School Board elections often fly under the radar. The ballots often arrive during the busy hunting season and must be mailed back by October 7th. According to the Alaska Division of Elections website, turnout for the 2013 school board elections was 12.62% of the registered voters.
Late last week while thinking about the importance of school governance, it occurred to me that the Snippets would be a great venue for candidates to speak direction to our community. So, without much notice (my fault), the three candidates running for school board answered the following question: “What do you hope to accomplish as a member of the Copper River School District Board of Education?” Here are their answers as submitted (in alphabetical order, ladies first):
Katrina Church-Chmielowski (Section II, Seat F) – As a member of the CRSD Board of Education, I would like to continue working towards securing more educational opportunities for our children. Innovation and creativity is imperative in today’s environment of shrinking enrollments and shrinking budgets. We can expand partnerships with the Digital Teaching Initiative grant and True North Academy. By partnering with other school districts like Chugach, we can expand career and technical (CTE) training through their academies and summer programs. Expanding dual credit with PWSCC in both academic and CTE offerings is another way to increase opportunities. Local agencies like Ahtna Heritage Foundation’s language classes are offering new opportunities. CRSD’s possible variable term residential program should also bring new opportunities.
Another thing that I want to accomplish is reviewing the strategic plan. Education has been changing at an incredibly fast pace, and we need a strong plan to keep us on track. We’re training our kids for jobs that don’t exist yet, plus current careers. We need to teach skills that help our kids compete globally, but also strengthen our economy for vital communities. We have to provide the best foundation possible, and we’re trying. Our kids deserve the very best we can give them.
Kenneth “Greg” Biddle (Section I, Seat A) – I look at my role on the Board of Education for the CRSD through two distinct lenses. As a parent of three children in the district, being a Board Member gives me a more hands-on role in their education. I look out for my kids by being an active parent and a hockey coach, and helping to direct their educational opportunities is another way to guide them towards a bright future. Through the other lens, I have to look out for the interests of ALL the kids in the school district, though unfortunately it is sometimes regardless of the benefits to any one child. With declining enrollment and corresponding declines in funding, it becomes all the more important to get the maximum benefit of every opportunity for the district as a whole.
Two other factors drive my decisions as a Board Member: maintaining the excellence of the traditional education the kids have gotten in the past, and balancing the coming opportunities and challenges available in the new digital age. As an avowed ‘technophobe,’ while some advances may intimidate me personally, I have to realize, understand, and appreciate their real-world applications in the future of our children. All the same, actual teachers and actual books will always belong in our schools.
Michael Rego (Section II, Seat F) – As a lifelong resident of the Basin, I aim to serve my community by actively working to increase public awareness and participation in the actions and direction of our school district. In order for the School Board to act in the best interest of the local residents it is important that they are informed and involved in good decisions. Actions of the Board should reflect our unique community interests, values, and cultures, not those of an urban area. I will stand up for local control of education, supporting teachers and staff who give students the experience, training, and discipline they will need to be competitive in the future, regardless where they journey. By acknowledging the traditions that made our small schools great while judiciously and responsibly incorporating new tools and technologies, we can provide outstanding educational opportunities for our kids and maintain jobs for local residents. In doing this we not only create a district unlike any other, but also ensure long term sustainability. There is a reason people live here, there is a reason people stay here—if we all work together we can leverage those reasons to our success. Thank you for your consideration, Michael Rego.
On behalf of our students and community, I offer a special “thank you” to each of the candidates for running for the CRSD Board of Education and for responding to the question on short notice.