the other side, I can tell who they are just by their hello."
Bentham Atirau Ohia
New Zealand Facilitator

Bentham works with community groups facilitating transformational leadership practice. His work in strategy development includes directorships on tribal and organization boards both in New Zealand and internationally, including Big Fish Group, Deputy Chair of the Waikato Tainui Endowment College, Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO) and Advancement of MÄori Opportunity (AMO).

He has chaired international conferences in education and transformational leadership and is an accreditation evaluator with WINHEC, the World Indigenous Higher Education Consortium, which evaluates programs in tribal colleges around the world.

Bentham has also worked with First Alaskans Institute in their staff development and the Community Doers project in Alaska. Bentham will be accompanied by his brother Watson, an educator who can speak directly to our needs.

YLI 2018: Shaping Tomorrow's Leaders   
By Claudia Plesa, AASB Community Engagement Educator and Coordinator 
       Claudia Plesa
The Association of Alaska School Boards hosts youth from across the state at our Annual Conference youth leadership track. This year the Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) will take place Nov. 8-11.  
The focus of YLI is for students to build leadership skills, develop their own personal leadership style and learn how to advocate for themselves and their peers.  
65th Annual AASB Conference &  
Youth Leadership Institute!
November 8-11 at the Hilton Anchorage. The annual conference is an opportunity for Alaska's education and youth leaders to come together for training opportunities, relationship building, and to experience a variety of dynamic events, talks, and sectionals. We hope to see you there!  
Outgoing AASB Board Member Andi Story Honored by 30th Legislature, Juneau School Board, Alaska Superintendent's Association 
Andi Story
At its October 9 meeting, the Juneau School Board bid farewell to longtime board member Andi Story. After 15 years of service, Story is stepping down from the board to run for a seat in the legislature representing Juneau's House district 34. Colleagues have praised her unwavering commitment to public education and tireless advocacy on behalf of Alaska's students.

Andi has served on the AASB Board of Directors for nine years with one year as president, and is a founding member of Great Alaska Schools. She has been active on the REACH S.T.A.R advisory board, Juneau Early Literacy Council, Indian Student Parent Advisory board, Auke Bay homework club, and the Thunder Mountain High School Parent Teacher Organization. During her final school board meeting Ms. Story was presented with a citation from the 30th Alaska Legislature honoring her commitment to public education, and with the 2019 MacKinnon Educational Excellence and Human Recognition Award from the Alaska Superintendents Association.
The citation from the Thirtieth Alaska State Legislature recognizes Andi Story's "extraordinary commitment and dedication to public education."
Juneau Representative Justin Parish and AASB STEPS Partnership Coordinator Lisa Worl presented the legislative citation. 
Board Member Profile
Kathleen G. Todd  
Valdez City Schools Board Member and Family Physician 
       Kathleen G. Todd
Each month Commentary features a different board member's story, as told in their own words. Many dedicated Alaskans from all walks of life have chosen to support their communities and youth by serving on a local school board. There is inspiration and fellowship in learning how a person's culture, life events, personal philosophies, influential teachers, or career choices have motivated them to serve. This month we profile Kathleen G. Todd of Valdez City Schools.
Are you an Alaska school board member who would like to share your story in a future issue of Commentary? Complete our short survey > 
Partner Spotlight
Community Dialogues in Angoon & Hoonah
In partnership with local tribal organizations and schools, STEPS Alaska & Alaska ICE staff visited both Angoon and Hoonah to host a community dialogue. Both Chatham and Hoonah City Schools sought community input in key areas of their work plans. The dialogues offered insight into what students, elders, parents and staff saw as strengths and needs within their community.  
The conversations also helped the school districts develop a priority for their scope of work. As an added benefit, these conversations also helped create an initial list of partners between the schools and the local tribes and community as they looked to who in the community served as the best resource and support in areas such as early childhood, culturally responsive education and creating healing schools. The dialogues in Angoon and Hoonah had strong attendance and rich discussions. Many who attended felt this was a positive first step and they look forward to getting the work started.

KinderReady Comes to Juneau
This fall the Juneau School District began offering KinderReady preschool programming at Glacier Valley Elementary School as part of the STEPS initiative. Funding for bus transportation also helps to ensure that every child in the area can access the KinderReady program.

