Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

 
 

Voters to choose 3 school board members

 

September 23, 2010



Haines voters will fill three seats on the seven-member Haines Borough school board in the Oct. 5 municipal election.

Challenger Sean Cone is vying for a seat currently held by Brenda Jones, who was appointed to the board last year. The seat has a three-year term. Anne Marie Palmieri, who also was appointed last year, is running unopposed for a seat with one year remaining on its term. Sarah Swinton, who has served on the board eight years, is running unopposed for a three-year term.

Cone, 45, is three-year Haines resident, former helicopter pilot and housedad. Jones, 46, is a two-year resident and controller at Southeast Roadbuilders. Palmieri is 15-year resident and environmental official for the State of Alaska. Swinton, 42, is a lifelong resident and grocery manager.

What is the single biggest issue facing Haines schools?

Cone:

Jones:

Palmieri:

Swinton:

What does the district do well, and what doesn’t it do well?

Cone

We need to start a gifted and talented program and one that’s more than parking a kid in front of a computer. I don’t think it would be a bad idea to have prep or (advanced placement) classes. It seems like our default position for high-achieving kids is home-schooling, but not all parents can do it and being integrated into school is an important part of development for a kid.

I really think the school board needs better communication with the assembly. Look at the Mosquito Lake heating issue and the Wind for Schools program. Wind for Schools wasn’t a good fit for the school but it was obvious the borough didn’t know what was under discussion at the school district.

Jones: We’re good at engaging students. The district understands students’ need to be engaged and it provides different opportunities for kids with different interests and abilities.

We could do a better job of engaging the community. It’s a matter of getting the word out and letting people know we want to hear from them, that they’re an important part of the process and that we want them to be part of it. It’s a matter of communication.

More parental involvement is always good, but community members who may not have children or have older children are stakeholders who have qualities that could benefit the district.

The school district does a good job educating students. It’s in our strategic plan as a priority to enhance programs for gifted and high-achieving students. We could offer a high school honors program diploma. That fits in well with Governor Parnell’s plan for merit scholarships.

Palmieri: We have a great facility and teachers and our administration is supportive. No changes are needed to the way the school operates, but it’s important we provide kids with all the opportunities we can. We should make sure our curriculum links up with Gov. Parnell’s scholarships. Academy classes give kids real-life experience. That’s important because not all kids are going to college.

Swinton:

Our math curriculum is weak and we’re not scoring as high as we should be. If we see that, we need to address that with our teachers and our textbooks. Our weakest area is making sure our scores are where they need to be. They have been this year.

What personally do you bring to the job of school board member?

Cone:

Jones:

Palmieri:

Swinton:

What makes you a better candidate than your opponent? (Cone and Jones only.)

Cone:

Jones:

This is an environment I’m very familiar and comfortable with. My MBA gave me organizational skills, experience in strategic planning and expertise in finance. I’ve been part of the process and feel that I’ve contributed. I’m there for the benefit of our children. That’s my only goal and desire.I’m more of a moderate. The current makeup of the school board is not representative of the community as a whole. It would be good to have more diversity of opinion and experience on the school board. Six school board members are women. I think I’d bring a different perspective and a different interest.I’ve been on the board for eight years. I’ve gone through the school system here and I’m raising my family here. I know the town and the school inside and out.I don’t believe it’s necessary to have all the answers. I think it’s necessary to ask good questions. The school board … is really at team. I have a positive approach toward working with other school board members, administration and teachers to make good, sound decisions for all the students.I have a master’s degree in business administration. I’m an enrolled as an agent to represent taxpayers to the IRS. Both my parents and (a sister) are teachers. I have insights into teachers’ challenges. I’ve (completed) course work in strategic planning and served on the strategic planning committee. As an advocate for taxpayers, I have a deep respect for the need to be effective and efficient with the use of government funds. Over 20 years’ experience in business accounting and financial management has refined my abilities in fiscal constraint and financial control. I have the time and desire to be involved in the activities of the school. I volunteer around the community quite a bit. I think it’s important to have people at the school – who are not necessarily employees – have input on what happens at the school. I was chairman of the board of Chilkat Valley Preschool. Also, I have a son in second grade. We have a good staff that truly cares for the children. We’re talking about our kids instead of whether we have money. Everything on the school board is pretty stinking positive.: I think the district is meeting the needs of the majority of students and is doing an exceptional job with special needs kids. I don’t necessarily think they’re doing a good job with high achievers.Enrollment numbers. If enrollment drops, funding drops. We’ve been holding at 305 (students enrolled) and that’s keeping everything at the right level, but I’d like to see it around 350. Either through (employment at local) mines or bringing new people to town who can work from their computers long distance, I’d like to see us get that number up toward 350.Providing a challenge for high-achieving students. We’re doing well with students on the low end of the bell curve. In a class with 20 kids, each student may be learning at a different level. High-achieving kids understand the concepts, but they’re not always challenged. They need enrichment opportunities for taking those concepts to the next level.Developing critical thinkers and consistently providing an environment where they can achieve to their highest level. That’s a process that continually needs refining for the benefit of our children’s education. We need to continually improve upon it, which is what the district’s strategic plan is all about.Attracting and retaining good, quality teachers. I think the district has a mixed record. They’ve done fairly good at keeping senior teachers but haven’t kept continuity in programs that have lower-seniority teachers. The music program turnover is high. Salaries in the school are loaded toward the top end. It’s hard to meet parity with other districts for starting-salary teachers. We’re not necessarily looking out for teachers who are just starting.