Snippets – May 28, 2015 – Thanks!

Conveniently, this edition of the Snippets comes out on the last day of the 2014-2015 school year.   This year’s last day of school arrived later than it has in recent years.   The late ending along with the incredible weather means summer vacation is welcomed with even greater enthusiasm than normal.

Graduations are now completed and a new group of young men and women are venturing out into summer jobs and preparation for college or vocational education training.   Some have clear goals, while others are still exploring, but they all leave with our best wishes.   If you weren’t able to attend a graduation, you can watch a recording of the ceremonies at

Though he isn’t one of this year’s graduates, I would be remiss if I didn’t also congratulate Mr. Richard Dennis on his reading accomplishments during the 2014-2015 school year (see last week’s CRR article “ The May Chamber Dinner and a book report”). He’ll be getting an official CRSD Certificate for “Most Improved Reader – Copper Valley Chamber of Commerce Member” and a small gift card for his diligence. Not only did Mr. Dennis choose great books, his reviews are so well written I’ve already spent some money to pick up one of his suggested books.   I appreciated the opportunity for a good-natured challenge to encourage more reading.   I’m already looking forward to Richard’s 2015-2016 reading list.

Anytime there are congratulations, there should also be appreciation. There are so many people to thank for a successful school year, it is beyond the scope of one article.   Throughout the year we’ve tried to highlight various individuals and groups that deserve a word of gratitude, not the least of which are our principals, teachers, aides, cooks, bus drivers, custodians and secretaries.   Parents, extended family and community members that support our schools are also appreciated for their contributions.crsd logo

If you’ve been around any school events this year, you know that Len and Brenda Richison have exemplified the word support.   Their music program for our students has been a very gracious gift.   As they move from our community, I hope they leave knowing that many students will have a song in their hearts due to their generosity.

Another great example of the broad range of support we enjoy in the CRSD is Robert Wilkinson. As I’ve written before, both of our local utilities have extended exemplary support to our schools. A well-run electric utility is foundational for operating a school system.   Not once have we had to cancel school because the lights wouldn’t come on.   Additionally, Robert has repeatedly secured grants and other resources to reduce the cost of energy, which directly benefits the CRSD. After 28 years working for the co-op and supporting the education of Copper Valley youth, Robert is retiring as CEO of CVEA.   Without even considering it, educators have arrived at school, turned on the lights, and plugged in their computers because Robert and his team have done their job well.   From all of us at CRSD, “Thank you Robert, and best wishes to you and Jean.”

The Copper River Record version of the Snippets is also taking a break. We’ll be busy this summer preparing for the 2015-2016 school year.   You can find our summer office hours below.     The Snippets will reappear next August, but in the meantime, we will continue to communicate information and announcements through our website.   If you haven’t already, please visit and sign up for the email list, “like” our Facebook page, and follow us on Twitter.

One final word of thanks goes to you, the readers of the CRSD Snippets.   Thank you for taking time to read each week.   Your interest in school district news is an encouragement to those who work hard to provide a quality education in our unique and wonderful corner of the world.   We hope your interest will nurture involvement and support as we face challenges and seize our opportunities.

I hope you have a safe and family-focused summer!

CRSD District Office Summer Hours: Monday – Thursday 10AM – 4PM (except for holidays)

All school offices will be closed June 8th through August 11th

May 21, 2015 Snippets – Twenty Years of Experience with Byron Rice

Back when this year’s graduating seniors were just about to become terrific two-year olds, I landed my first classroom teaching position in the Copper River School District.   The first year of being responsible for a classroom is an eye-opening challenge, even for those energetic twenty-somethings right out of college.   My first principal kept me focused on the opportunities rather than the challenges.   The lessons he taught me way back in 1997 are still helpful today.2015 Byron Rice

On one particularly challenging day that first year, my principal told me that experience is a valuable teacher.   He said every year was new and different and offered me the opportunity to improve as an educator and a person.   After twenty years, he said, “Some people have one year’s worth of experience twenty times, and nothing really changes.”   And then, as he has done many times since, he passed along some wisdom I have never forgotten.   He said, “But, those who are teachable will accumulate new experiences each year, eventually having twenty years worth of experience and improvement to draw upon.”

Since that time, I’ve had ups and downs with that same principal. Sometimes he came to my office to pick a fight, and sometimes I went to his for the same reason.   Together we’ve been wrong, right, serious and silly.   Against all odds, we’ve shared the anguish of helplessness and the awe of triumph.   We share the same faith, and on many occasions, this principal steadied me by quoting from his morning reading of Scripture.

That principal is Mr Rice.   In his wisdom, he has helped me and countless others learn from each year’s new experiences.   Mr. Rice is an example of someone who takes each day’s experiences, learns from them, and then generously passes along life’s lessons to others.   And now, eighteen years later, I find myself asking how to thank one who has kept me from stumbling so many times, picked me up when I did, and even tripped me a few times just to keep life interesting.

Student achievement has been Mr. Rice’s unrelenting focus in the CRSD for twenty years.   His expectation has been that every student will learn.   He expected a lot from his students and staff.   He also expected a lot from parents and guardians and had the courage to say so.

