Ben Dolgner – Meet the CRSD

Each month the CRSD Snippets will highlight one of our dedicated employees.   We will randomly draw a name so that every employee in the district has the opportunity to be recognized for his or her unique and essential role in providing a quality education in our rural environment.   This month, we are pleased to present Ben Dolgner.

Name: Ben Dolgner


Birthday: March 14th

Role in the CRSD: Teacher

 Primary Campus: Glennallen Junior High School

Where else have you taught? Little Diomede for 2 years and Stebbins for 5 years

Where are you originally from? Dalton, WisconsinB Dolgner

Favorite Book/Author/TV Show: Burn Notice

Favorite Music Genre: Country

Favorite Place in Alaska: 54 mile, if you haven’t been there, it is way too hard to explain. Get out and buy a mountain sled.

Favorite Place Outside of Alaska: On a lake in Wisconsin, because it is relaxing.

Hobbies: Outdoor activities

Favorite Aspect of Teaching: I get to do my job and work with great kids.

One Interesting Thing About You That Might Be Surprising: I was the second grade checker champion in my school.

Favorite Beverage: Ice cold milk

Favorite Snack: Cheese curds

In One Sentence, What Advice Do You Have for Students? Come ready to work, learn, and grow.

Mr. Dolgner started working in the Copper River School District in 2012.   He also serves as the athletic director for the Glennallen Schools, putting in many hours throughout the school year to support our student athletes and coaches. Send Ben an email, buy him a cold milk, and congratulate him on his recent marriage! Please take a moment to let Mr. Dolgner know how much we appreciate him serving students and families in the CRSD.



Internet problems in Kansas stop student testing in Alaska | Alaska News |

SITKA, Alaska (AP) — Standardized testing at some Sitka schools has been pushed back after the first day of testing was cut short because of Internet connectivity problems in Kansas.

Source: Internet problems in Kansas stop student testing in Alaska | Alaska News |

School district leaders say Senate plan would cause layoffs, bigger classes | Local News – Anchorage

Superintendents of two of Alaska’s largest school districts say a Senate Finance Committee plan to shift teacher retirement costs away from the state and to local governments would prompt layoffs and larger class sizes.

Source: School district leaders say Senate plan would cause layoffs, bigger classes | Local News – Anchorage

New Senate bills end scholarships, shift pension obligations to cities and schools | Alaska Dispatch News

Alaska Senate leaders proposed Monday to roll back a signature college scholarship program of former Gov. Sean Parnell’s and pass pension costs to cities and school districts as lawmakers continue to hunt for cuts to fix the state’s budget crisis.

Source: New Senate bills end scholarships, shift pension obligations to cities and schools | Alaska Dispatch News

Senate proposes shifting teacher retirement, other costs from state to local governments | Local News – Anchorage

Three proposals unveiled Monday during a Senate floor session would shift expenses from state government to communities across Alaska, potentially prompting higher property and sales taxes at the local level.

Source: Senate proposes shifting teacher retirement, other costs from state to local governments | Local News – Anchorage

Snippets – High School Scheduling: The Ultimate Rubik’s Cube

High School Scheduling: The Ultimate Rubik’s Cube
Tamara Van Wyhe, Director of Teaching & Learning Support
When the Rubik’s Cube hit the American mass market in the early 1980s, I was a high school student…and I still remember receiving a puzzle of my own as a Christmas gift. The thing confounded me. With each twist and turn, the pattern became more complicated, infuriating, tangled, messy…and engaging. It seemed unsolvable at times, yet it was nearly impossible to put down.

Creating a high school schedule in a small district like the CRSD is much like attempting to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Not the classic 3×3 cube, but the brain-bending 5×5 cube. The kind that takes months to solve.  Actually, creating a high school master schedule in a small district can be much, much (much!) more difficult than any imaginable Rubik’s Cube. A schedule that provides our diverse student population with required and desired courses as well as some variety in class offerings, links three high school programs spread across a huge geographic area via available teleconferencing equipment, ties in dual-credit offerings from the local college campus, works to make unique facilities (such as the shop and the theater) within the district available to all students, and attempts to do it all with a limited number of educators in a finite number of contact hours available in each school day is no easy task. It takes time, and with each shift of any single variable (staffing, budget, graduation requirements, enrollment changes, special course requests…anything, really), the “formula” for creating the schedule becomes more complex.

Springtime in my line of work means sleepless nights thinking (and worrying) about creating a master schedule that meets the needs of all of our high school students. Conversations about the schedule have begun in earnest, but the many factors that influence what the eventual course line-up will look like place the finalization of a master schedule in a holding pattern as we continue to twist and turn the sides of the puzzle. When will a final master schedule for next year be available to students and parents? That’s a great question. By the end of the school year is the safest answer.

