Wassilie: Incumbent gives eastern peninsula voice on board

Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2001

Sandra Wassilie said she is the first representative from the eastern peninsula to run for a Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board seat in eight years.

"I was encouraged by people in my community to run," Wassilie said.

"I was encouraged to run for the school board last year, but I was too busy with my contracting to give it a good run."

Wassilie declined because she was working under contract for the district writing and developing curricula. However, when the seat became vacant following Mike Chenault's rise to the state Legislature, Wassilie said she decided to apply for the position.

Mike Olsen, a Seward business owner who served on the city's Art Council with Wassilie, said she has done well on the board, thus far.

"Her dedication to whatever cause she gets behind is incredible," Olsen said. "She's always had a voice and she's always been involved. Coupled with her experience of being an administrator, she's well rounded."

During her tenure, she said she has visited more than a dozen schools and she said she wants to continue to visit the schools she hasn't seen. She did a study on standards related to high school testing, went before the Legislature in April to lobby for adequate school funding and worked on the district budget committee.

"They put all the rookies on the budget committee," she said.

Wassilie said the district's greatest strength is also a weakness.

"It is so large and so diverse," she said, "And our resources are so stretched out. It's hard to be on top of all that's happening."

She wants to establish communication with alternative schooling, like home schools.

"The advent of home schooling indicates that there are some parents who feel that their children aren't safe in our schools," she said. "Parents haven't been listened to. We need to have more interaction with the association of home schoolers. I think they have some things to say."

She identified problems in relating to schools of such varying sizes and locations. In the smaller schools, the effect is too few teachers, and, in some cases, none at all.

"We don't have teachers," she said. "The smaller 'off-road' schools are getting hit with cuts in teachers."

In larger schools, the effect is too many students in a class.

"I'd like to work to decrease PTR (pupil-to-teacher ratio)," she said, "so teachers can interact with the students and the parents."

She said this type of double interaction is time consuming, but is the best way for success in the classroom. But she said that this interaction requires cooperation from more than just the district.

"Everything is not all the district's fault," she said. "Parents are busy . Hopefully, employers will let parents spend some time at the schools."

Overall, however, she said this is an issue can only be solved through a combined effort of the entire community.

"Some problems we can't address at the district level."

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