Full-day agenda planned for school board in Homer

The nine-member Kenai Peninsula School Board will make its once-a-year visit to Homer on Monday. A full agenda of committee meetings held in the Homer High School library will keep the board busy throughout the day, beginning in the morning and continuing through the afternoon. The board’s regular meeting will be held in the Mariner Theatre beginning at 7 p.m. and is open to the public.

“It’s going to be a long day,” said Liz Downing, board vice president, who represents District 8, Homer and Kachemak City. 

The day begins with a Legislative Committee meeting. Also scheduled are discussions of the district’s state and federal legislative priorities, as well as “talking about Association of Alaska School Boards resolutions,” said Downing of preparations for AASB’s 60th annual conference in Anchorage Nov. 7-11. 

Representing Alaska school boards and 330 individual board members, AASB’s mission is “to advocate for children and youth by assisting school boards in providing quality public education, focused on student achievement, through effective
local governance.” 

Sunni Hilts of Seldovia, who represents the District 9 southern peninsula communities of Anchor Point, Fritz Creek, Kachemak Selo, Nanwalek, Port Graham, Razdolna, Seldovia and Voznesenka, is currently AASB’s president-elect.

“This has been very exciting,” said Hilts of opportunities provided by her AASB role. “I notice it’s easy for our leaders to focus on political aspects because school boards and local control are under attack, but I was glad at a meeting of the nation’s leaders to remind them it’s about kids. If we have a conference and we have seminars and we don’t talk about children, we’re losing our focus.”

Hilts was pleased to see the impact her reminder had.

“Here I was, from Alaska and the oldest one there and I had the incoming national president say that would be her focus next year, to keep children in our focus,” said Hilts. 

While Downing’s term on the school board doesn’t expire until 2015 — she was reelected last year in a close race with Mike Illg — Hilts’ term expires this year. She is running unopposed for reelection.

Hilts said having the district represented at the national level through AASB is a way to deliver “our message of looking at the positive things we’re doing, the excellence, not spending all our time battling windmills. … We have a message that children are important to us; not just schools or education, but children. I hope I carry that adequately.”

Monday’s meeting will be the last for board member Sammy Crawford of Kenai, who represents areas of the central peninsula in District 1. Crawford taught in the school district for more than two decades and was first elected to the board in 1998. She is a past president of AASB. 

Candidates on the Oct. 1 ballot for District 1 include Daniel J. Castimore and D. Shawn Hutchings.

Another change is coming soon for the board, with the selection of a new student representative. That seat currently is held by Hayden Beard of Seward High School. A replacement will be chosen during a student government gathering in late September or early October, said Downing.

Other items on the board’s Monday afternoon agenda include a committee meeting on board policy, a presentation by Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, on the use of iTouch in schools, a look at the curriculum of social studies and science and the recently released annual assessment report.

“There’s a lot more to this than a single snapshot,” said Hilts of the state’s assessment report for districts and individual schools.

“We will be talking about that and how we get that message across, that really our schools are doing well. They’re not what we want them to be, but we’re seeing
progress and I’m always happy about that.”

See a full Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board agenda on page 25.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.