Class size pull candidates into race

Posted: Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Editor's note: Each of the candidates was asked to submit an opinion piece and to fill out a questionnaire provided by the Clarion. School board candidates' opinion pieces may be found on page A-4 and their questionnaire responses on A-5 in today's Clarion.

Four seats on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Board of Education are up for election this year, but just one of those seats is being contested.

Gene Dyson, a frequent candidate for school board, is challenging Sammy Crawford for Seat 1, representing Kalifornsky.

Running unopposed to retain Seat 6, representing the eastern peninsula, is Lynn Hohl. Sunni Hilts, also running unopposed, is seeking to retain Seat 9, representing the southern peninsula.

Dyson, a retired head custodian at Soldotna Elementary, said at a recent candidates' forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters that he has watched election after election go by and has seen very little change.

"For me, we do need to change," Dyson said.

He said the biggest issue facing the district is financial.

"Do we have our financial house in order?" he said, calling the annual layoffs "tragic."

Dyson said the district also needs to continue to look at ways to consolidate or reconfigure schools. Vocational education would be one of his priorities as well.

Crawford said class size was the top issue facing the district.

"Any time we can keep class sizes down, we do a service to our kids," she said.

She said forward funding for education and an expansion of vocational education also should be priorities.

Crawford has served on the school board since 1998, following a 30-year teaching career. She said experience is an important quality in an elected official. During her tenure on the school board, she has moved into a leadership role with the Alaska Association of School Boards and now has the opportunity to influence policy on a statewide level an important quality as the district seeks to remedy funding inequities through the Legislature.

"I believe in public education. I'm passionate about public education," Crawford said, calling herself a product of public schools. "... I want to provide the same things for our current students. While I've been on the school board, I've been able to mold and change some ideas on the board."

Dyson's political experience includes a seat on the Central Peninsula Hospital Service Area Board. While he has not successfully won election to the school board in several attempts, he said he has been in the trenches as a district employee and would bring fresh ideas to the board.

"This is why I run. If I'm not happy with the system, I try to get elected," he said.

Hohl was elected to the board last year to fill the remainder of a term vacated by Sandra Wassilie. In her candidate statement, Hohl said meaningful parent involvement and cooperative community relationships are essential to providing the best education possible for peninsula students. She said she's hopeful that recently adopted board goals to improve communication with the public and to make site councils more effective will help schools achieve their goals.

Hilts has served on the school board since 2003. She cited the board's discussion of how the district's small rural schools are staffed as a top priority.

Will Morrow can be reached at

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