Britteny Cioni-Haywood, pictured, is running as a Juneau Board of Education candidate in the 2023 City and Borough of Juneau municipal election. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Britteny Cioni-Haywood, pictured, is running as a Juneau Board of Education candidate in the 2023 City and Borough of Juneau municipal election. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Get to know a candidate: Britteny Cioni-Haywood

Board of Education candidate in the 2023 Juneau municipal election.

This article has been moved in front of the Juneau Empire’s paywall.

Britteny Cioni-Haywood: Juneau Board of Education Candidate

Age: 53

Occupation: Administrative Operations Manager

Bio shared by candidate: “I grew up in Southwest Missouri. I have also lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas and Fort Collins, Colorado. I moved to Juneau in 2006 to teach at the University of Southeast (UAS) as a Term Professor of Economics. I fell in love with Juneau and the man who would become my husband. In addition to teaching at UAS, I have held various positions with the State of Alaska, including the Director of Economic Development and my current position, Administrative Operations Manager. I returned to UAS as an adjunct faculty member in 2020. I am currently the Chair of the Juneau Community Charter School (JCCS) APC which is the school’s governing board. I have one son who is a 6th grader at JCCS.”

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Why do you want to be a member of the Juneau Board of Education?

Education is near and dear to my heart. I have been an educator myself at the university level, and I currently have a child that’s in the district in the Juneau Community Charter School. I’m just wanting to kind of help out and serve on the board — I have a lot of experience and budget and some other pieces that I think would be beneficial to the Board of Education.

Describe your background and knowledge of the Juneau School District, and what you think the strengths and weaknesses of it are based on those experiences.

I think that there are a lot of strengths in the Juneau community, and in the school board and district — Juneau tends to really support education. I think it’s important to the community.

I think some of the strengths are that there has been a lot of focus on the curriculum and looking at how to keep class sizes small. I know that they’ve had some really hard meetings on budget decisions, particularly with the declining funding from the state, which is a huge issue that needs to be corrected.

Some of the weaknesses — it’s super hard for me to be critical — because I serve on the board of the (Juneau Community Charter School) and some of those decisions, I know, are really hard. I think that we need to make sure that we’re working to keep the funding that the city has provided. Also, some of those programs that are really important that might be outside of that instructional curriculum base, but that are important to the community, like RALLY and Community Schools and some of those other pieces.

Consolidating classrooms and other commerce schools has come up, and those are hard conversations.

What aspects of student learning and wellness do you think the school board needs to better address?

Again, it’s hard for me to be critical since I haven’t been on the board, but I know that those conversations are always hard. I think one of the things that we have to be aware of, coming out of the pandemic, which was unprecedented in our lifetimes, is that learning losses happened. No fault of anyone, but they exist — trying to learn during COVID was hard.

I know that I can see it in my child, I’m sure others can see it in theirs. Also, mental health issues were probably exacerbated by the pandemic, but were already in existence because of other things like social media and bullying.

I think those are really hard conversations. I know that most of the schools are going to be taking place or taking part in a state grant that’s through the Alaska Association of School Boards to implement some trauma-engaged practices. I think those pieces are really important for the district to support.

Given the tight level of funding provided to the Juneau district — and districts across the state — in recent years from the state of Alaska, how do you feel Juneau can most effectively use the money it is getting?

The base student allocation funding is specific and what it can be spent on, so we obviously need to be putting that money there. Those other programs, which I do think are important to the community, need to be funded outside of that.

Again, it’s a priority list. I think the biggest issue is advocating to get that increased (base student allocation) funding. If you look back at the last major increase in the base student allocation we are in a deficit of about $1,300.

I think it was somewhere around $680 that was provided by the Legislature, but the governor vetoed half of that. Also, that was one time, it wasn’t a permanent increment. I think that we need to really be looking at prioritizing instructional core pieces with that base student allocation.

I think it’s important to work on present issues, but keep an eye toward the future. We know that there’s a lot of disruptive technology that’s coming down the pike, and some of it is already here. But I think it’s important to keep those things in mind, because we’re really trying to prepare that future workforce in both those core subjects, but also those other needed skills, so that’s another piece that I think we need to start looking at as well.

I think that the Juneau Assembly has done well to provide additional support to the school district — I think it’s important to the Juneau community. But I don’t think that there’s a lot of fat that’s left to be cut at this point (in the district budget) and I think all the decisions will be hard decisions.

Do you think consolidation or cutting positions is necessary in the coming years in order to balance the district’s budget if state funding is not substantially increased and or enrollment continues to decrease?

I think yes to both.

We’re really reaching kind of a critical mass on that funding for education in the state. I think it is becoming of a concern to people who are here and looking to leave — we know that outmigration has occurred within the last few years and Alaska.

I think that people who are potentially looking to come here, that is one of the things that they will look at. If we cannot show that we have a great educational system or something that they want to put their kids into, then that’s a problem for people moving into the state.

I think that there probably will have to be consolidations, but the math on consolidating schools is really hard. It’s not always a straightforward kind of savings like you might think it is. Cutting positions is hard, and teacher retention and recruitment issues are already a big piece.

I spoke to a high school class, and they’re concerned about not having teachers in place for courses that they either need or want. So if we’re going to have to cut on top of those recruitment issues then it just makes the picture even more bleak and more difficult. It continues to fuel what is a bit of a spiral on whether or not people want to stay or come to the state and, in our case, Juneau.

And so I think, again, it’s going to be critical to advocate for that increased funding from the state and being able to maintain the funding that has historically been provided by the Juneau Assembly.

Are there any substantial matters that we didn’t get around to talking about that you think are pertinent to discuss?

I think it’s really important for the board to stay focused on core issues, like its budget and teacher recruitment and retention, and those types of pieces. I think that there are a lot of topics floating around out there these days, but we have a lot of things in Alaska that we need to address first before we can get to those right.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651) 528-1807.

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