Dyson: Retired school custodian would offer fresh perspective

Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2001

Gene Dyson retired from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District three years ago, but he remains involved with education issues.

Describing himself as a "glutton for punishment," he is making a fourth try to get on the school board.

Asked why he was running again, he replied, "Basically, because I care."

He also noted that his grandchildren attend borough schools.

"Children are our most valuable resource, and they should be given the best possible education," he said.

Dyson moved to Alaska and the peninsula in 1971. In 1984 he began working as a substitute custodian. He became a permanent employee and eventually the head custodian at Soldotna Elementary School, where he worked until his retirement.

About a decade ago he began following district affairs, particularly the budget. Since then he has served as a community volunteer on the annual budget committee. He said he attends school board meetings "once in a while," but noted that much board business is conducted in work sessions before the meetings.

His time working in the school gave him an overview of what really goes on and of students' needs, he said.

"I've always had a rapport with the parents and kids," he said.

Dyson said he would bring the board a fresh viewpoint and a willingness to make hard choices. The board has been stagnating and relying too much on seeking money from politicians, he said.

"They need people that have different views," he said. "No one wants to bite the bullet."

Some families are unhappy with the district, and the board needs to know why. It also needs to be more in touch with employees, he said.

His priorities, he said, are to get more teachers into classrooms, to promote good programs that help students develop self-discipline, to assist students who are struggling to keep up and to reverse the trend of families leaving the schools.

The district has some gifted people working for it, but it needs to "go a little further."

"Are we getting the quality of education we think we are?" he asked.

"We have a 'jack of all trades, master of none' syndrome. ... I care about kids, and we need a change."

Cathy Bishop, a teacher at Soldotna Elementary, said she supports Dyson because he was once a working member of the district. She described him as smart, decent, knowledgeable and having a balanced mind-set about management and labor.

"He is acquainted with the problems that beset us from the inside. He is someone who is prepared to take care that all sides receive the opportunity to air their ideas, rather unlike the current members of the school board who may give you face time but never seem to take the information in," she said.

"He's committed to the district's children, parents and employees and will bring balance to a school board that seems oblivious to all of the above."

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