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.
Special Edition - May 4, 2020
To help keep you informed of rapidly changing new developments, special editions of Commentary will be published weekly through the end of the 2020 school year.
Norm Wooten
AASB Executive Director
Alaska's Transformational Leaders Deserve Our Thanks
As school closures approach the two month mark, I encourage each of us to step back and reflect on the accomplishments within Alaska’s public school system. Many deserve a thank you, but I want to single out one group that has put forward a herculean effort – the staff of our schools.
I include everyone that serves our students day after day - superintendents, central office staff, principals, teachers, paraprofessionals, food service personnel, custodial staff, maintenance personnel, bus drivers, secretaries, and all others who make certain schools are ready and able to educate our children. They do their jobs day in, day out, throughout the year. However, they all deserve special kudos for what they have done during the COVIS-19 pandemic.

We were all left reeling over the decision to close schools – an unprecedented event in our lifetimes. Most were asking, “So what does this mean?” With just a few days pause, our school staff leapt into action and began to serve students in so many ways. We have seen incredible people doing amazing work to ensure students continue to receive an education.

Students were fed, teachers connected with their students, lessons were delivered in a myriad of ways, supplies necessary for home education were assembled and distributed. There was little hand wringing and complaining. These folks did what Alaskans always do – they solved problems as they arose and developed “workarounds” to accomplish the job.

I’ve frequently said to colleagues across the nation, only half in jest, “Alaskans are not smart enough to know we cannot do anything.” There is truth in that statement. We live in the harshest environment the planet has to offer. Distances separate us like nowhere else. We lag behind every other state in infrastructure. Missed airplane flights, shipping delays, late mail deliveries, high prices, isolation, material shortages – these are commonplace, and we think little of them.

All of this is said so that we can remember the many things your school staff overcame to ensure that school continued, no matter how lessons were delivered or what obstacles had to be hurdled. Alaska’s students are the winners because of these dedicated people!

I encourage you to reach out to those folks operating your schools from wherever they are working and thank them for what they do every day – but especially during this difficult time.

"Our Superheroes Wear Masks"

The Alaska Superintendents Association (ASA) released a collage of Alaska superintendents in personal protective equipment on National Superhero Day as a recognition of their tireless efforts in transforming the educational landscape of Alaska in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

I n the weeks following the abrupt school closures, s uperintendents across the state began orchestrating near-overnight transition to remote delivery of education, student meals and learning materials and collaborated daily to share policy and procedures that address  the health, safety and educational needs of Alaskan students and families.

"It is a show of solidarity reflecting the outstanding efforts of our educational leaders, in partnership with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, business and government leaders, as well as partner organizations", said  Executive Director Dr. Lisa S. Parady.
Pomp Amid Interesting Circumstances
John M. Sedor of Sedor, Wendlandt, Evans & Filippi, LLC
Congratulations Class of 2020!

I think this year all of us – not just students – have gone through a unique “curriculum” and learning situation. We are all grads of these “interesting times” and deserve recognition as this school year comes to an end and we look forward to the beginning (commencement) of the opportunities and challenges that lie before us.

Of course, how we recognize this graduation underscores the very pandemic we are living through.

John M. Sedor
School Law Basics
Wednesday, May 6, 2020 at Noon
Join  Lon Garrison (AASB)  and education attorney  John Sedor (Sedor, Evans, Wendlandt & Filippi)  as they discuss the basics of local, state and federal laws that affect school boards and the districts they serve.
DHSS Survey: Alaska’s parents share concerns about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting their families

 Nearly 2,000 Alaska parents responded to a survey by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services to find out how the pandemic is impacting the lives of Alaska families with children.

The survey focused on the impacts of the pandemic on physical activity, nutrition, health insurance and access to prescriptions.
Parents stated that spending time outdoors (74%), increased family time (70%) and connecting with friends and family online (69%) have helped them deal with physical distancing measures. Over half reported difficulties in obtaining medical care (80%) and mental health care (60%).

State Temporarily Suspends Teacher Certification Requirements
Governor Dunleavy, under Order of Suspension No. 2, has suspended statutory and regulatory requirements that have become barriers for educators to gain or maintain Alaska certification and for districts to focus on the continuation of educational services to their students.
The suspension of requirements applies to any applicant for Alaska certification and all certificated staff of Alaska school districts. Additionally, Commissioner Johnson has invoked his authority to issue emergency certification and waive requirements for the renewal of certification in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Order of Suspension No. 2 is lifted, applicants who were issued an emergency certificate under this order must satisfy the requirements to qualify for subsequent certification.

