Voters can make a real difference this year in the future of area schools.
Three of the seven Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education seats will be on the Oct. 2 municipal ballot, to be elected at large by borough residents.
Three people are running for each seat, and they hold widely divergent views on how the district should evolve.
Voters will have a choice of incumbents, former educators and outsiders from the home-school community. Some of these candidates are advocating major changes to how the district functions.
The election comes at a particularly crucial time for the peninsula schools.
New employee contract negotiations will begin this winter, with concerns about how to reconcile stagnant funding with employee requests for raises. Some candidates feel the teachers and support staff deserve raises; others express views that the unions wield too much power in the schools and current personnel costs are excessive.
Other challenges facing the district and its school board include a teacher shortage, falling enrollment, perennial budget shortfalls, growing competition from the home-school movement and the statewide legislation mandating higher standards.
Two school board seats, F and G, are available for standard, three-year terms. The third, Seat C, will be for one year.
Seat C incumbent Sandra Wassilie of Seward was appointed at the beginning of the year to fill the seat vacated by Mike Chenault when he moved to the Legislature. She faces challengers Margaret Gilman of Kenai and Debra Holle of Kasilof. In the race for Seat F, incumbent Deborah Germano of Homer faces Gene Dyson and Linda K. Reynolds, both of Soldotna.
In the race for Seat G, Barrett Fletcher of Homer and Michele DeMilta of Soldotna are challenging incumbent Lorraine "Sammy" Crawford of Kenai.
The district's school board serves as a liaison between the public and the administration, provides direction for the superintendent, sets district policies, formulates the annual budget and represents the district to state officials.
At public forums leading up to the election, the candidates showed distinct differences in experience, educational philosophy and positions on several issues.
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