The district’s variable-term semester schedule involving “Basecamps” and “Treks” was new this year, and it has provided us with tremendous opportunities to provide opportunities to our high school students that were simply not possible with a traditional schedule. Not only has the Basecamp/Trek schedule been popular in the CRSD, but it has gained attention from schools and districts across the state looking to replicate the schedule in their locations, and to partner with the CRSD to expand opportunities for students in all of our communities. The variable-term schedule is one of the few things of which we are absolutely certain for next year. (Thank goodness there is one variable on the “for sure” list!)

As in years past, CRSD Guidance Counselor Jim Lorence, each school principal, and I will meet with next year’s high school students and parents to review graduation requirements, to query students regarding desired elective classes, and to map out the number of sections of required subjects we will need (e.g., Algebra I, Physical Science, World History, etc.). Teachers will provide their input on course placement for individual students, ensuring the final student schedules will appropriately address learning needs and post-high school goals. Administrators will review staffing to ensure teachers are placed where they can best meet the needs of learners in the CRSD. In addition to ongoing conversations between school and home, parents will have opportunities to provide input on their students’ course requests and needs during April parent-teacher conferences. Draft after draft after draft of the master schedule will be written, rearranged, reviewed, and refined until all of the pieces fall into place and the colors on each side of the puzzle finally match.

chaosErno Rubik, the Hungarian professor of architecture who invented the Rubik’s Cube, said, “If you are curious, you’ll find the puzzles around you. If you are determined, you will solve them.” We couldn’t agree more. The easy thing to do would be to print the very same master schedule year after year and insist that students find a way to fit an old and outdated model. Our curiosity, determination, and commitment to making our schedule fit the needs of CRSD students requires the annual grappling with a puzzle that we are determined to solve…with the understanding that the puzzle itself changes every single year, as well. To learn more about where we are in the process, visit

“Grappling”…Again – Snippets

“The Copper River School District, faced with a long-anticipated crisis in its budget, is being forced to take a long, hard look at where the district’s money is spent.”

So begins an article in the Copper River Country Journal from 1991 titled “School District Grapples with Budget Cuts.”   It was a tumultuous time in the CRSD.   There may be some reading this article that experienced it first-hand, either as a Board Member, employee, student or parent.

Now, twenty-five years later, the “long-anticipated” budget issues have become long-lived budget issues.   It has been an up and down ride since 1991.   The District anticipated having 580 students for the 1991-1992 school year.   Since then, we’ve been as high as 829 students in 1997, and as low as 418 for the current year.  In 1991 we had eight schools operating in the CRSD, today we have four.  The dedicated Board Members of 1991 who took that “long hard look” have been replaced by other committed volunteers on the Board who are doing their own grappling with budget cuts.

With the very generous help of Linda Weld, I have been looking back in Copper Valley history for some nuggets of wisdom and perspective.   (A big ‘thank you’ to the Welds)
The situation for the CRSD looked bleak in 1991.   At least it did then.   For those of us looking back now, it seems small compared to today’s challenges.   To those who were trying to balance the budget in 1991, the future was very uncertain.   Almost 80 people showed up at one Board meeting that Spring, with over 40 making public comment (not all about the budget).  A couple of amendments were considered, but failed to pass.   The recommended budget, including cuts and adjustments, was  finally adopted, though I’m sure no one was particularly enthused.

The Board Members, parents, community members and staff wanted, really wanted, a great education for their children.   They did not want to give up what they considered to be essential elements of their schools.   In 1991, the Board cut a teacher from Gakona, Kenny Lake, and Glennallen High School.  There were other reductions as well, including secretary hours and a Principal/Teacher position.

But as I flip through old Board packets and news articles, I can’t help but think to myself, corner-sign“If only they could have seen around the corner.”   Enrollment increased for the next eight years, and with it, revenue.   There were opportunities they could not see yet.   Just around the bend, there were new buildings, new technology, and incredible teachers that would arrive in the CRSD.    The seemingly unsolvable squabbles over budget cuts became debates over new construction and whether baseball should be added to the list of school sponsored activities.

Creating a good CRSD budget in 1991 wasn’t easy and it won’t be easy in 2016.   As we, and the rest of Alaska, face today’s financial challenges, we can look back for reminders that the path we travel isn’t straight, there are curves.  We aren’t the first to turn into an unexpected stretch of uncertainty or to climb a hill of frustration and worry.  We won’t be the last.   There are more corners to turn, some short and sharp, others long and easy.  But, there is a trail.   Apparently, others have traveled this direction before.

By the way, part of the pressure on the budget in 1991 was a 240% increase in the cost of heating fuel.  It went from .50¢ to $1.22 a gallon.

Thanks for all those traveling with us this year.   Also, a special thanks to those in our community who have traveled this path before.   Your input, wisdom and encouragement keep us going in the right direction.