DEED Pandemic Graduation Ceremony Guidance
The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, with approval from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, has released guidelines for school districts’ consideration regarding conducting graduation ceremonies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

AASB Congratulates 2020 June Nelson Scholarship Winners!
The Association of Alaska School Boards is pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 scholarship competition!

Free 'Professional Boundaries' Policy

AASB and APEI have teamed up to offer a 'Professional Boundaries' policy designed to protect students from inappropriate adult behaviors. We strongly encourage you to consider adopting the policy into your local policy manual.

2020-2021 AASB Conference Dates
We've received lots of inquiries about AASB's schedule of upcoming conferences and events.

Here's the latest info.

Practice Safe Zooming!
These Zoom Security Protocols for setup and hosting will help keep your meetings safe and protect student privacy.

STEPS Annual Partner Gathering
STEPS Partners Work Together
On April 27th - 28th, AASB hosted its annual gathering of STEPS partners to share best practices, celebrate achievements, and plan for the future. There was one twist though - the whole event was hosted virtually!

Much of the gathering, as one might expect, was dedicated to adapting to the "new normal," supporting our families who now have to adopt new technologies and learn from home. We discussed important topics, such as identifying inequities such as technology, food security, and other areas that are brought to light during the COVID-19 crisis.
STEPS partners participating in the Cultural Integration Book Study with Zaretta Hammond during our 2020 STEPS Gathering!
Although we discussed the challenges, it was clear that the fundamental values driving our work - building relationships with students and families, place-based and culturally responsive learning, and aligning our work to better serve families - remain especially important while "sheltering in place".

It was great to see all of our partners come together and hear about the ways that our Southeast communities are stepping up to support each other in our time of need!

We have included some highlights of the resources shared at the STEPS partner gathering below.

Creating Community During COVID-19
How do we create community during COVID-19? This is a question that was asked by many of our partner organizations and school districts. 

STEPS Partners used "Jamboard" to discuss SEL and Trauma-Informed practices.
Family Support and Transitions
During this session, STEPS explored four building blocks for family engagement, Link to Learning, Collaborative Partnerships Culturally Responsive, and relationship from the Alaska Family Partnership Framework.

Takeaways by Grade Level
Place-Based/Project-Based Learning in Yakutat
STEPS finished up the regional meeting with a session dedicated to Place Based Learning. The session included an exciting share out from Sarah Israelson, Yakutat School District Elementary Teacher.

Some of the flora and fauna found by students in Yakutat!
Photo: Sarah Israelson
Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Zaretta Hammond & STEPS Partners
AASB was able to offer grant-funded partners an opportunity to participate in a five part book study on Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain. 

One of the slides from Zaretta Hammond's session, showing the intersectional approach she takes with CRT.
STEPS Community Resources

Southeast Youth Power Hour
Tlingit & Haida Navigators Program

Tlingit & Haida, along with other partners across Southeast Alaska, are currently planning a "Youth Power Hour," a virtual space (similar to the Tele-Native Youth Webinar series) for youth across the Southeast region to meet over teleconference and take part in educational conversations with guest speakers. In order to help craft this virtual event, T&H is collecting survey responses from students, staff, and community partners who would be interested in this opportunity. The survey link is below!


Juneau Youth Check-In
Tlingit & Haida Navigators Program

T&H is sending out a survey in order to check in with Juneau youth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several education partners have indicated that some youth and families in the Juneau community do not have access to all of the resources they need during this time, and this survey is intended to identify those students that need help.

Please send this link to youth that you know or work with in Juneau!


Rural Womxn's Care Package
Native Movement

Native Movement is committing to sending essential items for women living in rural Alaska during the coronavirus pandemic. This survey is intended for individuals living in rural Alaska and are struggling to access the essential products they need, such as feminine care products, condoms, art supplies, etc.

Please send this link to women in rural communities that you may know of who could benefit from receiving these care packages!


UAS Successful Scholars
August 18th in Juneau

The Successful Scholars Program is a support program for first-generation, low income and/or underrepresented college students at the University of Alaska Southeast. A strong support system can make a big difference in how students navigate the changes and challenges the college experience brings and will be a factor in finding their success at UAS. UAS recognizes students will bring several assets to campus and will face unique experiences as they begin this exciting journey. If you would like to apply for this program, please click the link below for more information and for the application link.