The goal of the STEPS initiative is to implement womb-to-world strategies that will improve outcomes for our students. Research has shown that preschool can help put kids on a successful path, impact high school graduation rates, college achievement, and even career success. A recent study by University of Chicago economists found that investing in comprehensive early childhood programs has a 13% return on investment. That is, for every dollar invested, society realizes $13 in value through better outcomes in education, health, social behavior, and employment. Read the study >
Guest Columns
University of Alaska Southeast, Dual Enrollment and Career Pathways in High Schools!
By Reid Brewer, Ph.D., Professor / Program Director, Fisheries Technology, University of Alaska Southeast
Reid Brewer
Let's face it; many high school faculty members are overloaded with teaching core courses, so the thought of adding new curricula often brings a cringe to their faces and the beginnings of a migraine headache. What if high schools could offer new and exciting coursework without the cringing or the headaches? What if high school faculty didn't even need to teach the content? What if all the resources (lectures, reading assignments, exams, etc.) were already available? What if students could take courses for both high school and college credit? What if it didn't cost students money?
In spring 2017, the UAS Fisheries Technology program reinvented a way to offer courses that are:
  1. Engaging and technology-based,
  2. Use the latest educational pedagogy, and
  3. Can be delivered directly into the high school classroom with no internet required.
Crisis Management: The Case of the Bickering Parents
By Lea Filippi of Sedor, Wendlandt, Evans & Filippi, LLC
Lea Filippi 
Part two of a series on Interacting with the Outside World - School District Style.
The Case : Two siblings attend one of your schools. Their parents aren't together and seem to share custody of the children. One afternoon, the father comes to school to pick up the older student, a teen, toward the end of the day shortly before the bell rings. When a staff member calls the classroom to get the teen, she indicates that she does not want to go with her father and wants to call her mother. The school secretary lets her call her mother from a phone in the front office. The mother asks her daughter to put a staff member on the phone. The principal takes the call. The mother tells the principal that there is an active OCS investigation and that neither child should go with their father. What should the school administrator do?
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Guidelines for Public Comment in Local Government
By Ann Macfarlane, Professional Registered Parliamentarian, Jurassic Parliament  
The public comment period is an essential part of local government meetings. These are our guidelines for public comment periods in local government. They refer to ordinary business and work or study meetings of councils, boards and committees. Public hearings and quasi-judicial hearings are governed by different rules. It is important for elected officials and for the public to be very clear about the purpose of the public comment period. This is an opportunity for members of the public to inform the governing body about their views. The meeting itself belongs to the governing body. The public does not PARTICIPATE in the decision-making. Instead, it PROVIDES INPUT to the governing body, which takes the input into consideration in making its decisions. 
Science Helps to Close Sitka Achievement Gap 
By Lisa Busch, Executive Director, Sitka Sound Science Center
Lisa Busch
The Sitka School District is making progress in closing the academic achievement gap in science among Alaska Natives and economically disadvantaged students. Furthermore, Sitka students have consistently outperformed statewide results on the Alaska Science Assessment. There are a number of factors that contribute to a quality science education program. We believe that the expanded Sitka Scientists in the Schools program is a contributing factor to student success in science. 
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How the 'SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act' Addresses Opioid Abuse in Schools and Communities
Sen. Lisa Murkowski
Many of you have been concerned about the horrible impact of opioid abuse on your students and communities. The President has signed into law the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which passed the Senate on October 3 in a 98-1 vote. As a member of the Senate HELP Committee, Senator Murkowski secured provisions in the final package. These are: 
REMINDER: Register Now for the 2019 Alaska School Climate & Connectedness Survey (SCCS)!

Join the over 30 Alaska school districts who collect and use school climate data each year to improve and strengthen your schools' environment, relationships, and connections between students, staff, & families.

