Fletcher: Candidate advocates new approaches to education

Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2001

Homer parent Barrett Fletcher said he did not want to run for school board, but felt duty-bound to do so because the Kenai Peninsula district needs leadership in a new direction.

He describes himself as the candidate who wants real changes. He advocates taking education beyond school walls and letting families pick customized programs.

"My priority is to reimburse parents for the cost of education no matter how they choose to get it and to promote diversity," he said.

He said he is not a politician, but he would come to the job as a responsible person who would follow through and with a clear agenda in mind.

He has written up his agenda and posted it on the Internet at www.fletchforboe.com.

He supports alternatives such as charter, magnet and home schools. Standardized curriculum should be put on the shelf and programs tailored to each child's needs.

Fletcher came to Alaska in 1986, fell in love with the Kenai Peninsula and settled down. He described himself as a homemaker and semi-retired handyman.

When his daughter began kindergarten, he became an active school volunteer and served on the school council. But when she reached second grade, he was unhappy about the class and began complaining.

The experience led him out of the public school and to explore education alternatives.

"We ended up at a private tutoring center where the kids have really thrived," he said.

He also got involved with the school board. Last year, he applied unsuccessfully for the vacancy on Seat C. When the board meets in Homer twice a year, he attends to voice his concerns, he said.

The district has important assets, he said. These include good physical buildings, talented administrators and support from the people of the borough, whom he described as "pro-education." He also praised the district's special needs preschool program.

But he sees much he would like to change.

One is the focus on state-mandated tests at the expense of other aspects of education. Attention to varied learning styles have gone by the wayside, and bright students are getting short-changed. Students get little help achieving their potential, rather than achieving a standard, he said.

Fletcher is also concerned about a lack of cooperation among different schools and programs. He complained about the way Homer schools have treated home schoolers, private schools and even the charter school there.

He suggests staffing innovations. The district lost good teachers to retirement incentives, and union seniority rules can interfere with delivering the best to students. Schools can use lower-paid class aides and provisional teachers trying out the field to stretch staffing dollars, he said.

Martie Krohn, a long-time Homer resident with an interest in education issues, said she has known Fletcher for many years and backs his bid.

"Barrett is willing to look outside the box for the solutions to difficulties in the school board as far as programs and funding goes," she said.

"I think he's got his heart in the right place."

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