Wellness and SEL Resources
Being quarantined at home for extended periods can increase the amount of stressors for families, students, and teachers connecting remotely. Here are resources to help.
Mobile App:

The COVID Coach app was created for everyone, including Veterans and Servicemembers, to support self-care and mental health during the coronavirus pandemic. Features include education about coping during the pandemic, tools for self-care and improving emotional well-being, graphs to visualize progress over time.

Using Zoom
for Tele-therapy

Anchorage Community Mental Health Services
and Fairbanks Community
Mental Health Services are using Zoom to connect with clients.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so when possible, we use Zoom to connect with video. We use an encrypted version of Zoom that is compliant with healthcare privacy laws.

Youth Series

The Center for Native American Youth is hosting a webinar series created for and by Native youth. The series will cover topics of interest that are identified by the participants. Links are below for registration and information.

Archive of Curated SEL Articles
The Academy for Social and Emotional Learning in Schools is providing resources on the best ways to safely approach COVID-19 while continuing to educate our youth. The following articles focus on the importance of supporting social-emotional learning efforts through distance learning.
District Dispatches

COVID-19 school closures have disrupted school grading systems.
DEED does not have a policy to address these unique circumstances,
and considers grading a local issue. 

What grading system is your district using to ensure
equitable achievement among all students ?

Anchorage School District
Dr. Deena Bishop, Superintendent
I have asked high school teachers to ensure that no student who continues to engage with his or her online work through the end of the year on May 21 will earn less than the grade he or she earned at the end of the third quarter. Students can still improve their overall semester grade, but they do not have to worry about their grade dropping below whatever mark they earned prior to spring break, provided they continue to be engaged in their online coursework through the end of the school year.
I believe this is a fair way to recognize students’ on-going efforts, maintain academic standards in our high school courses, and acknowledge the challenging circumstances many students face with independent learning at home.

We will offer a four-week summer extension period for any student who fails a second semester class. This extended period will run June 1 – 26, giving students four additional weeks to earn a passing grade and credit. For those students who would like to improve their grade in any second semester class, we are offering our online six-week iSchool courses at no-cost to students this summer. We will provide additional opportunities into next school year for students who may wish to improve their academic standing.
Chugach School District
 Charlene Arneson, School Board
Chugach School District is competency-based on user's levels, not grades. Individual learning plans.
Fairbanks North Star Borough School District
Elementary students will receive NS for their fourth quarter grade, with middle school students receiving NG. Both of these indicate insufficient evidence to assign a grade. Third quarter grades will still be counted.

For high school seniors, academic indicators like grade point average, class rank and honor cords will be based on their academic standing at the end of the school year’s first semester.
Juneau Borough School District
Bridget Weiss, Superintendent
K-5 no grades for 3rd trimester; 6-8 pass/fail for 4th quarter and NG for semester; 9-12 no grade lower than what they had for 3rd quarter. Flexible due dates; ample opportunities to make up work from 3rd quarter, no Fs unless approved through principal, pass/fail is an option; seniors can withdraw w/o penalty from any class they don’t need for graduation.
Auke Bay Elementary School teachers in Juneau staged a parade through the neighborhoods of their students. There were kids lined up waiting at the end of their driveways waiting excitedly to see their teachers. 😊
Education Resources
ACT, SAT and WorkKeys Testing Requirement Waived for Class of 2020
For the graduating class of 2020, the State of Alaska is waiving the ACT and SAT requirement for Alaska Performance Scholarship (APS) eligibility this year, and GPA will be the determinant of the award level. The requirement is waived due to the ACT and SAT test cancellations.
In addition, the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education is also waiving the WorkKeys test requirement for the Alaska Performance Scholarship (APS).

Details of this waiver and any other changes to APS policies will be available on the APS website at APS.alaska.gov. Sign up here to directly receive notifications.

