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 happy to communicate my opinions, but I first want to state that in representing the public, it is not my own opinion that can possibly serve as the navigation beacon in the choices made during my service on the board. My own needs and opinions are sidelined to the voice of the majority. The major issue I intend to address during my service on the school board is mending the disconnect between the members of the board and the families and public they serve. A term that gets thrown around frequently is “chain of command,” indicating that the board cannot solve every problem in the community. While this is true, it is no excuse to allow a divide between what is happening at the policy level and the ever-changing needs of our community.
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?
This is not a new issue. We would do well for ourselves here in Juneau to look outside at how others have had success in dealing with bullying. Using our modern resources of the Internet and social media, it should take an interested individual less than 5 minutes to go from no knowledge on the subject to being enrolled in a government sponsored training module from stopbullying.gov.
Within the district we have trained professionals that are focusing their efforts on solving this particular problem. As a board member, my role is to see that these efforts are within the scope of the community’s concerns, and to ensure that these counselors have the resources they need to tackle bullying effectively.
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?
I believe that the key to participating in the democratic process is relating it to interests of the electorate. In teaching these values and skills to our students, creating a real life decision to be made at the school is a great way to encourage this interest. A vote between two possible curriculum segments, or which comes first, lunch or recess, would be a great exercise in the democratic process.
At the next level, our older students can address real electorate issues in the community and take candidates like myself to task, serving as a bridge between the voting public and the student body that benefits from quality programs.
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?
This again is subject to the views of the public, and it is my work to voice the collective opinion. That being said, I think the only way to successfully mitigate this issue is to educate our students. This needs to be done from a realistic perspective. These drugs are a reality and the only defense is authentic knowledge and hard facts.
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?
At risk of becoming redundant, this is yet another example where my beliefs come secondary to the values of the community. Through the regular use of surveys, such as the one posted at schoolboardjeff.com/hot-topics.html, my focus is to act on the wishes of the majority.
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?
In a time of anticipated tight budgets, it is difficult to expand side projects including specialized schools and alternative curriculums. That being said, early learning is something that we are overlooking in American culture. Seeking outside funds to pay decent wages for caregivers of our early learners is a personal goal of mine. It would be irresponsible to expand in this direction with current funding, however, seeking specific money to this end would be ideal for both the district’s goals and our early learners.
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?
In the current model of teaching, the pupil-to-teacher ratio is an important component, and failing with this is unacceptable. Beyond that, there are modern teaching methods which emphasize independent learning, at independent speeds, with independent initiative. There is a technology component, but beyond that the cost of these curriculums are cheap (or free), universal and effective. It is not within my scope to induce this change alone, but given the support of the community and other board members, this leap into the future could be a reality.