If you are elected to the Juneau Board of Education, what major issue do you hope to address with the school district, students, parents, teachers and administration during your term?
I am concerned about the school hazing and bullying issues, the retention of quality teachers, the development and expansion of tech prep work-ready and college-ready programs. I would also support a seven-period day and year-round schools, if possible. However, this is a time of fiscal crisis for the State of Alaska and Juneau. As a result, I believe that our real work will be to create a sustainable and realistic budget. In this environment, I generally prioritize small class sizes (especially for elementary schools) over infrastructure. Creative use of our infrastructure to maximize our resources should be among our highest priorities.
Bullying continues to be a problem in Juneau as well as nationwide. What steps would you suggest to address and decrease bullying (both cyber and traditional) in our schools?
I would expand this question to include hazing. Both hazing and bullying are a symptom of a larger cultural issue rather than a small group of bad apples. Therefore, we must identify the institutional and cultural enablers of these negative behaviors and not just individuals. I will support the adoption of any “best practice” that teaches and practices empathy and respect and eliminates the support structures that empower negative student traditions and behaviors.
Given the importance of an informed and engaged electorate to the democratic process, what more should the Juneau School District do to assure that students understand their roles as citizens in our democracy?
The “back to basics” movements of the 1980’s and 1990’s neglected civics and history education. Every child should understand how government works, its evolution through history and interplay between the individual and Democratic/Republic governance. I would support strengthening course requirements to include an additional course in this area as a requirement for graduation for future students, starting with the graduating class of 2020.
The use and abuse of alcohol, tobacco, street drugs and now increased availability of marijuana among students is a critical and ongoing issue. What should the school district do, if anything, to address these issues?
Substance use, abuse and consequences should definitely be taught in health class. I support not just education but the implementation of a “substance free” campus policy for all Juneau school property. This should include all tobacco, alcohol, street drugs, “vaping,” and extend to students, faculty and staff alike on school property. However, I also believe that this policy should apply to the school grounds and not beyond. I generally do not support policies that punish or discriminate against the users of legal substances when off school property. We should keep a division between work and private life to a realistic degree, when possible.
The state of Alaska has continually ranked number one in the U.S. for the highest rates of sexual abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault and chlamydia. Given these statistics, do you believe that reproductive health care and information about responsible sexuality should be a part of health education curriculum for students?
Sex education should be honestly taught as part of the health curriculum. I strongly support Erin’s law and strongly oppose abstinence-only education.
Research shows the value of Pre-K school programs. What can the school board do to strengthen such programs and assure adequate funding for this important educational effort so that all students can benefit?
Given the current fiscal realities, I am not sure there is much we can do to strengthen the programs at this time. The fight will be to keep them at the current level. However, I highly value both pre-K and adult education and would seek to expand these programs if the budget situation changes.
The Juneau School District has experienced budget cuts year after year, and the cycle is likely to continue. What areas of the budget would you target for reductions, and how does the pupil-to-teacher ratio impact that decision?
We need to be honest. We are overbuilt in the secondary infrastructure. Juneau-Douglas High School contains a fraction of its total student capacity. Meanwhile, the elementary schools are full. I favor consolidating schools over teacher reductions, but in a smart way that reflects needs. We need to increase our number of elementary teachers. We need to be more flexible and creative in using our existing school infrastructure to address the educational needs of the community as needs change.