This fall’s Board of Education election doesn’t quite have the drama of the crowded races for mayor and Assembly, as there are three candidates for three open spots on the board.
Still, the three candidates — Kevin Allen, Paul Kelly and Elizabeth (Ebett) Siddon — have participated in forums and made their priorities known this campaign season. The municipal election is Oct. 2, a week from today. Early voting is currently open at City Hall and the Mendenhall Mall annex.
The candidates have a great deal of common ground — for example, they agree that the district should not consolidate the high schools any time soon — but all bring different perspectives to the board.
Allen began his opening statement at last week’s League of Women Voters forum with a smirk and a short quip.
“Here we are again.”
Allen, a 2016 Thunder Mountain High School graduate, is running for a seat on the board for his third time. This time, with all three candidates running unopposed, Allen will achieve his goal.
Just a couple years removed from being a Juneau School District student, Allen has talked about various specific programs in the schools. At last week’s Get Out the Native Vote forum, Allen said he wants to expand Tlingit culture programs in schools and join the Tlingit Language Task Force to help integrate Tlingit language into the curriculum.
Allen, 20, has also advocated during his campaigns for searching for more grants to bring in more programs to schools without pulling as much from the district’s budget. He would be the youngest member of the board, and said he brings the perspective of a freshly graduated student who has seen the strengths and weaknesses of the district firsthand.
“I believe there needs to be someone on board who can empathize with the students in our district,” Allen said “The students are our biggest stakeholders. We need somebody who can listen to them and can go to an even further personal level of understanding their problems.”
While Allen’s experience with the district is in the recent past, Kelly’s firsthand experience with the district is in the near future. Kelly, 34, is about to marry a woman who has two daughters in the JSD.
Kelly, a programmer with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, has repeatedly stated that his soon-to-be stepdaughters are his inspiration to run for a spot on the board. In terms of specific goals, Kelly has identified smaller class sizes, community partnerships, a diverse curriculum and maintaining programs that offer vocational training.
“I believe that education should not just be the path toward college, as it’s often thought of,” Kelly said at the LWV forum in reference to preserving funding for vocational classes.
Kelly moved to Juneau just last year, but he’s a third-generation Alaskan and attended the University of Alaska Anchorage. He referenced successful organizations elsewhere, including the King Career Center in Anchorage, which takes a career-focused educational approach, that the JSD can learn from.
Elizabeth (Ebett) Siddon
When Siddon (who also goes by Ebett) saw that longtime school board member Andi Story was running for a House of Representatives seat, she realized the board would be without a female member.
“I can bring that voice, and (the voice of) a mom, a working mom and a mom of a kid in the special education program,” Siddon said at the GOTNV forum. “I felt like I could be a voice for all of those people.”
Siddon, a research fishery biologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said she has a strong background in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) topics. With a son in the special education program in the district, Siddon said she has extensive experience in the strengths and weaknesses of the program. She also said she’s on the Alaska Early Childhood Coordinating Council (AECCC) and is an advocate for early childhood education.
Siddon, 40, co-founded SouthEast Exchange, a group of teachers and community members who bring first-hand science experiences to Juneau students. At the LWV forum, Siddon had detailed answers on topics from preventing dating violence to lobbying the Legislature.
In reference to dealing with the Legislature, Siddon said it would require balancing what the district needs and what the district already does well.
“I think there are two sides to the coin,” Siddon said. “One is coming at it from sort of a deficit-based approach and advocating for why we need more things, but also coming at it from a glass-half-full approach and the great things the district is doing.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.