Melanie Osterman believes children need the basics and the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District isn't providing it.
Osterman, a parent of six children, including two in the public school system, is running for a seat on the school board representing District 7-Central. She faces fellow board newcomer Debbie Holle.
Osterman, who moved to the Kenai Peninsula about three years ago from Michigan, said she believes the school boards of the past have not forced district administration to "tow the line" in compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
"Kids are not learning the basics they ought to be learning," she said. "Basic literacy, that's scary. There are 13-year-olds who don't know their multiplication tables. When the report came out (on NCLB compliance), it was embarrassing the number of children who did not pass."
Osterman said she realizes the district is facing financial challenges, but she said, "the school district has to learn to do better with less.
"There have to be some tough cuts in the budget."
She said she was upset with the number of teachers cut from this year's budget, and next year, she would prefer to see cuts come from administration, equipment, failing programs and discretionary travel.
She also said that while cocurricular activities are important, they may have to go if it's a choice between sports and basic education.
"I don't actually believe they'll go away," she said. "If you cut football or hockey, somebody'd find a way to bring it back."
Osterman said she believes there are many outstanding teachers in the district, but all teachers need to be held accountable for their students.
"My mother was a teacher, my aunts and uncles, my grandmother was a teacher. I cannot imagine them passing a child who could not do the basics of what was required," she said. "There seems to be a mind-set that all children always pass no matter what."
No matter what the challenges, Osterman said, the district needs to get its students through the basics and it needs to comply with state and federal mandates.
"If it does not, the federal grants and funding are going to be cut."
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