Marcus Sanders

Age: 38

Family: My wonderful wife of 14 years and hve 3 great children. All five of us live together.

Occupation: State of Alaska, Alaska Department of Labor/Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Coordinator for Employment First Program. And, I hold a commission as a Second Lieutenant with the Alaska State Defense Force (ASDF-State Guard) AS Chaplain with the 49TH Brigade based at Joint Based at Joint Based Elmendorf-Richardson.

Previous government experience or community involvement: Marcus attended all of his secondary education in ASD and is a graduate of East High School. He is an associate pastor of the Greater Friendship Baptist Church and a former employee of the Anchorage School District. He held the following positions with the ASD for over seven years: as a teacher’s assistant for special education and special needs, assumed the permanent position as a safety and security specialist for two years at Wendler Middle School. For five years he coached basketball, track & field and volleyball, serving several schools across the Anchorage District.
I have formally served on the Fairview Community Council Executive Board, Shiloh Community Housing Executive Board and a member of the Rogers Park Community Council. He was appointed by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz to the John S. Parks Naming Panel, which was successful in getting the Anchorage Transit Center named after that outstanding citizen. Served as NAACP executive Board Second Chair and Vice President of SHRM Anchorage Chapter Wayland University.
Member of the Executive Board of the Anchorage Community Police Relations Taskforce and formally on the Bridge Builders of Anchorage Executive Board. He also served as a first responder chaplain for the Anchorage Police and Anchorage Fire Department. Marcus currently served and was appointed to the Suicide Prevention Council by Governor Michael J. Dunleavy.

Highest level of education: I am a graduate of East High School, bachelor’s of Christian Ministry with a minor in Human Services from Wayland Baptist University and currently enrolled in the Joint master’s of Divinity & MBA at Wayland Baptist University.

What is the latest book you’ve read? Or, what book do you recommend and why?: I recently read Cat in the Hat with my daughter, by Dr. Seuss.

Why are you running?

My wife and I have children and want the Anchorage Schools to be the best they can be. I believe our public schools are the foundation of Alaska’s greatness. We must have well educated citizens.

What is the role of the school board as it relates to the school superintendent and the operation of the district?

The ASD School Board has four major items of governance:
1. Hire and evaluate the superintendent and board secretary, the board’s only two employees.
2. Set and approve the district budget.
3. Adopt and review curriculum.
4. Develop and adopt policies to govern.

The ASD Board and Superintendent Roles:
Board Roles: Core Values & Beliefs, Mission, Vision, Goals, and Policies
Superintendent: Objectives, Action-Plan and Procedures

Effective School Board Governance – An effective board has a strong connection with its policy manual, governs by written board policy, and continually engages in each of the five ongoing policy-making roles.

Do you support public money funding education in public schools? (Yes-No) Why?

Yes, the State of Alaska provides about half of the funding for public elementary and secondary school and programs. The other half of funding is from local property taxes, other state sources and federal funding.

In fact, under the Alaska State Constitution ARTICLE VII Section 1 Health, Education and Welfare: “The Legislature by general law establish and maintain a system of public schools open to all children of the State, and may provide for other Public Educational Institutions. Schools and institutions shall be free from free sectarian control. No money shall be paid from Public Funds for direct benefit of any religious or other private education institution.”

Do you have children in Anchorage public schools now? How did they handle pandemic virtual learning? If they attended in the past, how was that experience?

Yes, I have two children that attend Anchorage public schools. They worked hard and handled the virtual learning, but with difficulty. Both of them miss in person learning (math) and socialization with their peers and teachers.

Can the ASD continue to afford so many different schools of choice? Could these many options be a distraction from the mission of excellence for all students?

Yes, ASD should continue its efforts and we can afford different schools of choice and programs (ASD has over 130 programs currently), by utilizing cost-benefit analysis (CBA) of different schools of choice and programs – we can determine what are costs and measure the outcomes/effectiveness of each of the choices and programs. The School Choice Research organization has reviewed over 55 studies and found that proficiency test (math and reading) have improved with choices and reduced costs. They also found that attendance, parents and student satisfaction and proficiency test scores improved, only one study out of 55 found that they did not.

The studies found that competition among public schools, programs and other choices responded well to that pressure. Students who remain in public schools improve, too. I support the expanded educational options including charter, alternative, vocational, language immersion and Middle College programs.

What ideas do you have to incentivize the best and brightest teachers to come to this district and do great work? What ideas do you have to encourage teacher longevity?