UAF eCampus offers dual enrollment classes at half price for students in participating districts
UAF’s Advantage program enables Alaska’s high school students to take online courses through the UAF eCampus to get a jump start on their college career, while meeting high school requirements.
Through the Advantage program, students can earncredits that are accepted at UAF but can also be transferred to other institutions of higher education. Students enrolled in one of the following school districts you are eligible for eCampus Advantage special pricing:

Achieve3000 Webinar Series
This webinar series will explore how we can work to close achievement gaps and plan for remote learning.
Closing the Gap

Coronavirus Information and Resources
DHSS Alaska Coronavirus Response Hub

The AK COVID-19 Dashboard from Alaska DHSS provides information, maps and resources about the coronavirus response in your local area. All data are updated daily at noon.

NEW Coronavirus Resources for Districts
Frequently updated resources for boards, administrators, educators, parents and families. The latest coronavirus information from state and national health organizations.
NEW Resources for Parents and Educators with Students at Home
An ever growing list of ideas and materials to support teachers, parents, and caregivers in search of ways to deliver instruction and daily activities to students learning remotely at home.
NEW Alaska Coronavirus Newsfeed
A summary of statewide Alaska media coverage
of the coronavirus pandemic impact. Updated daily.
On-Demand Webinars
AASB webinars for School Boards and Educators on conducting meetings and delivering instruction online, plus these other AASB webinar resources:
Internet Service Providers
Special offers for new or upgraded service for the remainder of the school year from ISPs, including ACS , ASTAC , GCI , KPU , MTA , and 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Window from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Federal & State Government 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.
Secretary DeVos Launches New Grant Competition to Spark Student-Centered, Agile Learning Opportunities to Support Recovery from National Emergency
US Department of Education
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today more than $300 million in discretionary grant funds will be available for states to use to create adaptable, innovative learning opportunities for K-12 and postsecondary learners in response to the COVID-19 national emergency.
The grants will be funded through the Education Stabilization Fund (ESF), authorized by the CARES Act. The Rethink K-12 School Models Grant is aimed at opening new, innovative ways for students to access K-12 education with an emphasis on meeting students’ needs during the coronavirus national emergency. The competition is open to state educational agencies which can apply for funds in one of the three categories:

  1. Microgrants for families, so that states can ensure they have access to the technology and educational services they need to advance their learning
  2. Statewide virtual learning and course access programs, so that students will always be able to access a full range of subjects, even those not taught in the traditional or assigned setting
  3. New, field-initiated models for providing remote education not yet imagined, to ensure that every child is learning and preparing for successful careers and lives

Application packages for these competitions will be available within two weeks. Applicants will then have 60 days to apply.

How the CARES Act Benefits Alaskans
Senator Dan Sullivan

Three pieces of legislation have been passed by Congress to help Americans get through the unprecedented challenges posed by coronavirus:

  • Phase 1 – The Coronavirus Preparedness & Response Supplemental Appropriations Act
  • Phase 2 – The Families First Coronavirus Response Act
  • Phase 3 – The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Senator Dan Sullivan
The CARES Act provides approximately $2 trillion in relief to American families, individuals, small businesses, states, tribes, hospitals, community health centers, and front line medical professionals. Links to information on specific elements of the legislation are provided.

Federal judge temporarily blocks aid to Alaska Native corporations
Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO, Juneau
A federal judge temporarily  blocked the federal government from paying CARES Act funding to Alaska Native corporations.

U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta  issued an order finding that the  tribes that sued to block the money from being paid to regional or village corporations were likely to win.
Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski
and Dan Sullivan.
Photo: Mikko Wilson, KTOO
The lawsuit was filed by tribes in the Lower 48 and Alaska. They  argue that the corporations don’t meet the federal definitions of “Indian Tribe” or “Tribal government.”
Alaska’s U.S. senators said they’re disappointed.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski said the state’s delegation worked to ensure the federal law used a definition of tribes that included the corporations. “This is not an issue of governance,” she said. “This is an issue of making sure that those costs that have been incurred on the benefit and for the behalf of Alaska Natives — to cover those related costs to the coronavirus — can be reimbursed.”

And Sen. Dan Sullivan said the corporations have missions mandated by the federal government beyond those of other corporations.

Governor Dunleavy Submits Revised CARES Act Funding Distribution Plan
Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy today submitted a revised plan for the equitable distribution of the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding, which brings over $1.5 billion of relief to the State, to the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee.
“Following conversations with the Legislature, community leaders, and our federal partners, I have submitted a revised package of RPLs for expedited consideration. This money will go directly where it is needed most into the hands of local communities, small businesses, and non-profits,” said Governor Mike Dunleavy. “My administration stands ready to distribute these needed funds immediately to help mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 in Alaska. It is our hope the LB&A Committee takes expedited action on this request.”

