Q&A: Candidate for School Board District 9; 3-Year Term

1. What is the most important role of a school board member and why do you want the job? 

Sunni Hilts: I believe the most important role of a school board member is to be a voice of those I represent to the board of education and the school district and to bring their voices back to the communities. Then when we make a decision regarding policy, administration or budget I know that it is made in the most representative way possible. 

2. What tops your school district to-do list? Why? 

Sunni Hilts: The most urgent priority of Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will always be the quality education of our students, developing productive, prepared and responsible citizens. One of the school board’s goals for 2013-2014 is to review, evaluate and reduce, as required, the budget based on strategic priorities and fiscal and enrollment realities.

3. What would you do to balance declining enrollment, increasing operating expenses and decreasing state/borough funding? 

Sunni Hilts: For many years we have dealt with this issue because of incorrect and/or inadequate funding. We continue to look at the best use of resources, both human and logistical. Fortunately, technology; teachers as mentors and inventive use of public as teachers; forward thinking administrators; and supportive communities are tackling this problem continuously. As the board of education, we need to have an open and a clear mind to evaluate and monitor differing approaches. We do not have all the answers, but can take the best of those that are presented.

4. What can the district do to eliminate behaviors such as bullying, hazing and inappropriate physical contact? What can the district do to protect students from others exhibiting those types of behaviors? 

Sunni Hilts: The board of education sets policy and the district implements it. We have to be aware and knowledgeable of what is happening in our facilities and to our students. Then we have to be supportive of the administration’s efforts to keep our children safe. We also have a responsibility to evaluate our schools’ climate and culture and support changes where necessary. We have to help communicate to our communities the need for a cooperative effort on all of our parts to see that every student is safe and feels safe.

5. What is the school district’s greatest strength? What is the school district’s greatest weakness? What would you do to build on the strength and fix the weakness?

Sunni Hilts: I believe our greatest strength is our incredible diversity. We have one of the most distinctive school districts in the nation. Because of our ability to diversify we can offer a quality education, taking into account the culture of the population and incorporate that into the curriculum.

I think that our greatest weakness also is our diversity. There is no “economy of scale.” Most schools are small. Distances are great. All of this makes the school district more expensive to operate. It makes it more difficult for staff to collaborate. And it makes it impossible to provide all the services one would wish for a school and a community.  

I do not want a “one size fits all” school district. But we have to cooperate, collaborate, communicate and coordinate throughout the borough. We have to volunteer, give, support and encourage our students, our staff and the families and others that care about our schools. If we do this, we can have one of the leading school districts in the nation, and families and friends and communities can be proud of the effort that we all are making and the progress we are seeing.