Schools chief tapped by state

Posted: Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Gov. Tony Knowles has appointed Donna Peterson to the state's Professional Teaching Practices Commission.

Peterson, a Nikiski resident, is the superintendent of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. The commission oversees ethics and competency complaints about educators.

"The governor is very comfortable appointing Dr. Peterson to this committee," said Claire Richard-son, a spokesperson from the governor's office.

Peterson said she is honored by the appointment, but understands that the commission's work is grim. The body has the power to essentially disbar people from the teaching profession.

"PTPC is a big deal to teachers," she said. "It's how we police our own."

The Kenai Peninsula district has considered sending some cases to the commission, but never has since she became superintendent in 1999. Usually an educator resigns before a situation goes that far, she said.

"It is very seldom. But the stuff that gets to them is big stuff."

Districts rarely submit cases, but sometimes do so even after a teacher resigns to prevent that person from working with children in the future. The findings are public, and names of people who lose their teaching certificates go into a national database.

"If they did something to hurt students, we wouldn't want them to ever teach again," she said.

The governor's office appointed Peterson July 1 for a three-year term. The appointment is pro forma, meaning it is automatic unless someone in the Legislature chooses to challenge it. Today Peterson will be attending a training session.

The commission meets, usually via teleconference, three or four times a year for two to five days at a time, depending on the number and complexity of the cases submitted for hearings.

Peterson will hold the superintendent's seat on the nine-member commission. Bob Christal, who used to be the Anchorage School District superintendent, formerly held the post.

The state Association of School Administrators was asked to submit three names for consideration. The other nominees were Ronald Erickson of the Haines Borough Schools and James Carden of the Pribilof Schools.

As far as Peterson knows, this will be the first time a peninsula representative has had a seat on the body.

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