Notes from Norm
Norm Wooten, AASB Executive Director
During an Educational Leaders Meeting this week, DEED Commissioner Michael Johnson shared a few items of interest:
  • DEED was expecting, under CARES legislation, to receive approximately $5 million for expanded food services being provided by districts. DEED has just learned that Alaska’s share will instead be $42 million. There were questions from superintendents whether that funding could be utilized for expanded summer food service. The Commissioner will follow up with answers to those questions.

  • The Commissioner also shared he had been in conversations with Lieutenant Governor Meyer over the upcoming August 8 primary elections. In many communities the voting location is the school and some schools will be back in session on August 8. He is looking into making August 8 a student non-contact day to allow for complete social distancing for students.
At Thursday’s House Finance Committee Meeting, testimony was heard from a number of municipalities including Anchorage, Fairbanks, Ketchikan, Kenai, Kodiak, Mat-Su, and Bristol B ay. Every one of the municipalities included the veto of school bond debt reimbursement and community assistance. Both of these appropriations affect school districts. 

All municipalities expressed disbelief, and even anger, over the CARES funding being used to supplant the items vetoed from the state budget. Municipal staff testimony expressed serious concern over communications from the U.S Treasury on allowable uses of CARES funding. There are questions being raised over Alaska’s interpretation of allowable uses for the funds.
Alaska is flattening the curve, health experts say, but it’s complicated
Morgan Krakow, Anchorage Daily News
In the weeks since restaurants closed, layoffs rippled around the state and normal life in Alaska came to a grim halt, a global pandemic has raged on.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Alaska has been declining, but that doesn’t tell the entire story of the spread of the new coronavirus in the state. Much remains unknown about COVID-19.
A statue of William Seward near the Alaska Capitol is shown outfitted with a mask.
AP Photo: Becky Bohrer
A sudden increase in cases — a sharp, upward leap on the graph of cases — would likely drive up the number of people who need beds in intensive care units or one of the state’s limited number of ventilators. So far, that hasn’t happened. And it’s allowed officials time to build health care capacity statewide.

Zink to Alaskans: ‘It’s no time to let your guard down.’
Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO, Juneau
Alaskans continue to see what’s called “community spread” of COVID-19 — when people contract the disease without knowing who they got it from.

For state Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink, that’s a reason for Alaskans to remain vigilant. “It’s no time to let our guard down,” she said  during a Monday news conference.
Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, speaks at a news conference.
Photo: Office of the Governor
“If you can’t name everyone you spent more than 10 minutes with in the last week, then you’re probably spending too much time with too many people.”

The state is tracking the three ways Alaskans can contract the virus: through travel, from family members and other close contacts (known as “secondary” acquisition), and by community spread.

Alaska Education 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.
10 senior stories: What it feels like to finish high school in Anchorage in a year when coronavirus stopped, or changed, so many things
Marc Lester, Anchorage Daily News
Most 12th-graders are disappointed that spring rituals were canceled, but each has a unique outlook for life after graduation. “The strength and resilience of this class, I feel like, is going to carry on,” one said.
Kalala Masalosalo, Bartlett High School
Photo: Marc Lester
Some of the defining moments for the Class of 2020 might be the moments that never were. In Anchorage, high school seniors left school at the start of spring break on March 5, just before a pandemic rerouted American life. The students never again reconvened. Classes shifted online, sports were canceled, and annual traditions that make the final weeks of high school special became collateral damage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students advocate for bill to implement mental health curriculum in Alaska schools
Caleigh Jensen, KTVA
May 1 marks the first day of Mental Health Awareness Month, and a student-run group called Mental Health Advocacy Through Storytelling is actively supporting a house bill to improve mental health education in Alaska schools.
Student-run group MHATS in January testifying for HB 181, which would improve mental health education in Alaska schools.
Photo courtesy of Natalie Fraser.
“Public Schools: Mental Health Education,” or HB 181, would require mental health to be included in all K-12 health class curriculums by adding "and mental health" to the Alaska state statute regarding health education.

“It’s a very simple three-word term that is attempting to ensure that within health classes, regardless of the grades that they’re in or how many hours that are spent on it per week or per year, that mental health is a component of it,” Lucas Johnson, a second-year student at Bowdoin College assisting MHATS with advocacy, said.