I would suggest that we incentivize and recruit by extending scholarships to the “Brightest Future Teachers.” The Indian Health Service (IHS) and Public Health Service (PHS) have utilized scholarships or forgiveness of student loans with a commitment of 4 to 6 years of service. It is a good thing to incentivize the brightest kids in Anchorage and (or) Alaska to become teachers here in Anchorage.

Coordinate with the National Association for Business Resources, philanthropic organizations. For example, Rasmussen Foundation and other nonprofits grants to fund the programs, an endowment.

National studies indicate closed schools and/or prolonged online learning has not been successful for all. What ideas do you have to recover this learning loss?

The ASD, teachers and parents have performed the best that it can with distant learning and has started opening schools and starting in person learning K-8. We must get all schools open K-12 ASAP. With almost a year without in person learning, we have to focus our efforts and direct our budget to recover learning loss and begin to improve English language and math proficiency from the 41% average level before the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is crucial to return our children to schools safely and soon. This process must parallel with the guidelines of C.D.C. (C.D.C has recommended that schools should open if their guidelines are followed.), public health officials and teachers during the transition dynamic school decision’s strategy process.

Young children need the daily group and teacher interaction to insure that these basic skills are learned and re-enforced through classroom activities. It is hard for a teacher to measure through the virtual environment exactly how much a child has understood and retained of the subject being taught without having the ability to actually see and hear the child doing the school work.

Some children have less difficulty in understanding the subject and in following steps needed to return to grade level, but many of our students struggle with following directions and independent work. Children are truly suffering from lack of contact with their peers and their teachers. Socialization is a huge part of a child’s development. Isolation has been devastating for the mental health of many youth. Primary grades where children are learning the basics of reading and math. Young children need the daily group and teacher interaction to insure that these basic skills are learned and re-enforced through classroom activities. It is hard for a teacher to measure through the virtual environment exactly how much a child has understood and retained of the subject being taught without having the ability to actually see and hear the child doing the work at school. (Let’s face it – mom, dad or grandma may be “helping” with much of the child’s work.)

Getting back to grade level depends on how much the child is behind. Some children have less difficulty in understanding the subject and in following steps needed to return to grade level, but many of our students struggle with following directions and independent work and need more of the teacher’s time and help to succeed. Summer school may be needed to help children catch up and be at grade level. (More volunteers and aides to help in the classroom to free up the teacher to work with the more needy students?)

How will you reach out to the different community constituencies to hear concerns about their students’ education?

I will attend scheduled meeting and events (example: Community Councils, PTAs and send out a Newsletter to the community) with parents, teachers and students. Most important of all: listen!

Given the rich diversity of our school district and community, what is the best approach to equitably meet the needs of all students, regardless of socio-economic differences?

Why do children go to school? Most people would say it’s to learn the three Rs: reading, writing and ‘arithmetic. But a school culture that promotes diversity in the classroom teaches students something that’s more important: how to live and work in a society where every individual is unique. In an increasingly fragmented society, the ability to connect with peers, coworkers and neighbors with diverse backgrounds and abilities is invaluable. Diversity improves critical-thinking skills, builds empathy and encourages students to think differently.

When schools take inclusive and responsive approaches to diversity, students are more likely to see their identify represented in classroom materials or with other students. When diversity is not a priority and these students don’t feel included, they’re more likely to not participate and feel inferior to their peers. A study from the University of California, Los Angeles looked at diverse classrooms to assess the emotional gains of students, and found encouraging results. According to the study, students in the most diverse classrooms were more likely to feel safer, less lonely and less bullied at school.

What ideas do you have to ensure that English Language Learners and students with disabilities have equal learning opportunities in the Anchorage School District?

In recent years, there has been a surge of immigrants with limited English language skills to the United States. In addition, many children of immigrant parents and children who are Native American and Alaska Native enter school with limited ability to learn in English. The insufficient English language proficiency of these students often results in classroom failure and school dropout. Many students either are ill-equipped for higher education or lack the required skills to obtain productive employment. To resolve these problems, students must have an equal opportunity to benefit from education programs offered by their school districts. Federal civil rights laws help ensure that English Language Learners (ELLs) receive equal educational opportunity. These laws interact with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 to ensure nondiscrimination and a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to ELLs with disabilities. The focus of the presentation will be on how to navigate these laws to ensure against overrepresentation, underrepresentation, and disproportionality and FAPE challenges.