SCCS's interactive survey platform makes survey administration, reporting, and analysis interactive and user-friendly. Participating districts also receive:
  • Free webinars and training support to oversee survey administration, and how to use the interactive platform.
  • Support on how to use survey results includes on-site workshops or video conferences led by AASB staff.
Districts choose a two-week window between January 18 - March 22 to take the survey.
Alaska Capitol Building
The first official meeting of the Legislative Task Force on Reading Proficiency and Dyslexia authorized by the Alaska Legislature through House Bill 64 last session was held in Anchorage. The twelve-member task force met to study the latest research on how children learn to read and look at ways to effectively put this knowledge into practice. Approximately 47,000 students in Alaska did not meet state standards in 2015, leaving them insufficiently prepared for the challenges of the future. However, new research shows that even children with dyslexia and other reading difficulties can become excellent readers with the right approach to learning.  
Pledge of Allegiance a way to speak Yup'ik in Goodnews Bay school
By Isabelle Ross, KDLG / The Bristol Bay Times 
This week, students at Rocky Mountain School in Goodnews Bay will begin reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in Yup'ik.
At 8:35 each morning, a community member will lead all 64 students in kindergarten through 12th grade in the Yup'ik pledge, one line at a time. It is an effort to integrate the language into the school day in the absence of a teacher.
"The school board asked me where we're at on our Yup'ik teacher, and at this present time, there's nobody who has filled that position yet," Principle Sally Benedict explained. "We wanted to make sure that we still had Yup'ik going on in the school. So, we all went into the Yup'ik room and we looked on our wall and saw the Pledge of Allegiance. And we thought that would be a great place to start."
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Newhalen Student Harvests Fish for Elders
By Evelynn Trefon, Bristol Bay Times  
As Paul Clay began his senior year at Newhalen School, he knew he would have to complete a service project. In the Lake and Peninsula School District, students are required to complete a certain amount of service project hours before they can graduate. He chose to harvest fall fish for Elders. When asked why this project, Clay said, "It seemed like Elders couldn't get fall fish and they like it. ... They do a lot for the community and they are important."
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Redefining sports: Petersburg High School supports starting a video gaming team
By Angela Denning, KFSK, Petersburg 
Petersburg High School Junior Jack Byrer Photo: Angela Denning
Petersburg School District is looking at starting a new sport at the high school - esports. It's video gaming and it's one of the fastest growing team-based competitions for youth in the state. Over 40 million people watched this video game playing out on their screens last year. It was the World Championships of League of Legends. Jack Byrer is a junior at Petersburg High School. He gave a presentation to the school board on what esports are and why his club wants to start a team by next spring. He said they'll eventually be able to compete against other schools. 
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Y-K Delta Village Population Growth Outpacing Bethel Population Growth
By Anna Rose MacArthur, KYUK 
Populations of Y-K Delta villages are growing faster than the population of Bethel. Map: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The overall population of Alaska has remained steady over the past five years. But in certain areas of the state, it's on the rise. Some of those areas are Alaska's smallest communities. The trend spreads across Western and Northern Alaska. Hub communities like Dillingham, Bethel, Nome, and Kotzebue are slowly increasing in population, but State Demographer Eddie Hunsinger points out something he calls "remarkable." "It's not the major population centers that are growing the most," Hunsinger said. Instead it's the villages. The Lower Kuskokwim School District is feeling the effects; many of its schools are overcrowded. Meanwhile, schools in other areas of the state are closing because there aren't enough students.  
Atka School In Danger Of Shutting Down
By Zoë Sobell, KUCB
Kids play outside Atka's general store.
Photo: Zoë Sobel
Friday marks the end of Alaska's student count period, which determines how much funding public schools receive. To get full funding, schools need at least 10 students. But at the Yakov E. Netsvetov school in Atka, there are only six. Unless four more students enroll, this will be the last year there's a school in Atka. "Something would have to happen pretty quickly to create a climate that would allow for the financing and maintenance of the school operations here," said Joe Beckford, superintendent of the Aleutian Region School District, which also includes Adak. "Functionally, after this year, if we don't have 10 students, it's not possible to keep the school open financially." For every year a school is under the 10-student minimum, it loses 25 percent of its state funding
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Emotions boil over at Anchorage School Board meeting
By Scott Gross, KTVA  
Photo: KTVA
The Anchorage School Board along with friends, family and former co-workers paid tribute to school board member Bettye Davis who stepped down from her role in September due to health issues and family time. Monday night's school board meeting also found 43 people signed up for public testimony. Because of the long list, the school board pushed the non-action items to the next board meeting. One non-action item is the discussion of closing Mount Spurr Elementary on JBER. The school would close at the end of this school year with students filtered to Orion and Aurora Elementary Schools.
Grant Partnership between UAF, SILKAT brings cultural awareness to classrooms
By Julie Swisher, webcenter11.com
Photo: webcenter11.com
A grant partnership made 'by teachers, for teachers' is bringing cultural awareness into classrooms in the Bering Strait School District. SILKAT is a grant partnership between the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the Bering Strait School District, and non-profit Kawerak Inc. The Partnership is making waves within, schools, and communities, by giving teachers knowledge about local customs and traditions that are specific to the Western Alaskan culture. Amy Vinlove, The Director of the School of Education with UAF, spoke about SILKAT's impacts on Alaskan Schools. "SILKAT is a grant. It stands for Sustaining Indigenous and Local Knowledge, Arts and Teaching. We developed that name pretty specifically, and I often go back to it to keep us grounded in what it is we are trying to do," she said. 
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Fairbanks Native Association Receives Four Grants 
By Fairbanks Daily News-Miner 
Fairbanks Native Association has received four separate grants, three from the U.S. Department of Education and another from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as announced in four separate news releases. A $2 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services will fully fund five years of FNA's Tribal Home Visiting project. The largest Department of Education grant totals $2.73 million, and will fully fund a new four-year project called Native Families Engage in Education and Career Development. Fairbanks schools will receive nine family service coordinators to work with students and engage families. A $1.33 million Native American Career and Technical Program grant from the Department of Education will fund a three-year project from FNA's Johnson O'Malley program. 
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School Board Focuses on Student Safety
By Victoria Petersen, Peninsula Clarion    
KPBSD board meets to discuss school safety.
Photo: Victoria Petersen
The number of students being assessed as suicide risks is seeing an uptick in peninsula schools. During Monday's Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education work session on school safety, assistant superintendent of instruction John O'Brien presented data regarding students who may be experiencing childhood trauma and adverse childhood experiences. As of Monday, 45 students have been given suicide threat assessments this year. Green said last year, the school district received 140 threat assessments, the highest number ever.
There's a disaster, and you're in charge of 45,000 students, what happens next?   
By Rebecca Palsha, KTUU Channel 2 
Photo: KTUU Channel 2
There are more than 45,000 students within the Anchorage School District. Daily, managing those students, staff, as well as the many buildings that ASD owns, is a monumental task. Add into the mix a man-made or natural disaster, and you're talking about having to create a fool-proof plan to keep everyone safe and to be able to reunite parents with their children.
3 Minute Read >
Prepared, not scared; ASD teaches ALICE training
By Kalinda Kindle, KTUU Channel 2   
ASD Students.
Photo: KTUU Channel 2

