Social issues separate candidates in 3 Anchorage School Board races

Six candidates for Anchorage School Board
Anchorage School Board candidates (top row) Angela Frank, Chelsea Pohland, Kay Schuster, and incumbent school board members (bottom row) Dora Wilson, Carl Jacobs and Pat Higgins.

Three candidates are challenging incumbent school board members for seats on the Anchorage School Board in the April election. Angela Frank is running against incumbent Dora Wilson for Seat F, Chelsea Pohland is running against incumbent Carl Jacobs for Seat G, and Kay Schuster is running against incumbent Pat Higgins for Seat E.

Both Pohland and Schuster support a policy proposed last October by board member Dave Donley that would require district staff to notify parents of a student who wants to use a different name or pronoun at school. The policy did not pass in Anchorage but a similar policy was passed by the Mat-Su Borough School Board.

Schuster said school staff shouldn’t be spending time making sure certain people feel accepted.

“I believe that parents do have the right to know whether or not their child is identifying as a different sex or wants to be identified by a different pronoun, or a different name,” Schuster said. “I think parents need to be involved in that.”

Schuster is running against board member Pat Higgins who has over a dozen years of experience on the board. Higgins is a Human Resources director and moved to Alaska with his family 40 years ago. He’s proud of restarting the school board’s audit committee. Higgins said the proposed policy is discriminatory against LGBTQ+ students.

“We need to recognize that they are our students, they are our neighbors, they are our children, and we treat them professionally and politely and supportive,” Higgins said. “Targeting them is just something I can’t tolerate.”

Schuster has been campaigning with Chelsea Pohland, who’s running for Seat G. Pohland owns a hair salon and said she wants teachers to focus on the basics: reading, writing, and math. She said current members have had enough time on the board to make changes, and said new faces are needed.

“I hope to bring some education back to education, which is the basics of just reading, writing, arithmetic, leave some of the cultural identity warfares at home,” Pohland said. “My aim is to get on the board to bring forth some more transparency and to provide a bit more accountability than we have been receiving in the past.”

Pohland also argues that the budget should be more transparent, and said the district could do more with available funding. Defending the board’s record, the incumbent for Seat G, Carl Jacobs, noted flat funding from the state and that just 7% of the district budget goes toward administration. He said politics don’t belong in the classroom, and feels the current board members running for reelection have improved district operations.

“My time on the board, really, we focused on being engaged, accountable and accessible, which is something I’m really proud of and hoping to continue that work,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs is the board’s Vice President, and works as a compliance analyst with Southcentral Foundation. He said he’s proud of the anti-bullying campaign and office of mental health established at the district while he’s been in office.

Pohland told the Anchorage Daily News that she is a member of the Anchorage chapter of Moms for Liberty. But in an interview with Alaska Public Media, Pohland said she spoke with members of the group, but has not received an endorsement and is not a member. Pohland said she agrees with the group’s stance on parental rights. A civil rights watchdog labeled Moms for Liberty an extremist group last year. Although candidates endorsed by the group have not succeeded at a high rate nationwide, both Moms for Liberty-endorsed Mat-Su school board candidates won reelection last fall.

Incumbent board member Dora Wilson is defending her seat against challenger Angela Frank.

Wilson is a community outreach manager who was a first-time candidate when she was elected to the seat three years ago. She said she’s excited about the changes coming to the district next year including new start times, sixth graders moving into middle school, and a new career academies model in high schools.

“Each of these changes, the board is a whole supported. So it was not just one individual, it was the entire board that supported those, we’re looking at school start time changes, the intention, again, is to focus on our student achievement,” Wilson said.

Angela Frank moved to Alaska four years ago and works as a local government specialist. Frank said she joined the race to give voters a choice.

“Right now, I think there’s a lot of frustration with parents and teachers with the school board,” Frank said. “I think our community deserves the right to choose someone different to be on the board.”

Frank and Chelsea Pohland are first-time candidates.

Ballots must be postmarked by April 2, or voters can go to one of three vote centers at the Loussac Library, City Hall, or Eagle River Town Center. Voters can choose one candidate for each of the three available seats, and the winners will serve three year terms.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Carl Jacobs’ job. Jacobs is a compliance analyst with Southcentral Foundation, not a regulatory investigator for the state.

Tim Rockey is the producer of Alaska News Nightly and covers education for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at or 907-550-8487. Read more about Tim here

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