The next few years are apt to be a challenge for anyone elected to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education, but Debra Mullins says she's up to it.
A retired nurse who has sent three children through Nikiski schools, Mullins said education is her top priority these days.
"Education is my thing," she said. "It isn't always pleasant, but it's worthwhile."
Her resume speaks of her commitment to the issue. Mullins has served on the board a total of 13 years, first from 1981 to 1987 and again from 1996 to present. She has been the board president, vice president, clerk, treasurer and parliamentarian and served on numerous tasks forces and boards.
She also sits on the board of directors for the Association of Alaska School Boards, where she was named Alaska School Board Member of the Year in 2002.
And, she is slated to serve as AASB president this year if she is re-elected to her local position. (When she was elected to the state position, she believed she would be finishing out the three-year term she started last year. However, the reconstitution of the board approved by voters last October required all seats to be open for election again this fall.)
Mullins, who faces newcomer Vicki Pate in the race for the two-year District 3-Nikiski position on the board, said she is running again because she believes she has more work to do.
"I thought I had a three-year term, but that didn't work out," she said. "I braced myself for three years, and I'm not done yet."
Though she said she has no personal "burning issues," the school district is facing plenty of obstacles this year.
"(Adequate yearly progress) and (No Child Left Behind) is a big one," she said. "Second is the funding to do it, from the state or federal government."
Mullins said she doesn't believe money is the answer to all the district's problems but it wouldn't hurt.
"The feds were supposed to put so much (money in to NCLB), but it didn't go through," she said. She added that she believes the school district has been cheated by unfair state funding mechanisms for years.
Still, she said, "If people really see what AYP is, the nuances of the bill, money won't be the only answer."
And, she added, on the state level the priority is "to get an equal portion of the funds.
"They had a study and put it on the shelf. We looked good (in that study). We always have, but we never get it. We need to pass a study that will be adopted."
Regardless of money woes, though, Mullins said she believes the district has plenty of strong points as well.
"When you look at NCLB ... the district is in pretty good shape," she said. "We've got to help kids with disabilities and kids with English as a second language, but all the others are doing pretty good.
"The kids who stay in the school district from kindergarten through 12th grade do an outstanding job, and we need to 'rah, rah' these kids.
"I don't think everything's bad, it just looks that way."
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