Mark Anthony Cox

Age: 26

Family: 3

Occupation: CEO, Family Charity of Alaska

Previous government experience or community involvement: Soldier, U.S. Army

Highest level of education: UAA college degree

What is the latest book you’ve read? Or, what book do you recommend and why?

The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M.R. Covey. I would recommend this book because it equates productivity and satisfaction in life or business by developing positive character habits internally while sequentially increasing ones’ influence externally.

Why are you running?

We need leadership that represents the diversity of our great city and gives a voice to a new generation of parents in the Anchorage School District. I come to offer a contemporary perspective as a product of the Anchorage School District and be an advocate for students and parents who need a leader that is transparent, available and flexible to their various needs and expectations in regard to their education.

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

The school board sets the policies, goals and objectives for the district. The board then holds the school superintendent responsible for implementing the policies and achieving the goals through its daily operation.

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

Students should be informed that by the support of their community, fundraising and local and federal government assistance, that their education is paid for in order for them to excel without burdening families who either cannot afford private school education or who have a hope that public school education will serve their child the best experience and education.

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?

My wife and I, being graduates of the Anchorage School District from less than 10 years ago, excelled in our studies but were not challenged enough. In our case much like others, if given the opportunity we had the capacity to learn and experience more. It would have been beneficial to have seen more options for career opportunities versus being inundated with the idea of college being the sole next step.

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?

Monetarily it is a strain to our finances to keep up with maintenance and improvements for over eighty schools and buildings. Parents either acquiesce to their zoned schools or invest their time and resources to transport their children to a school of better reputation. Schools in more diverse neighborhoods have overwhelmingly larger class sizes which has diluted learning for students reflected in attrition rates. In the ASD we have a burgeoning population of middle school students, and at the stage of learning they need to be in smaller class sizes to further mitigate the distraction that inhibits their learning. In order to not lose so many of our high school students it would be wise for the ASD to separate the 9th graders from the 10-12th graders in order to successfully transition them to young adulthood while retaining their educational capacity. As an example, I would propose something along the lines of consolidating Eagle River students to Chugiak High School and turning what is currently Eagle River High School into a 9th grade learning institution for the school district.

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?

Teachers who teach a more diverse and challenging demographic should be incentivized for above average test scores, student performance, and attendance more so than their peers. This will accurately give us a picture as to the ability and performance of our teachers in the district which we could then offer to reconsolidate based on ability and performance to other school in need of their expertise. Teachers should also have more leave days for self-care purposes, especially those that are in more challenging environments as they are frontline to students and families with traumatic experiences. We would then employ a better teacher-assistant program to create the best and brightest teachers we hope to attain. This idea I believe will increase the longevity and retainability of our educators.

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?

With any ideas affecting students, their families, and our teachers/faculty members, we are to discuss at length to an equitable solution by listening and qualifying all comments and suggestions until we come to a consensus. Due to COVID-19, we may choose to reconsider the school year because as we know the history of the school year comes from an agrarian based society where students would essentially be working during the summer months. Our options include requiring summer school for those who have declined in their studies at a standardized rate. Another option is to implement a 45-15 year round school schedule which is 45 weekdays on and 15 weekdays off throughout the year. Lastly, we have the option to shorten summer, spring and winter breaks to add more instructional periods.

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

To address the “how”, we must first address the “why”. Why would community constituencies come to us to voice their concerns about their student’s education? The answer is: as we exude transparency, availability, and flexibility a growing number within our community will have the assurance that we come to hear their concerns not as a formality, but with genuine concern. Now the how we will reach them it to implement the aforementioned characters: transparency, availability, and flexibility. We as a school board should extend ourselves to the community we serve by utilizing social media and technology. In the social media realm, we need to host more events that the community can engage us from the comfort of their home with things like Zoom and Facebook Live. Technologically, we as a school board can have public calendar times that the community can access to schedule time to voice their comments, concerns, and suggestions rather than wait to receive a call or email back from their school board representatives.

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?

The process to approach the needs of all of our diverse population of students is to first implement ability tracking of students throughout their schooling. After receiving the results of their inherent talents and abilities, we will then create curriculum that caters to them receiving foundation knowledge with the added course load of nurturing their talents and abilities whether they lie scholastically (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) or vocationally. We then would have to extend our bus transportation system to accommodate students who have to go outside of their district or who need their nutrition delivered in times of virtual learning. For students who show a decline in performance scholastically to vocationally, we would reassess to track any changes in ability or mental health and accommodate with supplementary learning through mentorship programs/study hall at no additional cost to the parent.

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

English Language Learners and students with disabilities require support from the culture of the school in order to be successful. I would propose the idea of events that integrate the general student population with these programs to create a bond amongst student and faculty that not only stimulates educational output, but also fosters an atmosphere of compassion and respect.