Preparing students and teachers across the Anchorage School District for a potential scenario of an active shooter or intruder, ASD teachers learn ALICE training.
ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. Anchorage School District's Preparedness Coordinator Steve Brown says ALICE examples are taught like barricading a door or countering as a last resort option. 
2 Minute Read >
Ketchikan School Board Moves to Honor 'Steps and Lanes'
By Leila Kheiry, KRBD
Teacher steps and lanes - or incremental salary increases based on seniority and education level - were unfrozen Wednesday by the Ketchikan School Board. The district and Ketchikan Education Association have been negotiating a new teacher contract. The former contract expired in spring of 2017. That contract includes a statement that steps and lanes will be frozen until a new contract has been negotiated. Teachers say that clause has become increasingly punitive as negotiations dragged on for about two years. They requested the district honor steps and lanes as a show of good faith that a negotiated contract is now within reach.  
  2 Minute Read >  
Anchorage's Danielle Riha selected as 2019 Alaska Teacher of the Year  
By Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media 
State Education department official Bob Williams presents Danielle Riha with the 2019 Alaska Teacher of the Year plaque. Photo: Kirsten Swann
Anchorage teacher Danielle Riha was surprised today to learn she was selected as the 2019 Alaska Teacher of the Year. She was coming back from a lunch with state education representative Bob Williams, under the pretense that it was because she was a nominee for Teacher of the Year . Williams then led Riha to the auditorium of the Alaska Native Cultural Charter School. "When I knew for sure was when I was coming around the corner and Bob Williams looked at me and said, 'Are you ready for this?'" Riha said. The whole school was waiting inside to applaud for her.
Three Alaska Schools Earn Federal Performance Honor   
By Scott Gross, KTVA
Photo: KTVA
The U.S. Department of Education has named three Alaska schools as 2018 National Blue Ribbon Schools. The Alaska recipients include Homer Middle School, Pioneer Peak Elementary School in the Mat-Su and Steller Secondary School in the Anchorage School District. Each year, the state Department of Education and Early Development nominates schools for the award.
Double Take for Region 2: Two School Administrators Honored by State Organization
By Kris Capps, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner   
Assistant Principal of the Year Garin Martin (left) & Principal of the Year Jeni Mason. Photo courtesy Jeni Mason
The Denali Borough School District must be doing something right. Two of the district's administrators were recently honored by the Alaska Association of Secondary School Principals. Jeni Mason was named principal of the year for Region 2. She is principal of Anderson School, Cantwell School and Denali PEAK Homeschool. Garin Martin was named assistant principal of the year for Denali PEAK Homeschool program in Region 2. "I think it's unique that the honor goes to people in the same district," said Dan Polta, Denali superintendent. "Our students, parents and staff are fortunate to have such excellent educational leaders supporting student achievement in our schools." 
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