Board must look at big picture

Posted: Friday, September 24, 2004



School board service is a great responsibility and a great privilege. For the past six years, I have served as a member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District's Board of Education.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District encompasses a total of 25,600 square miles (equaling the land area of Massachusetts and New Jersey combined), has nearly 10,000 students in 44 school sites and programs and is the largest employer in the Kenai Peninsula Borough with nearly 1,200 employees. In these six years, I have seen challenges and opportunities that have both forced us into new ways of doing business as well as trying to find ways to do more with fewer resources. I consider it a privilege to work with the school district administration to find ways to solve continuing problems.

One of the issues the board is constantly facing is how to manage the budget. Not only is the board responsible for approving all negotiated contracts with employees but also must face rising costs of health care for current employees (currently costing about $1 million monthly) as well as contribute to rising costs for retired employees. These mandatory contributions to the TERS (Teachers' Retirement System) and PERS (Public Employees' Retirement System) have risen dramatically in the past several years. The state Legislature just approved the largest increase in the state's history in education funding. However, in the KPBSD, most of the increase went to fund employee contracts, mandatory increases in PERS and TERS, and placement of 18 additional staffing positions to address the most pressing needs. The real gain to our district was about $6 per student barely enough to keep current programs with increased insurance and fuel costs and rising costs of textbooks and materials.

Instead of wringing our hands, the KPBSD has set about to try to do things better and differently. The No Child Left Behind Act, federal legislation passed in 2001, requires that our students measure up to higher accountability standards. Our students are tested in grades three to 10 with standardized tests. We compare our students' achievement to students statewide using the same tests. Our students in the KPBSD are consistently ranked above students statewide. For those students who do not meet the grade level standards measured by the benchmark tests, intervention strategies have been instituted. These include summer school, extra tutoring and a multitude of academic and enrichment programs. Each school sets instructional goals based on the individual test results of that school. During the school year, professional development is geared to the goals with the purpose of raising student achievement.

Whether it be budget, federal legislation or activities, issues will always face the school district and school board. My personal style is one of gathering information, listening to various points of view, asking clarifying questions and making the best possible decisions for students after thoughtful reflection. Working as a team, we will continue to address the issues facing us.

I appreciate the opportunity to serve as a school board member and wish to continue to serve to make the KPBSD one of the finest districts in the state. Please vote Oct. 5.

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