Isolated momentarily from the cheerful cries of her students at Ridgeway Preschool in Soldotna, Susan F. Larned sat comfortably in a children's chair and spoke candidly about the needs of the peninsula's public schools.
Larned, a 16-year resident of the peninsula and the incumbent for Seat D of the Kenai Peninsula Borough school board, said facing funding shortages has been the most difficult part of the position she has held for six years. Funding for schools, she said, is her biggest concern.
Population realities--this year there were more graduating seniors than new kindergarten students--and the trend toward home schooling and cyber-schooling have severely compounded funding difficulties, she said.
"If we had all of the children ... on the peninsula (in public schools), we wouldn't have such funding problems," Larned said.
Name: Susan F. Larned
Office sought: School Board - Seat D
Family: Spouse William W. Larned; children Jennifer Larned, Archer Larned, Allyson Larned, Derek Beach and Bryan Beach
Residency in Alaska and the Kenai Peninsula: 16 years
Education: B.S. in Art Education, Montessori Certification K-6 years
Political and government experience: School board member for 6 years
Business and professional positions: Director/Teacher - Ridgeway Montessori School
Best way for voters to reach me: Phone, 262-6389 or 262-2699 (work); mail, 30410 Stubblefield Drive, Soldotna, AK 99669; e-mail, email@example.com
State funding for schools is based on the number of students enrolled. "We're trying to find some creative solutions" to the problems that cutbacks place on schools and programs, she said.
"We have a great school district, in spite of all the funding cutbacks," she added.
Larned supports Proposition No. 1, the measure to allow the borough to issue bonds to pay for repairs to schools.
She does not see any need for serious redistribution of school spending. She said formulas dictate where much of the borough's money goes. She said she considers core programs, like English and science, more deserving of major funding than sports and other activities.
Larned said she hopes the state adds a position at the state level to address vocational education issues and said borough schools will continue to work with community businesses to help students develop vocational skills.
While Larned lamented the small scale exodus out of borough schools, the result of increased interest in home schooling and the surprisingly successful response to Connections, the borough's cyber school program, she praised the program and said she hopes students in similar programs will switch to Connections.
Larned has mixed feelings on the new statewide exit exams. Current high school students should not have had to take them, she said. The state should have started by preparing kindergarten students for exams, she said, to give them time to develop their skills and knowledge.
"I'm optimistic that the education for all students will improve," as a result of the exams, Larned said, by underscoring the importance of education. She said the exams might encourage parents to re-enroll their home schooled and cyber-schooled children in the borough's schools.
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