Gene Dyson, a retired custodian, keeps piles of information -- on schools, on budgets, on testing standards -- in his Soldotna home. He is running for Kenai Peninsula Borough school board Seat E against former board member Joe Arness, and he is passionate about the race and the issues.
Dyson has been down this road before. He's run for the position three times, unsuccessfully, but he hasn't let past defeats diminish his enthusiasm.
"I'd like to talk to anybody," he said, and hopes that voters will be open and candid with him.
The biggest problem facing borough schools, Dyson said, is a shortage of teachers.
Name: Gene Dyson
Office sought: KPB School Board - Seat E
Occupation: Buyer, expeditor, head custodian, retired
Family: Spouse Yvonne; children Gene, Suzy
Residency in Alaska: October 1971
Years on the Kenai Peninsula: Since 1971
Education: Bay Shore High School, New York; University of Maryland, 3 years; 24 credits as industrial supervisor
Political and government experience: Member Central Kenai Peninsula Hospital Service Area Board
Best way for voters to reach me: 262-5656
"I'd like to see more regular instruction teachers in the classroom," he said. "The school board must be accountable in coming up with a budget that brings teachers into the classroom."
He emphasized the term "regular intstructors" to differentiate between regular classroom teachers and other instructors, such as special needs teachers.
Dyson said that the school board needs to spend more money on hiring and retaining regular teachers. He also said the board should consider bringing teachers from such programs as special needs courses into regular classrooms. He expects opponents of this move to point out that mandates require specific numbers of special needs instructors.
"What's 'mandated?' It's mandated that everybody gets an education," he said.
Dyson supports Proposition No. 1, the measure to allow the borough to issue bonds to pay for repairs to schools.
"Preventive maintenance in the long term will help the borough," he said.
Redistributing funds is among Dyson's priorities. He wants the school board to appoint a panel independent of the school system to assess the budget. Ideal candidates would be retired teachers and superintendents, he said.
He also called himself a strong advocate of athletics, but said he had no thoughts on how the borough should fund sports and activities.
Dyson strongly supports additional funding for vocational education.
His opinions on Connections, the borough's cyber education program, reflect his concern about students leaving public schools. He said he believes parents' dissatisfaction with the schools has driven students out of the public school system, and avenues for parents to express concerns are inadequate.
"When I was the head custodian (at Soldotna Elementary)," he recalled, "there were a lot of unhappy parents who thought their problems weren't addressed, so they bailed out."
He is skeptical about the feasibility of the Connections program. He doubts students uninterested in school will remain in the program.
He is more optimistic about the new statewide exit exams, which, he said, could help educators assess schools' performance. However, he decried the lowering of the passing score, a step taken by the state on advice from the testing contractor.
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