For Anderson, serving on school board learning experience

Posted: Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Dr. Nels Anderson is no stranger to education. With 16 years of post-high school education himself and a wife who is a child development specialist, he is thoroughly familiar with the topic.

Still, he said, serving the last nine years on the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education has brought him a whole new perspective on the subject -- one he's not quite through exploring.

"I found I had a lot to learn. It's a whole different set of skills," he said. "I'm still learning."

The Soldotna-based doctor initially ran for a seat on the school board out of a desire to serve the community, he said.

"I was always taught community service. It was expected in my family," he said.

"It wasn't so much that anyone said so, but I saw by the examples everybody set."

This year, he is running to maintain his seat on the board -- he is unopposed in the race for seat B -- because he believes there is still work to do.

"The priorities are always improving student learning," he said. "The particulars are how you get there."

For Anderson, one path is finding the best possible curriculum and implementing it throughout the district.

For example, he pointed to new programs the district is using to teach young students to read.

"Vocabulary and reading proficiency has really gone up," he said. "As these kids go on through, I think we'll see a big difference in performance."

A challenge to improving performance in other subjects, he said, is the lack of funds to support more professional development training for the district's teachers.

"We spend very little money (on teacher training) because of a lack of money, not desire," he said. "Until we provide teachers an opportunity to learn best practices, we're doing them and the kids a disservice. They know it, and we know it."

But, he said, the money shortage in the district is a problem all the way around.

"We're in a no-win situation," Anderson said. "Neither (employees or the district) control the funds."

The solution, he said, is getting the Legislature to better fund education -- until that happens, the district will continue running into financial problems.

Among Anderson's other priorities for the coming term are implementing a teacher self-evaluation process, settling employee contracts and working toward meeting the school board's 11 goals and 25 action points for the year.

"We'll accomplish a lot," he said.

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