Many young men and women have spent time reading after school because Mr. Rice expected them to.   Countless students have made a good choice, because they knew Mr. Rice expected them too.   Many teachers went the extra mile because Mr. Rice expected them to do their best for students.   And because Mr. Rice would never settle for less, at least one Superintendent has remembered that the opportunities will always outweigh the challenges.

Though he’s retiring, his legacy will remain.   We will expect nothing less than the best for and from our students.   He’ll be missed, but the wisdom he has shared will be evident in Copper River School District for many years.   As we continue to live up to his expectations and when the chips are down, I will recall his oft repeated parting words as he left my office, “Piece of cake, Michael. You can do this.”

And if you’re reading this Mr. Rice, since you won’t be around every day, please know when something goes wrong, I’ll blame you.

In addition to Mr. Rice, we have several other employees retiring or moving on.   Some, like Laurie Coker, have been with the CRSD for many years.   Others have been with the district only a short time, but are valued and appreciated for the contribution they have made.   We are honoring these employees on our website at   Please take time to view their profiles and send them an email before the end of the school year.

Laurie Coker – 22 years as a teacher with the CRSD

Josh Bullock – 1 year as a tech director with the CRSD

Alyson Flahive – 12 years as a teacher with the CRSD

Janice Hamilton – 1 year as a teacher with the CRSD

Lanette Phillips – 18 years at an administrative assistant with the CRSD

Gret Olson – 12 years as an administrative assistant with the CRSD

Barb Wallace – 5 years as a teacher with the CRSD

Len & Brenda Richison – 3-plus years teaching music in the CRSD

May 14, 2015 Snippets – General Updates Edition

This will be a “General Updates” edition of the Snippets.


Well, yes, I’m writing about the FY16 budget…again.   The AK Legislature did pass a budget on Monday, April 27th.   It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it was a bit worse than the Governor’s proposed budget.   However, apparently that’s not the last word. Governor Walker immediately called a special session, which includes a bill to restore part of the cuts to education funding with a proposal called the “Take 2 Budget”. That process is currently underway with no indication of an end-date. Due to deadlines required in statute, we are going to use the numbers passed by the AK House and Senate even though they have not been signed into law. When we run those numbers with our school enrollments and other factors, we will have $428,745 less revenue in our operating budget for next school year.   With lower energy costs, some retirements, resignations, a reduction in staff (1 FTE), and a change to our employee health plans, our business manager and administrators have worked diligently to minimize the impact this will have on our schools. The CRSD Board of Education will have a work session to discuss the budget on May 28th at 5:00PM with the first reading for adoption during the regular meeting at 6:00PM.


W.I.S.E. has again hosted Earth Discovery Day for our students. With many volunteers from the National Park Service, BLM, and individuals, Robin Underwood has outdone herself once again.   I also want to thank Glenn Hart again for the extraordinary experience he provided our junior-high students during this year’s Chozen Frozen program.   Taking dozens of junior-high school students to a frozen lake for an overnight outing can only be safely accomplished by a few people. Glenn is one of them!   Finally, I want to thank Becky Schwanke who introduced the National Archery in Schools program to CRSD students.   In each of our schools, students have shown a lot of interest and skill in the archery program.   They not only learn about archery, but other important life skills.   One of our Slana School students aimed his way to the national competition by winning his age group in Alaska. Along with many other volunteers, Becky, Robin and Glenn are the reason budget cuts will not diminish our optimism for the educational opportunities available to students in the Copper River Valley.   Our community is strong, supportive, and filled with talent.


The Copper River School District Global Earthquake Forecast System (GEFS) station at Glennallen School went live at 10:26 a.m. on Friday, May 8th. The first pre-earthquake signals were acquired at 10:28 a.m.

All sensors are now active including the NOAA-class weather station which began reporting data at 10:47 a.m. NASA scientists at the Ames Research Center are now testing and monitoring the Copper River GEFS station. Students will be collecting and formatting data for scientists around the world.


Here’s one more invitation to attend this year’s graduation ceremonies.

Slana – Thursday, May 21st, 7:00PM

Kenny Lake School – Friday, May 22nd, 6:00PM

Glennallen High School and Upstream Learning – Tuesday, May 26th, 6:30PM

Though we hope you’ll join us in person, we are gearing up to broadcast all three ceremonies online for family and friends who can’t travel to Glennallen.   Watch our website for a link to the live streams.   And please take time to thank Copper Valley Telecom for the equipment that allows us to show off our graduates online.


In addition to the changes happening in Alaska’s education system, a revised Elementary and Secondary Education Act is working its way through the United States Congress. The most recent version passed out of the Senate’s HELP Committee is 790 pages (email me if you’d like a digital copy). Senator Lisa Murkowski’s office has been keeping Alaska’s school officials informed of the status and content of the proposed legislation.   Formerly known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the new law will be called the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA). If passed and signed by the President, this will most certainly bring more changes to the public education system.   Once a bill passes (if a bill passes), I’ll write a Snippets highlighting the major changes. It will take a few months for each state to determine how to implement any new or revised requirements.