6 ASD School Board Candidates Vie For 3 Seats

Six candidates are campaigning for three seats on the Anchorage School Board. Five of them attended a forum with the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce at the Denaina Center Monday.

David Nees is campaigning for Seat E. He’s a retired ASD math teacher who’s concerned the district is spending too much money.

“Currently we have an operating budget of about $540 million and about $125 million goes toward teachers and their salaries and about $19 million goes to keeping the buildings heated lit, phones on, the rest of it is what I’m there to question.”

Nees says the district has to stop borrowing so much money and is adamantly opposed to Proposition 1, a $59 million bond that will appear on the ballot.

“General obligation bonds is what got us into debt to the tune of $928 million to be paid back over the next 20 years. There is $90 million of the budget this year that has to go for Bond and interest.”

Nees is running against incumbent Kathleen Plunkett. She’s been an accountant at Conoco Phillips for 30 years. She explains her priorities.

“We need to continue to work on student achievement and on lowering our class size as we did with this last budget.”

Plunkett says she thinks mentorships will play an increasingly important role in student success, especially with funding cuts on the horizon.

“If all of us were to be in the schools more, which is one of the things that I think we should do, it makes a huge difference to our kids.”

Tam Agosti-Geisler is running for seat F. She was an ASD language teacher for 22 years and is now director of the Anchorage School Business Partnership Program and an adjunct professor at UAA, where she instructs future teachers.

“I care deeply about the type of teachers that we’re hiring into the district.”

Agosti-Gisler says, if she’s elected to the board, she’ll concentrate on increasing vocational and technical education opportunities for students.

“When you give a student a task that they find relevant and can apply to a future career they’re going to be reengaged in the process.”

Agosti-Gisler is running against Richard Wanda, who did not attend the forum. Natasha Von Imhoff is running for Seat G. She owns and operates several businesses and says, if she’s elected, she’ll bring a common sense approach to the board.

“I believe that we’re entering into an era of fiscal shrinking. So I’m looking for ways to make sure we are thoughtful and careful in cuts for the next couple of years.”

Von Imhoff, who serves on several boards of non-profit organizations, says with fewer and fewer dollars available, non-profits could soon play an important role in the district.

“What I’d like to see is several of the non-profits possibly providing some of the social services that the school district is already sourced to offer.”

Star Marsett is also running for Seat G. She has a background in the financial industry and has been involved with Anchorage schools in several capacities, including as a substitute teacher.

“I also quit my job full time and substitute taught for three years so I’d have a better understanding of what the teachers and the students are facing in the classroom — this is when I decided to run for school board in 2008, so I’ve been doing my homework.”

Marsett says one thing she’ll be focused on if she’s elected to the school board is closing the achievement gap.

“Our achievement gap between Caucasians and subgroups is widening … and the improvement plan for the school district has not changed. It’s exactly the same improvement plan. Education is the equalizer … we have to make sure that happens.”

All six candidates will appear on the ballot for the Anchorage Municipal Elections … along with the mayoral candidates and seven propositions. Early voting started Monday, and Election Day is set for April 3.

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Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network.

Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage.

Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email.

Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.

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