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

School board appoints Kitayama to fill vacant seat


Longtime teacher Jeanne Kitayama was unanimously appointed to fill an open seat on the Haines school board Jan. 10.

“Joining the school board for me is not having any agenda. It’s that we’ve benefitted a lot from this community…I can give back,” Kitayama said.

Kitayama, who has lived in Haines since the 1980s, is a retired Haines School teacher. In an interview with the board, she said she has held various education positions in the borough since the 1990s.

Kitayama is currently serving as a long-term substitute kindergarten teacher until Jan. 30. She also took on the same role last year.

Also in the running for the position was Haines resident Arthur Woodard. Woodard said in a letter to the board that his most recent employment was in cross-cultural education with Native Americans. But most of his work experience was in the private sector, working in chemistry and biology in analytical laboratories. He is also a military veteran and business owner.

The school board interviewed the candidates individually in public, asking seven questions about what the candidates think is the most pressing issue for the school district, how they would further the four functions of the school board, what is their vision for the future of the school district’s mission, and how activities fit into the life of a school.

Kitayama said she is familiar with writing curriculum and appreciates clear policy writing. She said enrollment has always seemed to be an issue for the district, and impacts how to plan for the future.

She said the school district’s mission is “most open to what real life is,” and there should be a balance between academics and activities.

Woodard said there’s room for the curriculum to change and improve, and teach the use of updated technology. He said he “absolutely” believes in lifelong learning and “we have a responsibility to teach values.”

Woodard said he thinks the most pressing issue for the district is “being totally aware of the conditions in the classroom.” He also said activities are key to a well-rounded education.

The board voted 4-2 to go into executive session to discuss the two candidates. Board member Sara Chapell and president Anne Marie Palmieri were opposed to a closed-door session.

“We’re elected officials and we serve the public,” said Chapell. “And I think that we should be having this entire discussion in public.”

Because the board position expires at the October election, Palmieri said Kitayama has a “leg-up on the learning curve” with previous experience in the district to “hit the ground running.” But she encouraged Woodard to run for a school board seat in October.

Board member Sarah Swinton said she was appreciative that Woodard showed interest in joining the board.

Kitayama will be sworn on to the board at a meeting after her employment with the school district is complete.

The seat was left vacant in December by Mike Wilson’s decision to move to the Lower 48.


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