Ahead of the Oct. 5 municipal election, the Empire is also partnering with the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization that does not endorse parties nor candidates. Candidate bios and answers to six questions that the league developed will appear online as well as in editions of the Empire. School board candidates Thomas Buzard and Wiljordon V. Sangster did not respond to multiple messages seeking responses to the league’s questionnaire. In cooperation with the Empire and KTOO, the League will hold a virtual candidate forum at 7 p.m. on Sept. 8.
• Name: Amber N. Frommherz
• Date and place of birth: To’Nanees Dizi (Tuba City), Arizona
• Length of residency in Alaska and Juneau: 7 years in Alaska and Juneau
• Education: Page High School—Page, Arizona; BA in Americans studies, Tufts University—Medford, Massachusetts; MA in Educational Studies, Tufts University—Medford, Massachusetts.
• Occupation: Director of Tribal Services & Outreach, Tlingit Haida Regional Housing Authority.
• Family: Spouse and partner to Trevor Frommherz; mother of three children—Kira, a TMHS graduate; Nanibaa’, eighth grade at Floyd Dryden; and Shandiin, sixth grade at Floyd Dryden.
• Community service: Participated in Site Councils at Montessori Borealis, Glacier Valley, and TMHS over the years. Lifelong experience pursuing or working in education—as a first-generation college graduate by the grace of the GI Bill and non-traditional higher education opportunities to prepare me to serve the Head Start families throughout SE AK. During this time partnered with JSD to expand early education opportunities in Juneau.
School Board Candidates’ Questions
• What interventions do you support to help students who may have fallen behind during the pandemic?
I would first investigate the current and potential options; however, I speculate that one consequence of remote learning was the reduction of student testing. Therefore, it would be vital to locate our students’ knowledge (“indicators of success”), so I would prioritize obtaining data to best inform meaningful interventions. We cannot forget that our students are unique—they arrive from varied backgrounds and learn differently. As a board member, I would support individualized interventions as much as possible that leads to student success. Also, specific interventions applied would, hopefully, be made at a local school level as teachers, staff, and administrators know their students best and are best positioned to engage with families during the development phase.
• What evidence-based instructional practices used by the district do you believe are most effective? If you would suggest changes, what would they be?
I would research current practices and investigate what the literature identifies as effective, evidence-based instruction. Our students arrive with unique worldviews; they learn and express themselves in distinct ways. With a variety of learners, cultural-relevancy and place-based instructional practices foster connections with our students outside the school. Both remind teachers to meet our children where they stand, and they use local, real-world examples to generate knowledge. I believe JSD is doing some of this work already, including the pursuit of trauma-informed practices, the fostering of social-emotional learning for students and staff, and the incorporation of our rich ecosystem into the curriculum (i.e. Sea Week). These approaches help accept differences while positioning students to learn from each other.
• What role, if any, do you see for pre-K education to help improve student achievement?
Recent efforts to fund universal pre-K demonstrate the irrefutable benefits. Furthermore, data shows students’ achievement can be fostered by child development efforts even earlier than pre-K, i.e. prenatal parenting engagement, social-emotional learning even at the infant stage! The Head Start model began with ages 3-5 and expanded to serve from prenatal to 3 years in Early Head Start. Head Start underscores the fact that pre-K is not the start of child development but is rather a section of that continuum. At JSD, pre-K (with the inclusion of family engagement) is the foundation for student achievement and an opportunity that I wish all our Juneau families could access.
• What curriculum modifications do you support to integrate an accurate history of Alaskan Native and other minorities’ roles/contributions in/to Alaska in furthering the district’s strategic objectives for achieving equity?
As an Indigenous woman who attended public school, I appreciate this question as it demonstrates that folks are wrestling with the current curriculum. I remember being in elementary school and being excited yet disappointed when my class reached the “Native American” section in our history book — excited because I saw “me” in the book but disappointed that I was lumped in with many other tribal nations who were covered in a mere few paragraphs. Modifications to our curriculum will be a collective effort—building upon partnerships with heritage organizations and continuing JSD’s Interventionist to support teachers. We can also perhaps examine our current framework and ask how we can honor our students to ensure they are reflected in the curriculum.
• What are three strengths of which our District should be proud?
First, JSD leadership through the 2020-21 school given the challenges that COVID-19 unleashed. As a Head Start program director, I know how much work, teaming, communication, and stress COVID-19 required of my team, families, and students. As a parent, I appreciated the efforts to keep families informed and fed by providing meals during this time. Second, I appreciate the creation of an Interventionist to assist teachers on a curriculum-content basis. Our teachers are busy and the ones that I personally know would love to have more time to supplement their curriculum. Third, I appreciate JSD’s investment in Social-Emotional Learning for staff and students. Teaching kindness, self-regulation, and self-awareness will result in life-long benefits, individually and as a community.
• How do you feel your experiences in life have prepared you for this position? Give examples of qualities you possess and ways in which you would use them to serve as a School Board member.
In the Diné way, I was raised with teaching of k’é, which situated me as a member of a kinship network; k’e also promotes affective action and solidarity toward finding hózhó, the harmony of all things: energy, emotion, behavior, and self. This outlook influenced my Navy enlistment as well as my desire to obtain a higher education to improve my Community. As well, being an active-duty spouse away from home means I can still offer my skills to our Juneau home. I have an educational degree as well as experience as a Head Start Director and as a parent. I hope my inquisitive, solution-oriented, and reflective disposition will allow me to help collective discussion and decision-making efforts impacting JSD.