Ketchikan’s distance learning program was ready to scale up. So why did the state go with Florida’s?
When state officials announced that they’d contracted with Florida’s virtual school program for statewide digital classes, some educators in Ketchikan were left scratching their heads.

Though the coronavirus has lent it some new urgency, state and local officials have been looking into — and implementing — distance learning for years. Back in 2014, Ketchikan and three other school districts across Alaska were awarded nearly $3.2 million in grants.
The Alaska Digital Academy, Ketchikan’s distance learning platform, is based at Ketchikan High School. Photo: KRBD
“It was called the Digital Teaching Initiative,” said Ketchikan school technology coordinator Bill Whicker in a phone interview last Thursday. “Really, the goal of it was to get high quality courses and Alaskan teachers in front of more kids in a digital fashion,” he said.

Whicker used $800,000 in grant money to build the Alaska Digital Academy, which he now leads. He’s careful not to call it a virtual school. Instead, it’s a “course portal” — students’ home districts assign credits and determine graduation requirements.

ASD prepares for summer learning, offers 4-week extension to students
 Angela Krenzien & Dave Goldman, KTVA
Anchorage leaders updated the community Wednesday on efforts to reopen and plans for the city's students going into the summer.
At his community briefing, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz was joined by Anchorage School District Superintendent Deena Bishop, Director of Economic and Community Development Chris Schutte and Innovation Team Director Brendan Babb.

Anchorage School District staff are planning for students to retrieve items left behind from before spring break. Each school will handle pickups differently. ASD is also working on plans to celebrate seniors as well as summer learning options. Superintendent Deena Bishop said summer school will be an option for all students.

The district will offer a four-week extension for any student that hasn't finished the credits needed for the spring semester.

Storybooks, radio connect kids isolated in far-flung Alaska
Rachel D'Oro, AP/KATV
All it takes is a few words from a storybook to connect kids over the crackle of an AM radio station. It's not 1950s entertainment, but a nostalgic way children in even the most remote Alaska communities — many with unreliable internet — can overcome further isolation brought on by the coronavirus.

4-year-old Polly Fraley listens in Homer, Alaska, to children's stories being read on air at local radio station KBBI by librarian Claudia Haines. Photo provided by Cassy Quinlan.
Community members react to banned books in Mat Su Borough
Matt Leseman, KTUU
After the Mat-Su Borough School Board voted to ban 5 books from the district's curriculum at their Wednesday meeting, orders for those books went through the roof at a local bookstore.“We were getting five or six [calls] an hour,” said Mary Ann Cockle, owner of Fireside Books in Palmer.
Photo: KTUU
Cockle said they ran out of copies of the books within hours. Many orders came from areas in the Mat-Su Borough, but not all of them. “We've gotten questions from all over the state of Alaska, as well as California, Tennessee, other states,” she said.

Meanwhile, a different business owner in Palmer decided to encourage students to read the books. DanaLyn Dalrymple started a contest, five $100 prizes drawn from the names of students who could prove they read the books. That was her plan at least.
“Within 24 hours, I had about 50 people who were willing to make a donation for a prize,” Dalrymple said.

She added that if everyone follows through on their donations, the prize pool will be about $5000 instead. If that’s the case, she said, the prize structure will need to be adjusted. “We’re going to get as many kids a prize as we can,” she said.

Wasilla Rock Band Protests Mat-Su School District Book Ban by Offering Students Free Copies
Ellise Shafer, Variety
Grammy-winning band Portugal. The Man are taking a stand against a recent book ban made by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough school board in Alaska. The school board voted to remove five classic works of literature from the curriculum due to what it deemed “controversial” content. In response, Portugal. The Man — which hails from Wasilla, a city within the Mat-Su Borough — have pledged to donate copies of the books directly to students in the district who would like to read them.

Members of the band Portugal. The Man. Photo: Maclay Heriot
Juneau board has no plans to follow Mat-Su’s lead on banned books
Michael S Lockett, Juneau Empire
The president of the Juneau Board of Education said that they have no intention of following the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School Board after it banned five books from their curricula on April 22.
“This is a surprise to the school board,” said school board President Brian Holst in a phone interview. “The Juneau School District has no plans to do anything like this.”

