Tempers flare as school district turns page on calendar year
Monday night, an over-capacity crowd waited patiently for their voice to be heard.
The Anchorage School District officially adjourned the 2017-18 school year and began the 2018-19 school year.
The school board thanked Kathleen Plunkett for her nine years of service on the school board, most notably as the board clerk. They also wished board president Tam Agosti-Gisler farewell as she stepped down after serving six years.
Elisa Snelling, Deena Mitchell and Alisha Hilde were sworn in under the oath of office to serve the next three years on the board. Snelling will serve a second three-year term while Mitchell and Hilde are fresh to the board.
The crowd watched and clapped as new members were nominated for new roles. Starr Marsett is the board's new president. Deena Mitchell, the vice president, Alisha Hilde is the new clerk and Snelling will fill the role of treasurer.
Under the new school board president during the public testimony portion of the meeting, the fireworks began.
"I don't mind a lot of cheering and clapping," Marsett said. "You may want to save yourselves because tonight is going to be a long night and we just got started."
One by one, almost two dozen members of the public voiced their displeasure with the Anchorage School District -- a point many of them wanted to make sure the new members of the board heard loud and clear.
"What you're seeing tonight is not new," One teacher said. "We like so many districts across the nation are reaching a breaking point. What you do with it is up to you. What I hope is that you stand up for your employees. It is the only way that you can stand up for our students and Alaska's future."
As the testimonies continued, the anger started to grow until it boiled over with Elaine Daw. Elaine is retiring after 19 years working in the district.
"This is the lowest teacher morale I have seen in 21 years," Daw said. "I also worked in North Carolina where I earned my counties first ever teacher of the year award. I hold various degrees. I'm telling you all this to let you know that you are losing an experienced, effective educator, who loves learning and wants to instill that love in children. So why am I leaving? I am leaving because I am tired and angry and I don't like feeling this way. I'm tired of the politics of education."
Daw said just because she's retiring doesn't mean her voice won't be heard.
"I'm not going away, I'll have more time to research and write letters," Daw said. "I am beyond angry when I hear that the district has no money but then hires a six-figure assistant to the superintendent...cheering...provide hefty raises to the suits in this building. Spend tens of thousands on new curriculum, then hire a consultant to revise it."
The meeting was the first of the new school calendar year and could be the longest and most heated when this school year comes to an end. The next school board meeting is scheduled for May 21 and possibly could see more emotions boil over as the district may have a decision on school start time changes.
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