Paige Sipniewski: School Board Candidate
Occupation: Administrative Officer 2, State of Alaska
Bio shared by candidate: “I am a lifelong resident of Juneau, deeply rooted in this town that I love and call home. My name is Paige, and with my husband Stanley, who co-owns Alpine Construction, we have four wonderful children – Kyrstin, Isaiah, Jaxon, and Charlotte. Over the years, I have built strong relationships with the locals through various jobs, including working at Lemon Creek Breeze In, Valentine’s Pizzeria, and Java Jazz Coffee. I became a State of Alaska employee in 2011, gaining valuable experience in different departments and honing my budgeting, personnel management, and customer service skills for the past 12 years. Aside from my professional pursuits, I find joy in serving the people of Juneau and have a passion for ensuring a bright future for the children in our community.”
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Why do you want to be a member of the Juneau Board of Education?
I am a lifelong Juneauite and I deeply care about our community. As I get older as my kids get older, I’m looking for ways to be able to help the community and be a benefit. I’m very interested to see how I can make some positive changes in our community, and work collaboratively with parents and the community, and with board members to improve our children’s 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’d say my background knowledge is just growing up in the Juneau School District. I always was excited to go to school, I really want kids to be excited to go to school. During COVID we were having a lot of absent children and, even after school started again, absenteeism is a big problem.
The strengths I think are the Alaska Reads Act is going to be a really positive thing. I would like to see how that can improve kids’ reading. Weaknesses I’d say are probably class sizes, from what I’m hearing and experiencing myself. It seems like — just from personal experience — that there is a lot of homework given and I really think that is so important. Basic reading, writing and math scores are way down. I think our schools need to be a reflection of our beautiful town and I’m just hoping to be able to improve that.
What aspects of student learning and wellness do you think the school board needs to better address?
As far as student learning — reading, writing and math does need to be the main focus. As far as wellness, I’d say another tolerance policy for bullying that is stricter. I’ve had some parents tell me that they’ve been dealing with bullying situations and they don’t agree with how the school deals with it.
I’m not sure what they’re doing in elementary schools or whatnot, but obviously they have counselors and maybe just offer a course on bullying in general. Without having exact knowledge of what goes on in the schools I don’t know what’s offered at this time.
But I just think spelling, reading and math are so important. I see a lot of kids not able to spell. Kids can’t sign their name and signature format. I think that’s so important. So if we could just bring back those basics and focus on that I think we’d be in a much better spot.
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?
That’s definitely a concern. The BSA hasn’t been increased since 2017 and costs are going up. I mean we’re all feeling it. As far as effectively using the money we need numbers on schools, school consolidation has been on the table for years, whether it be elementary or high school, it costs a lot to run those facilities. I mean, you need admin, it’s very heavy in a lot of areas. So I think if they’re more transparent about their spending — it doesn’t seem like they are right now — it can result in better budgeting.
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?
Consolidation should be on the table. We also have a huge childcare issue in this town. It (the district) seems like it’s very admin heavy and I wouldn’t say cutting positions, but you can get rid of positions by people leaving or and then they take on the duties? I mean we do that in the state of Alaska, duties are absorbed and, of course, it’s overwhelming. But you get used to it.
I feel like a consolidation will definitely be a consideration in the coming years.
Are there any substantial matters that we didn’t get around to talking about that you think is pertinent to discuss?
I am super passionate about bringing our kids up to speed. Growing up I was excited about school. I felt like there weren’t a lot of issues that kids are facing nowadays. But there are a lot of social issues and I think that’s a huge distraction. I can’t fight every battle, obviously, but I think that the curriculum needs to be reviewed.
I think that parents need to be pushing for more homework if they really want to get their kids up to speed. But I think the Alaska Reads Act is a step in the right direction. Could that be used for math? Could that be used for language or writing? In the future if it’s successful?
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (651) 528-1807.