“We do not have a banned book list,” Holst said. “A few years ago we identified a few books that were egregiously culturally insensitive so we don’t include those books in our curriculum. There was no need for them, given there were better resources for the grade levels.”

UAF School of Education to ensure graduates are prepared for distance learning
Staff Report, webcenter11.com
The Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce continues to conduct its weekly business luncheons online. Tuesday's topic: preparing teachers for Alaska's future at the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Education.

School of Education director at UAF, Amy Vinlove, discussed initiatives for the program, including recruiting and supporting Alaska Native students pursuing teaching degrees.

Cordova student teacher named top in UAS master’s program
Zachary Snowdon Smith, The Cordova Times
Cordova Jr./Sr. High School student teacher Jessica Smyke has been named 2020 Outstanding Graduate by a University of Alaska Southeast secondary education certification program.

Smyke, who will obtain her Master of Arts in Teaching on Saturday, May 2, has spent the past school year working under the supervision of Cordova Jr./Sr. High School teacher Lance Westing. Smyke, having spent much of the past seven years doing science-related seasonal work for groups like the Forest Service, helped teach environmental science, anatomy and physiology, among other subjects.

“[Smyke’s] own passion for the environment comes through in her teaching — inspiring her students to dig deeply into current environmental issues and to look at those issues from multiple perspectives,” wrote Asst. Prof. Angie Lunda, who nominated Smyke for the award. “The students graduating from Jessica’s environmental science class are able to think critically about important science issues facing our state and, indeed, our entire planet.”

Cordova Jr./Sr. High School student teacher Jessica Smyke was recently recognized for outstanding performance. Photo courtesy of Anita Smyke
Nome School Board Passes $14-Million Budget Proposal, City Council to Finalize
Joe Coleman, KNOM
the Nome School Board approved the final draft of its budget for Fiscal Year 2021 as well as the purchase of a new van and laptops. The board continued its trend of holding meetings via Zoom in this week’s special meeting.
“We anticipate that our impact aid will be up slightly, and our other revenue will be down slightly,” said Superintendent, Jamie Burgess. He went on to say that there will be a slight adjustment to overall expenses for the school district due to the switch to a middle school model. Expenses will go up slightly due to necessary staffing adjustments as well as a “small increase” in teacher salary schedules in the coming years, Burgess explained. He did not offer more details on the negotiated teacher salaries, but said there will be some outside funding to count on from the CARES Act.

Inlet View teachers clear out students desks, prep for curbside pickup
Scott Gross, KTVA
Teachers at Inlet View Elementary School are cleaning out their classrooms this week and packing up belongings left behind by students when the school closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"It feels weird to be in the building without students and staff," said Principal Patricia Ahrens. "They are the life of the school." Some students are having a hard time understanding they won’t be back in school this year.

Inlet View Elementary School Principal Patricia Ahrens points to piles of student belongings ready for families to pick up. Photo: KTVA
Brave Outlook
James Poulson, Sitka Sentinal
Brave Heart Volunteers held a day-long event to show community solidarity, which they are calling "Be of Brave Heart Day." They are asking Sitkans to make connections with neighbors and friends through phone calls and waves as everyone shelters in place.
(from right) Michele Friedman, Sherry Mayo and Aleeta Bauder hold signs and wave. Photo: James Poulson
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

On-Demand AASB Webinars
- AASB WEBINAR - Working With Your Community
Claudia Plesa and Tyler Breen host this webinar on how your Board—and you as a Board member—can work more effectively with your community to improve student success. Webinar | Slideshow

- AASB WEBINAR - Distance Teaching with Zoom
In this "office hours" session Professor Megan Gahl and AASB staff answer questions and hear teacher insights on how to keep students engaged while teaching online. Discussion Notes

- AASB WEBINAR - Tips for Engaging Learners From a Distance
In this educator-focused webinar, Professor Megan Gahl, Heather Coulehan and Emily Ferry provide an overview of Zoom basics and best practices, and engagement in online classrooms. Webinar & Resources | Distance Learning Tips and Tools guide

- AASB WEBINAR - Holding Your Meeting Remotely
In this board-focused webinar, Lon Garrison and Timi Tullis provide an overview of what board members need to know to hold successful remote meetings.
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.

- More Information -

Email Timi Tullis or call 907-321-4758
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!

Association of Alaska School Boards | aasb.org