Martin Stepetin Sr. is a candidate for Juneau School District Board of Education.

Martin Stepetin Sr. is a candidate for Juneau School District Board of Education.

Get to know a candidate: Martin Stepetin

Read about the school board hopeful in his own words.

Martin Stepetin Sr.

Date and place of birth: Feb. 9, 1986 Anchorage Alaska

Length of residency in Alaska and Juneau: Lifelong Native Alaskan, nine years in Juneau.

Education: high school diploma, Certificate for Carpentry from Alaska Job Corps, college attendance.

Occupation: Catering & Courier driver

Family: Wife, Ann Stepetin; and our kids, Bryson, Edith, Martin Jr. and Kaiya.

Community service: Friends of Admiralty Island Board of Directors since 2014, volunteer fire fighter, police department dispatcher, Funter Bay Ad Hoc Steering Committee, Juneau area State Parks Advisory Board Member, Funter Bay Larger Working Group Member.

Other experience: Helped initiate Funter Bay House Bill 122 to protect the Aleut cemetery grounds, fellowship with First Alaskans Institute working in the 31st Alaska State Legislature, determined education funding advocate, Alaska Native languages advocate, subsistence rights advocate, rural Alaska advocate.

[Read about this year’s ballot propositions here]

School Board Candidates’ Questions

1. The newly adopted JSD Strategic Plan provides a five-year blueprint for the district. How can the board support the schools in accomplishing the goals?

The new five-year plan for JSD is different than the last one. Partly because some items on the previous five-year plan were achieved, but also because many people’s ideas, plans and visions from diverse groups in the Juneau community have participated in updating this document. The updated five-year plan holds new sets of challenges to improve our school district. If we want to honestly follow the five-year plan, we need to visit it more often at the board level as well as on the many committees under the School Board. We need to give more time, human resources, and facility resources to help accomplish the new five-year plan. Does the five-year plan come up in union negotiation? If not, I think it should. Who knows about the Five-year plan? Everyone should know about this document in our community.

2. Reading at grade level by the third grade is a key indicator of future success in school. Too many Juneau students are not proficient. What more should the district do to support early literacy?

Early Education needs to become a bigger part of the Juneau school district budget. I think this is important. Do we need to fund some preschools? or head starts? In the least, we need to have more data on the incoming students that enter our district at kindergarten. This can help plan a more effective instruction plan for each student. The state of Florida has the most proficient reading students in the nation. What works for them and how can we emulate some of there success. We know our Alaskan Native students struggle with reading. The State of Oklahoma has elevated the Native students reading proficiency to almost equal with rest of the population. What can we learn form them? Reading proficiency was not achieved in the last Five-year Strategic plan. We need bold action on reading in the Juneau School District.

3. With the sizable budget budget reductions the district has faced over the last several years, what actions should be considered to mitigate budget cuts?

I feel like we need to continue to be incredibly careful and dive deep into the budget to make sure we are not wasting any money. We make smart cuts to school programs that have lost values over time. We need to bring back balance to certain programs that have grown disproportionately over time. We are in an unprecedented time right now with COVID-19 but I think this is also an opportunity we can take advantage of to streamline our budget. Doing this work can maximize our budget.

[Read about how this year’s mail-in election will work here]

4. COVID-19 has caused disruption to the school system. Under what circumstances should the district allow in class instruction? What actions should be taken to support teachers?

Only under the safest circumstances should we allow in class instruction. When COVID-19 has low to no community spread. I believe in listening to our local professionals when it comes to COVID-19 and following their guidance.

5. What role can or should the District play in helping to revitalize the Tlingit language?

We need to expand the TCLL program into other elementary schools, then into middle schools and later into high schools. Recently, a lot of good work has been done to revitalize the Tlingit Language and time will tell its successes. Data collection on the progress of our language students is vital to keep the movement going. Long term, we should be asking ourselves how much more as a district can we contribute to Tlingit language revitalization. Should it be the district that does this work? Does Juneau need a charter school to take up Tlingit language revitalization alone? As a Tlingit languages advocate this is near and dear to my heart.

6. How can civics education be strengthened in Juneau schools?

The Juneau School district combines U.S. Government and civics class to total one-half high school credit. To strengthen civics in the Juneau school district, this class and Alaska history should each be expanded to one credit, making the JSD requirement four credits of social studies instead of three.

• These questions were developed by the League of Women Voters. Candidates supplied the biographical information.

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