Five contenders slug it out for one spot, meet the School Board Seat E candidates
Three Anchorage School Board seats are up for election on this year's regular election of the Municipality of Anchorage. The seven-member Anchorage School Board is the governing body for the Anchorage School District. Elected each year for overlapping terms, each member serves for a three-year term. This year, seats, E, F and G are up for election. Kathleen Plunkett, after serving three terms in Seat E and serving as the School Board clerk will vacate the seat starting in April. The five candidates looking to fill that position are David Nees, Tasha Hotch, Ron Stafford, Alisha Hilde and Don Smith. All five candidates spoke with KTVA on why they are running and shared their views on schools, safety, managing the budget and proposition one.
1. Why are you running for the school board seat?
David Nees - "I'm a 28-year ASD employee as a math teacher and education is our household thing and I'm still interested and very active in it."
Tasha Hotch - "I am a small town person. I grew up in a small village in Southeast Alaska called, Klukwan. In that village the school is really the hub of all the activity. It was ingrained in me by my family that education is important. Our children are our leaders of tomorrow."
Ron Stafford - "To tell you the truth, it's such a messed up deal that they need to scrap the whole thing and start over. I can't believe they have 47,000 students and they spend $750 million dollars a year to educate those kids. That's about 10 times what it should cost and they don't educate them."
Alisha Hilde - "Education has always been an important part of my life. I am a product of public schools and benefited from a good education so I want to make sure I can pay that forward."
Don Smith - "I'm a life-long resident of Anchorage and I have a strong interest in local Government. I've served 18 and a half years in elected office so I'm not new to it. I like to express my views on current issues."
2. What are your views on keeping our schools safe by arming our teachers in the classroom?
David Nees - "I think it is a good topic to bring up. If a teacher wants to be armed and they can pass the concealed carry and the superintendent and the board decide it's a policy we want to go with, we have to look at all our options."
Tasha Hotch - "I don't believe that we should be arming our teachers. The reasons being, they are there to teach. Also, some of our schools have Safety Resource Officers, they are trained in how to handle incidents that happen in schools. That's more appropriate if we are going to have any kind of weapons in our schools."
Ron Stafford - "If the teachers are properly trained I don't think there is a thing wrong with that. If you're properly trained, I think that is a very good idea."
Alisha Hilde - "I don't think simple solutions will get us where we need to be. I don't support teachers all being armed. What I do support is SRO's being on campus and having them armed."
Don Smith - "I don't have a problem with it. There has to be proper training and these teachers need to have a safe and secure place to leave a weapon. I don't have a problem with it as long as there is training."
3. What is your stance on Proposition one or, the "bathroom bill?"
David Nees - "I'm still on the fence on that one because of a couple reasons. I don't want Anchorage to lose its visitor business, that's a huge part of our summer income. At the same time, ASD doesn't have an issue with it and have a good policy in place. Do I want a guy wrestling against a girl in a state wrestling championship? I used to coach, and to say they are both equal when, well, they are not."
Tasha Hotch - "I am going to vote no on proposition one. I think we are identifying a problem that isn't there. There is no evidence that things the way they are, are causing a problem, it's discriminatory."
Ron Stafford - "That's one of the stupidest things the government has ever come up with. If you were born a man or a woman and you think you are the other, I'm sorry, you go into the bathroom with the equipment you have. That's the way it should be. If you think you want to be a woman and you get changed, then you can go in the women's bathroom."
Alisha Hilde - "I'll be voting no. I'm a limited government person. I think Alaskans are independent and capable of figuring out what to do and think on their own."
Don Smith - "I'm not supporting the idea. I think it's wrong and I'm going to vote no."
4. Finally, the annual budget process has been a challenge due to declining state revenues. What areas would you look to first when making reductions and how would you improve the relationship between the district and the teachers?
David Nees - "Some teachers are asking me, why should I stay? They feel they are treated badly and threatened every year with cuts. That's the game, that's how its been since I and my wife were hired, she started in 1979. It's just the way they do they game up here. They have added a lot of stuff for teachers to do. There are more things they have to do by statute then there is allotted time for. They just want to teach. That's what they signed up for was to teach."
Tasha Hotch - "The message we seem to be sending is that our teachers are not important. Everything should be transparent and open. When I hear there is no money for raises, I interpret that as there is no money for anyone to get raises. It is defiantly a challenging time for budgets. We have not set ourselves up for success and I plan on looking at the budget from an efficiency standpoint."
Ron Stafford - "Budget is always a problem because there are some aspects of schooling that are very important. Some of the extracurricular activities like band and drama are very important to students in their overall education. Those things I don't feel should be cut back. I don't think the teachers are overpaid so that's not a problem. However, we need to look at all the extras and places that the district is spending money on and not getting a return on."
Alisha Hilde - "Teachers aren't only asking for pay raises but they asking for respect, professional autonomy and the flexibility to do the job they are trained to do. With the budget, I'd like to see more visual transparency across the district. We can identify efficiencies there. Whatever we are doing I want to make sure we are getting assets into the classroom and not towards administration or building maintenance."
Don Smith - "There are a lot of areas in the district's budget you can make changes in. I think they are top heavy in administrators. We also have way too many elementary schools functioning right now. We ought to mothball four or five, maybe six. Do it in a way where you still have the neighborhood concept. We've got to shutter some buildings."
This year's election is a vote by mail process. Once you receive your ballot in the mail, fill it out and return it or have it postmarked by April 3, 2018. Ballots can also be dropped off at designated locations.
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