Teachers in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District have opted for change.
Tuesday evening, the Kenai Peninsula Education Association, the union that represents certified public school employees, announced results of its annual officer elections.
Challenger Hans Bilben outpolled incumbent Tim Peterson for the presidency of the organization, winning 221-to-140. Bilben teaches vocational technology and science at Skyview High School.
"The priority is to try to bring this district back to what it was," Bilben said Thursday. "Funding is an issue that has been a problem in this state really since 1986."
He referred to the decline in Alaska's school funding and the associated decline in teachers' salaries relative to inflation, health insurance costs, work load and other states' pay rates. The decline is causing a growing teacher shortage in the state.
He said that he has been in the district for 18 years, and now he is seeing a growing exodus of teachers leaving the state.
Bilben predicted that the increasing difficulties in staffing Alaska's schools will convince Juneau "to do something different."
The peninsula's teachers will be negotiating a new contract with the district in 2002.
Bilben expressed an interest in seeking improved salaries and working conditions through creative means.
"Tim has done a fine job over the years," he said of his opponent and predecessor. "He had been through negotiations that didn't really pan out the way people had hoped."
In other areas, Bilben expressed support for the status quo.
"At this point in the game, my plan is to continue the path we are on," he said.
He pointed to the district's new long-range plan, calling it a document with a lot of merit and worth pursuing.
All officers in the KPEA serve two-year terms, staggered so half the officers are up for election in any given year. The vice president and treasurer will be on the ballot next year, plus half the area representatives.
Other positions on the ballot this year were not contested, said KPEA Vice President Cathy Carrow.
Barb Vogel George was elected secretary.
Area representatives chosen were Herb Wottlin for Seward, Mike Boyle for Nikiski, Tim Sandahl for Kenai and Laura Pillifant for Soldotna Area A. Boyle, Maggie Corbisier and Lori Ford were selected to serve as delegates to the union's regional assembly, with Jill Showman and Darlene Gerhke selected as alternates.
Voting was done by mail and tallied independently by the peninsula chapter of the League of Women Voters.
The KPEA is affiliated with the National Education Association.
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