The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has set a course for the rest of the decade, but not without some soul searching.
At Monday's meeting of the school board, members voted 6 to 1 to adopt the new long-range plan developed over the winter in a series of working groups, public meetings and board work sessions. The five-page outline is designed to direct planning over the next five years. The previous plan had been in effect, with annual modifications, since 1993.
The dissenting vote was cast by Al Poindexter.
"The school district and Donna Peterson have worked really hard on this," he told the board. "I approve all of this, but I have one thing I'd like to add."
He made a motion to add integrating vocational classes with guidelines of the national Career and Technical Student Organizations to the list of priorities. His motion failed for a lack of second.
After that, he voted against the main motion to adopt the plan.
Later Poindexter said he was concerned the plan did not go far enough in the vocational arena. His vote was a protest against the omission and against the lack of public discussion of the issue, he said.
"I just don't want it to be forgotten. That's why I wanted it on the plan," he said. "I don't think the rest of the board understood what I was trying to do."
Poindexter also noted that he had attended a Career Pathways Conference in Anchorage April 6 along with senior members of the district administration. From that, they came up with a plan to increase the number of partnerships with businesses.
He recommended that the board have an in-depth discussion of vocational issues.
"We need to sit down and talk about this stuff," he said.
Despite his vote, he said he liked the overall plan.
"I don't really have anything bad to say about it," he said.
The plan lays out two overall goals for the district. The first is to "engage high-quality, research-based programs and practices to help each student reach his/her highest personal potential." The second is to "exhibit high quality in all personnel, facilities, relationships and partnerships."
The new plan has recurring themes of community involvement, academic rigor, flexibility, safety and preparing students for the world beyond school. The approaches emphasize clear curriculum goals, accountability, staff training and exploitation of technology for efficiencies.
Some of the details listed include:
n Focusing on literacy in primary grades;
n Getting more useful information from standardized testing;
n Setting up more mentoring relationships;
n Providing more distance delivery courses;
n Providing more after-school and summer programs;
n Supporting youth initiatives such as student government, peer mediation and Youth Court;
n Offering breakfast programs;
n Emphasizing healthy lifestyles, personal responsibility and ethics;
n Allowing academic credit for volunteer community service;
n Providing more incentives and non-monetary compensations for employees;
n Supporting staff with more orientation and training;
n Using video teleconferencing technology;
n Using schools as technology hubs for their communities;
n Reducing incidents of violence, intolerance or harassment of students or staff; and
n Providing a toll-free number for people in outlying areas of the borough to call the central office.
In other school board business:
n Phil Biggs, the district's technology director, was honored with a Golden Apple Award.
Board president Deborah Germano read a statement praising Biggs for his role shepherding the district through five years of massive technology upgrades and developing an award-winning system.
n Brad Drake of Metlakatla has been hired as the new principal-teacher for Tebughna School in Tyonek, starting in the fall. He is serving as Metlakatla's high school principal this year.
His previous experience included six years in the Alaska bush and 11 years teaching vocational courses in Oregon. He holds a master's degree in administration from the University of Alaska Southeast.
Drake will replace Fred Colvin, who is stepping down for family reasons.
The next meeting of the school board will be May 7 in Seward at 7:30 p.m. at Seward High School.
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