Schools to remain open

Board rewards parents, ball players with good news

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Groups of Hope and Cooper Landing parents and some Seward High School baseball players made the long journey to Soldotna for Monday’s school board meeting and all came away with some good news for their efforts.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will not shut down elementary schools in the two rural communities next fall and Seward boys will play ball, as long as certain conditions are met.

Due to low student enrollment in Hope and Cooper Landing, the school board met in a work session during the day Monday to review options.

State funding is withdrawn if enrollments fall below 10 pupils, but the school board has the option to keep a school open regardless of such funding.

In a letter from Superintendent Donna Peterson to the board, Peterson said it is unlikely enrollment in either community will fall below 10 for the next school year.

Hope School PTA President Jeanne Berger said six Hope residents attended the afternoon work session and a total of 15 made the trip to Soldotna.

“That’s over 10 percent of the population of Hope,” Berger said.

Some of the parents met with borough officials during the day to map out a plan for attracting more residents to the town of about 150.

“The community is really taking a step forward in keeping our school open,” said Fayrene Sherritt.

“A two-year option would give us time to work on getting foster homes and orphanages,” she said about a possible plan to bring more school-age children to Hope.

Hope parent Dru Sorenson likened the school situation to fishing.

“Just because you have a thin year (fishing), you don’t sell the boat,” she said.

Pam Shepherd said while her son was doing poorly in the Anchorage school system, he was diagnosed as being borderline Attention Deficit Disorder.

“We moved to Hope in 1995, and because he received a more personal education, he was one of the first graduates from the Hope School,” she said.

Shepherd’s son went on to learn airplane mechanics in the U.S. Navy and now works as an airplane mechanic in Arizona.

Shepherd’s daughter, Deana, also testified before the school board, saying, “Please keep the school open ’cause I don’t want my principal to be my mom,” a situation which would arise if Hope parents were asked to home school their children.

Parents and students from Cooper Landing Elementary School also addressed the board, telling them the benefits of having a small, community school.

“In kindergarten, I always had a bigger kid to help me,” said eighth-grade student Jessica Stewart.

She said pupils also develop a love for volunteers who help at the school and said, “They become like aunts and uncles to us.”

Dennis Bear said he has the only two boys in the Cooper Landing school and said he believes it is “a great school.”

“There is a lot more money being wasted in the Anchorage school system than what’s being spent in our schools,” Bear said.

“Please consider investing in our kids for the long term,” he said.

Phil Weber, who identified himself as a Cooper Landing volunteer — not a parent — said, “The quality of education in Cooper Landing far exceeds anything I’ve seen in the public schools in Oregon or Alaska.”

Standing in for the absent Superintendent Peterson, Assistant Schools Superintendent Sam Stewart said, “There is no recommendation coming forward from administration to close either school.

“At this time, for next year, you’re OK,” Stewart said.

The school board also had good news for Seward Seahawks baseball players.

A number of Seward parents and student athletes — including six boys wearing bright blue athletic jackets emblazoned with the Seward “S” — asked the board to overturn the Kenai Peninsula School Activities Association recommendation to not ap-prove an outsource agreement for the high school boys baseball program.

In a letter to the board, the KPSAA said Seward had not met required conditions for outsourcing set forth by the school board in the 2004-05 season, including not having a head coach, not making all scheduled games and not maintaining a roster of at least 15 eligible players.

“I’m here to ask your continued support of outsourcing the Seward baseball program,” said Shareen Adelmann.

“Seward only forfeited postseason play because Region games were rescheduled to start on Seward’s graduation day,” she said.

“We already have a roster of 20 boys. They are committed and just want to play ball,” Adelmann said.

Ball player Jong Kim read the list of players aloud.

“These players are ready to play and have already paid their fees,” Kim said.

School board member Dr. Nels Anderson said, “The program failed because the adults screwed up,” and asked parent representatives if they have a head coach yet.

They replied they do not.

After much discussion, the board gave its conditional approval of outsourcing the boys baseball program as long as a head coach is named by the board’s second meeting in February and is committed to coaching throughout the season.

“I’m a huge baseball fan,” said Anderson.

“I’m in favor of the kids playing baseball. This was not a kid problem, it was an adult problem,” he said.

In other board activity, the Community Action Coalition presented an outline of plans for surveying central peninsula school children to determine risk factors that potentially lead to problems such as drug abuse.

Stewart told the board the survey results will assist the school district in obtaining future grant funding. He said the surveys are tentatively scheduled to be taken by students Feb. 22.

Called a Prevention Needs Assessment, the survey will be used to measure risk factors that lead to problem behaviors, according to CAC Director Marilyn Jackson.

In response to a question from board member Sammy Crawford, Jackson said CAC would not be developing programs to deal with problems such as drug abuse, but will identify the risk factors.

“How is having this information going to help the community deal with the problems?” Anderson asked.

“Problems are usually based on assumptions within the community,” said Matt Dammeyer, CAC member and director of behavioral health at Central Peninsula General Hospital.

“This is a tool to scientifically obtain data,” he said.

Parents of school children will be required to give written consent for their children to complete the survey, and CAC has established incentive awards to encourage participation.

Students who return permission slips will receive video rental gift certificates; classes will be eligible to win a pizza party; and students and parents will be entered into a drawing for a $100 merchandise certificate.

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