Students: Let's talk about education

Community forum planned at SoHi Tuesday

Posted: Monday, November 24, 2003

A wide range of public leaders and community members are expected to turn out for an education forum Tuesday night at Sol-dotna High School.

But this gathering may be a bit different than others of its ilk -- at least in intent.

The forum is being organized by two SoHi seniors who just want the community to have a conversation about education issues.

Kaitlin Vadla and Ryan Walton have secured the attendance of a number of public leaders, including Kenai Peninsula Borough School District school board members and administrators, city and borough leaders, including Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey, and Alaska legislators, including Sen. Tom Wagoner and Rep. Kelly Wolf.

Vadla said the impetus for the forum came earlier this year when Gov. Frank Murkow-ski's administration brought its Voices of Alaska campaign to SoHi.

"They asked the students questions, and it was kind of disappointing, because not many students had enough background to answer thoroughly," Vadla said. "I thought it was sad, we didn't do it justice."

But, she added, she also felt the facilitators of that discussion weren't really listening to the students anyway.

Hopefully, that won't be the case Tuesday night, Vadla said.

She said she hopes the forum will be an opportunity for community members to not only identify problems, but also discuss solutions.

"It's to get ideas flowing back from constituents to representatives and from representatives to constituents," Vadla said. "I just wanted to get it in a setting where it wasn't ... an interrogation."

Vadla said she believes education is particularly important to students and young people should know more about the issues affecting them. However, she said, the forum is for everyone.

"I just really want to emphasize this is for the public, for parents and teachers and students," she said. "It's not PR for the panel. It's to get the concerns out there."

Most of the evening will be an open discussion, question-and-answer forum moderated by Merrill Sikorski and a student moderator, Vadla said. However, education officials also will sit on a panel and address some questions Vadla and Walton developed.

Topics of discussion throughout the night will include federal, state and borough budget allocations for education; the state education funding formula and its impact on the KPBSD; No Child Left Behind Act compliance; teacher and program cuts in the district; and pupil-teacher ratios and class sizes, Vadla said.

"Pretty much everything and anything," she said.

The forum will begin at 7 p.m. in the Soldotna High School Auditorium and is expected to continue until around 9 p.m. Everyone is welcome.

"We really encourage people to come with their own questions, concerns, solutions and brainstorms," Vadla said.

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