Bridget Weiss, Superintendent for the Juneau School District, speaks to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during its weekly luncheon at the Moose Lodge on Thursday, May 16, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Bridget Weiss, Superintendent for the Juneau School District, speaks to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during its weekly luncheon at the Moose Lodge on Thursday, May 16, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Superintendent: State budget cuts will hurt students

Luncheon presentation considers how Juneau schools would make ends meet

Juneau School District Superintendent Bridget Weiss’s presentation to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce was mostly cheerful, but some concerns about state funding crept into the discussion.

Weiss was asked Thursday during a chamber luncheon to assess how arts education is going in the district, and while she said a partnership with Juneau Arts & Humanities Council and teachers who value the arts help the cause, she has budgetary concerns that could be realized in the near future.

“When you look at our budget potential cliff, that worries me because arts is one of many programs that — I don’t know how we would craft a plan at a 26-percent cut,” Weiss said. “Just like I don’t know how our state is going to be successful with a lack of social and emotional supports, or Southeast without the ferry system, the university system. We’re getting hit in all directions, and kids are going to get hurt. We don’t have the resources to buffer that and give kids what they need.”

[Property tax bills could be going up]

That prompted a question about whether consolidating schools in an attempt to save money has been considered.

“The board has had multiple conversations about consolidation, and what that would mean, what we would gain and what we would lose,” Weiss said. “Again to that cliff, I don’t think there’s anything we wouldn’t have to look at. As we exist now, the school board hasn’t made any decisions about closing a school. We would take those decisions very thoughtfully and a step at the time.”

However, much of the content of Weiss’ remarks before and after the presentation were less gloomy.

She was positive after her presentation when discussing recent developments in negotiations between the district and two negotiating units, Juneau Education Association and Juneau Education Support Staff.

A tentative agreement with JESS was given a first reading Tuesday night, a tentative agreement with JEA is expected to be shared May 17 and a ratification vote for JEA members is anticipated for May 22, according to a school district press release.

“It’s really nice to know we’ll have good, solid contracts with both groups,” Weiss said.

Weiss was also fairly upbeat when discussing student achievement.

That did result in a question about how the district’s seemingly low Performance Evaluation for Alaska’s Schools (PEAKS) scores compare to the rest of the nation. The scores show 12.71 percent of students testing at an advanced level in English and language arts and 35.5 percent of students testing at a proficient level.

PEAKS scores are an Alaska-specific standardized test, so national comparisons aren’t possible, Weiss said, but she said the district does compare favorably to the state and other cities.

About 5 percent more Juneau students tested at either advanced or proficient levels in English and language arts than the state average, according to test results. Juneau schools also compare favorably to Anchorage schools in the subject by a narrow margin — 12.71 percent advanced for Juneau compared to 11.48 for Anchorage and 35.5 percent proficient compared to 34.16 for Anchorage.

“It’s a very finite measure, it’s a very public measure, and it’s a mandated measure, but it is one,” Weiss said.

She said encouraging graduation rates — over 90 percent for Juneau’s two comprehensive high schools and about 83 percent when the alternative high school is included — are metrics that also help create an accurate picture of student achievement.

[Tire-d of dangerous senior pranks? You’ll like this one]

Earlier, Weiss also mentioned three Juneau School District students are National Merit finalists this year. National Merit Scholarship Corporation is a nonprofit that honors academic achievement and provides scholarships.

About 15,000 students out of 1.5 million high school students become finalists, Weiss said. This year that total includes two students are Thunder Mountain High School students and one is a Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé.

She also said the school regularly excels in science assessments — almost 56 percent of tested Juneau students tested at proficient or advanced levels compared to about 47 percent in the state.

Weiss chalked up those strong showings to the Science Technology Engineering and Math Community Group, which leads to STEM community nights and guest speakers in classrooms.

She said given that STEM is an integrated subject matter, it’s hoped those results will spread to other subjects.

• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.

More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of Feb. 26

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024

For Thursday, Feb. 29 Assault At 5:49 p.m. on Thursday, a 17-year-old… Continue reading

The Alaska Supreme Court is seen on Thursday, Feb. 8, in Juneau. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska Supreme Court decides key question: Who is an Alaskan?

An Alaskan is someone physically present in the state who intends to… Continue reading

Pink salmon are seen in an undated photo. (NOAA Fisheries photo)
New salmon study adds to evidence that pink salmon could be crowding out sockeye

A new analysis of nearly 25,000 fish scales offers more evidence that… Continue reading

Liana Wallace offers a water blessing during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Augustus G. Brown Swimming Pool on Friday following nearly a year of renovations. The pool is scheduled to reopen for public use on Tuesday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Ribbon-cutting for Augustus G. Brown Swimming Pool a blessing for longtime users after 11-month renovation

Infrastructure upgrades, new locker rooms and student tile art in lobby greet visitors at ceremony.

The Alaska State Capitol in Juneau is seen on Friday, Feb. 23. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska Legislature plans March 12 vote on Gov. Dunleavy’s executive orders

Order giving governor full control of Alaska Marine Highway Operations board among six scheduled.

Brenda Josephson, a Haines resident, testifies in favor of a bill setting statewide standards for municipal property assessors during a state Senate Community and Regional Affairs Committee hearing Thursday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Statewide standards for municipal property assessments sought in bill by Juneau lawmaker

Some residents say legislation doesn’t go far enough, want limits on annual valuation increases.

The front page of the Juneau Empire on Feb. 26, 2004. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Empire Archives: Juneau’s history for the week of March 2

Three decades of capital city coverage.

Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, speaks Thursday, April 27, 2023, at a news conference in Juneau. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska House considers constitutional guarantee for Permanent Fund dividend

The Alaska House of Representatives will vote as soon as Friday morning… Continue reading

Most Read