Despite economic challenges, public education a wise investment

Some people believe the school year is a marathon, but I liken it to a 400-meter run — the toughest race to run. We have precious hours, minutes, and seconds with students in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. Our nearly 8,800 students with diverse backgrounds and learning needs require parents, support staff, teachers, and administrators to maintain focus while moving briskly to meet their varied needs. We do this to keep students on track to achieve success and a meaningful high school diploma. In a few short months, several hundred students will walk across a stage to receive a diploma and head into their future beyond K-12 education. It seems like a long race, but it happens fast.

Forty-three schools in the KPBSD span a geographical distance roughly the size of West Virginia. From a small schoolhouse of ten students, to neighborhood brick and mortar buildings schooling more than 600 teens, our schools are diverse. Four schools can only be reached by plane or boat, while others are on the road system and connected by a several hour drive. An excellent representation of the education system in the state of Alaska, KPBSD includes neighborhood schools, village schools, Russian Old Believer schools, charter schools, and a homeschool program. We provide innovative course offerings, traditional course offerings, and homeschool offerings, in order to serve a diverse population. When we combine our logistical challenges, the additional services necessary to prepare all students for their future, and the real cost inflation of goods, the result is an annual increase in expenditures.

To run more efficiently, our district moved into a blended learning environment and utilizes technology to deliver high quality courses online. We streamlined district administrative services to protect reductions to the classroom. We are proud of the innovations teachers complete to meet the needs of students across our district, and we are thankful for the support and infrastructure that has been put in place by the borough and public. We will continue to find efficiencies within our budget to protect our classrooms and provide the highest quality learning experience possible for every one of our students.

We involve our stakeholders and business partners in order to provide opportunities for student apprenticeships and career certifications. We want our students to give back to their communities through service learning opportunities — this allows students to make a positive difference in their communities while also applying what they have learned in the classroom. Thanks to the assistance of experts in the field, service learning and the concept of “all hands on deck” is taking root on the Kenai, which gives students relevant experiences to engage their learning.

Alaska is at an economic crossroads. The KPBSD believes public education is a sound investment. This district believes that we have many opportunities to improve our instructional model even though we face serious economic challenges. In these times we all have an opportunity to demonstrate mature problem solving — our students will learn from our actions, and this will benefit them when they too run into difficult choices and life situations. We want to be a part of the larger solution to help Alaska move forward with a sustainable economic plan while simultaneously minimizing any pain that our students — our most vulnerable constituents — might feel and experience through funding reductions.

Sean Dusek

Superintendent of Schools

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District