This August 2 picture shows school board candidate Amber Frommherz. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)

Frommherz seeks school board seat

Plans to focus on early childhood education

Amber Frommherz says she is passionate about education and wants to bring that enthusiasm to the Juneau School District Board of Education. She’s currently a candidate for the school board. In October, voters will choose from among six candidates for three available seats.

“I am a parent of kids in the district, and I care about the education all of our children are getting and the educational system they are in,” she said during a recent interview with the Empire. “I’m a passionate parent, passionate community member and passionate about education.”

She said that as her three children are getting older, she now has more time to dedicate herself to different pursuits, like school board service.

Frommherz acknowledges that her educational journey — which started in Page, Arizona, adjacent to the Navajo Nation and ended with her earning a master’s degree in educational studies from Tufts University near Boston— was made possible in part by the support she received along the way.

“My entire journey has been in pursuit of education. So many helping hands helped me along the way,” she said. “I want to return the favor.”

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Qualifications

Frommherz is a U.S. Navy veteran and married to an active duty Coast Guard member. She is currently the Director of Tribal Services for the Tlingit Haida Regional Housing Authority.

Before that, she was the Head Start Director for the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. She’s worked as a lead teacher for Head Start and as a Navy recruiter. She said these experiences equip her with insight she can use on the school board.

“I bring leadership experience, military perspective, and an early childhood background. I’ve seen different school districts and can offer insights,” she said.

Frommherz also mentioned her experience working with budgets — state, local and family — as qualifications for the job. She said her work had exposed her to large budgets as well as families facing economic stressors.

She said her experience at Head Start gives her insight into the importance of early childhood education, and she plans to apply that to board service if elected.

“Once you are a Head Start person, you always are a Head Start person,” she said.

Frommherz said that early childhood concerns are “near and dear” to her because early life experiences drive many life outcomes.

“Research has shown long-term benefits from early childhood education. More students graduate and it offers protective factors,” she said, adding that Juneau and all of Southeast Alaska could benefit from increased early childhood investment.

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On the issues

Fommherz said she supports the direction of the current school board and sees new opportunities.

She said that last year’s upended school schedule was tough as both a parent and a professional. She said the decisions the board made around the pandemic were complicated and difficult. But, she sees a bright side to the COVID-19-driven upheaval.

“It showed us how much more adaptive we are,” she said. “They (the board) made the best decisions they could with the information at hand. Hands down, I appreciate the leaders who have gotten us through this,” she said

She sees increased access to the school board through Zoom meetings as another bright spot.

“I want to be a vessel to hear from parents,” she said.

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Background

Frommherz is Navajo and was born and raised in Northern Arizona. She joined the Navy out of high school in a bid to earn money for college. During her six-year enlistment, she was an Information Systems Technician, and she served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. She ended her naval career as a recruiter.

She said she “fell in love along the way” and married her husband, who was also in the Navy, and the pair started a family. Her husband saw a chance to leave the Navy for the Coast Guard, a move that took the family to Boston. After attending Middlesex Community College, Frommherz was admitted to Tufts University. She earned a bachelor’s degree in American Studies–North American Indigenous Studies and her master’s degree.

The family moved to Juneau from Boston in 2014 when her husband was stationed here. She said she was excited about the post because of Juneau’s strong cultural ties to the region’s Indigenous people. It quickly felt like home, she said.

“I walked into the gym at the Gold Medal Basketball Tournament and saw so many people who looked like me, and I thought, “I am here. I am settled,’” she said. She added that her family looks forward to the tournament every year.

Her family enjoys ordering from Bistro Delivery, and her children love the porcupine pizza from The Island Pub. Her children’s sporting activities keep the family busy.

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About the election

Frommherz 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, Ibn Bailey, Thomas Buzard 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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