This Aug. 13 photo shows Juneau school board candidate Ibn Bailey. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)

Bailey seeks school board seat

Local business owner says he brings unique perspective

Ibn Bailey knows a thing or two about going to public schools and being the new kid. As the son of an active military member, he attended 1o different schools between kindergarten and his senior year of high school.

That experience is one of several that he says gives him a perspective that he hopes to use on the Juneau School District Board of Education. He’s currently a candidate for one of three open seats. In October, he will compete with five other candidates for a spot on the board.

“I have a unique perspective,” he said in a recent interview at the Northern Tea Alley downtown.

Bailey is the owner and proprietor of the shop and the Northern Tea House, located near the airport.

“I believe my insights will be beneficial,” he said.

Bailey said that he was born in England and saw swaths of the globe as a child while his father served in the military. An experience that he says made him a BRAT — an acronym for British regiment attached traveler.

He arrived in Juneau 30 years ago when he and his girlfriend Maria —who is now his wife—agreed to deliver a car from Michigan to his father, who had retired in Juneau. The pair planned to drive across the country, ride the ferry to town and stay for the summer.

“We’ve been on that summer vacation for 30 years,” he joked. Bailey said that he now considers Juneau his home.

“We could have the jewel school district in the state. We could strive toward being the standard for schools in Alaska,” he said. “I want Juneau to play that role.”

On the issues

As students return to the classroom after COVID-19 forced a switch to distance learning and several schedule changes during the school year, Bailey suspects that the adjustment will be tough for students and staff.

Bailey said that “his hat is off to the current school board,” noting that the board faced several tough decisions during the pandemic.

He also said that the board’s work on by-law updates represented a big chunk of ongoing work as the board grappled with distance learning and student masking questions.

Bailey said that he’s not opposed to students and staff wearing masks at school.

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” he said. “The fervor over the mask mandate is eerily reminiscent of the time when schools were being integrated. You see violence against teachers, threats, and lots of anger.”

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Opportunities and challenges

Bailey sees opportunities for Juneau’s schools to improve.

He said he’d like to see greater parental involvement and more emphasis on the arts as part of the STEM curriculum, which focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math. He added that drama and theater were his favorite subjects in school and that he first encountered the subject as part of the English primary school curriculum.

Bailey said he’d advocate for greater accessibility for students with low vision and would work with local social service agencies who have expertise in the field.

In addition, Bailey said that the months of distance learning highlighted the need for better home internet access, especially for students who come from low-income households.

“I’d look for grants to increase broadband access from local providers to have greater access in homes,” he said.

He’d also like to see the school district update its online presence with website improvements.

He listed receiving adequate state funding and “disciplined spending on a local level” as challenges facing the district.

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Suited to serve

Bailey said that many of his life experiences make him well suited to serve Juneau’s students.

In addition to his experience as a military dependent and business owner, he is the father of a Juneau student, has worked as a caseworker at REACH Incorporated, volunteered extensively in the community, and had various professional experiences. He said that he is from a blended family and experienced homelessness during his younger years.

He noted that Juneau Schools serve many children from Coast Guard families. He understands how “overwhelming” it can feel to start in a new school and experience a new culture, especially for students who may have been living abroad.

“It can be a culture shock,” he said.

Scholarship fund

In 2018, Bailey established the EEB Scholarship Fund to “honor students who strive for more” and encourage high school seniors to think about their roots. The scholarship’s name reflects his son’s initials.

Applicants write an essay describing who they are, and a panel of local business owners select winners after reviewing the essays.

“I don’t judge the essays. I’d be broke, if I did,” he said.

Bailey said the scholarship comes without restrictions and that students are free to use the money as needed.

“I just ask that they are responsible,” he said, adding that the money can be used to purchase tools for trade school, a plane ticket to college or to buy regalia for Tlingit celebrations.

“It’s not a GPA-based scholarship,” he said.

The scholarship amounts vary and are granted at graduation.

Background

After graduating from high school in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Bailey studied psychology at Cal State San Bernardino. He’s also taken classes at the University of Alaska Southeast.

In addition to owning local businesses, he’s worked as an elementary school student assistant, as a case manager for REACH Inc. and for the law enforcement arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. At NOAA, he was part of the inaugural equal employment council established by Wiliam M. Daley, the Secretary of Commerce.

Bailey is an avid community volunteer, he’s currently involved with food drive efforts.

His love of acting has led to performances at Perseverance Theatre. Last week, he performed in a live theater event organized by 350Juneau and Theater Alaska.

He’s served on the Juneau Human Rights Commission and the Americans with Disabilities board. Bailey has been a part of the Black Awareness Association.

“I like to volunteer,” he said.

He and his family enjoy sushi from Seong’s and visit Auke Lake. He enjoys photography and says he is always looking for new places to take photos.

“I look forward to serving the families of Juneau and being accessible and visible. I am here,” he said, gesturing around his shop.

About the election

Bailey is running against four newcomers and one incumbent for one of three open seats.

Other candidates include Elizabeth Siddon, currently the school board president, and newcomers Wiljordon V. Sangster, Thomas Buzärd, Amber Frommherz, and Aaron Spratt.

The election will take place on Oct. 5 and will be conducted primarily by mail.

Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

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