Margo Bellamy is a candidate for School Board Seat A in the 2019 Municipal Elections. If elected, she will serve a three-year term for the School Board for the Municipality of Anchorage.

KTVA asked Bellamy, as well as those running against her, to answer a few questions about her stance on key issues in the community as part of our election coverage this year. Each candidate was given an equal amount of time to respond to these questions and informed of the set publishing date.

Here are Bellamy’s answers to those questions.

Question 1 – Would you support school board candidates running for specific districts rather than the current citywide approach? Please explain your answer.

The ‘specific district’ structure was discussed and voted down a few years ago. I would not support a return to this governance structure because it will create division and geographical competition for diminishing resources. I support the citywide approach because our students deserve to have ALL elected School Board Members fighting for ALL of them, ALL the time, regardless of their neighborhood or street address. While I support autonomy for schools within a defined framework; as an organization, governance and policy decisions are made at the school board level, not the school level. The School Board’s collective focus, responsibility, motivation and outcome should be that every student across the entire district is getting a great education.

Question 2 – Gov. Dunleavy unveiled $1.6B in budget cuts in February. As lawmakers make their way through the budget process, what will you do to address budget challenges?

Let’s be clear, if approved, Gov. Dunleavy’s proposed cuts will be devastating to public education, public health and public services.

Over the last several years, our school district has experienced harmful cuts. Schools are understaffed and have to do more with less. This is unacceptable when our needs are so significant. This is why it was necessary for the
legislature put in a $20 million additional one-time funding last year and forwarded funded education for next year.

I propose the following to address the district’s budget challenges:

1. Work with legislators (and other community groups) to reject Dunleavy’s proposed budget;

2. Advise that the Dunleavy administration use the Walker budget as a starting point;

3. Advocate to adequately fund public education and address big cost drivers like the cost of health care;

4. Work with the superintendent to continue to look within ASD for efficiencies and for opportunities to restructure and/or implement innovative cost-saving programs and practices.

Question 3 – Along those lines, there are concerns classroom sizes are growing and will grow even more due to Gov. Dunleavy’s budget cuts. What is your plan to address that?

My plan would focus the district resources on the classroom which would include smaller class sizes in grades K-2 and, ensuring that every school have highly-skilled teachers, strong instructional leadership, materials/curriculum and opportunities for professional development.

Question 4 – ASD officials have said 87 percent of the budget covers personnel, more than 60 percent of whom are teachers, nurses, librarians and counselors. Gov. Dunleavy’s cuts represent a loss of 1,000 – 1,800 jobs, according to the district's chief financial officer Jim Anderson. How will you ensure schools are staffed appropriately?

Gov. Dunleavy’s cuts would totally undermine the delivery of a quality and equitable public education in Anchorage and the state. We have a constitutional obligation to provide public education therefore, I believe cuts of this magnitude are unconstitutional. If these proposed cuts are allowed to stand, it could mean that all programs outside of the classroom will go away. Now is the time for the public to decide what kind of schools we want. This is why I have attended and actively engaged with voters at both Anchorage Caucus events and why I am attending as many community council meetings as possible. I will not only give voice to my concerns but also add to the many voices that speak out against these cuts. I will advocate until our elected leaders in Juneau hear our concerns
and provide adequate funding for education.

Question 5 – Elementary school teachers have expressed frustration about mandated curriculum and have requested more freedom when it comes to teaching material. How will you support teachers in the classroom while balancing the educational needs of students?

Teachers are key to the success of students yet sometimes, in our efforts to improve student outcomes, we implement policies and decisions that have an unintended impact. Therefore, we must ensure that teachers have strong instructional leadership, opportunities for professional development and time to collaborate with each other.

Question 6 – Along those lines, the school community has expressed a desire for more recess time. What is your stance on the benefits of giving more recess?

Multiple studies confirm the positive benefits of physical activity, on learning, and for instilling good habits early in life. I support incorporating more physical activity into the school day to help our students succeed. Additionally, childhood obesity is a growing concern. Balancing the demands for a school day is challenging for sure but the evidence is clear. Physical activity improves student performance and overall health.

Question 7 – Test scores in the district run the gamut from highly proficient to not proficient. How do we help underperforming schools?

All children everywhere have diverse and varied educational needs. The ASD is no different. To help struggling students, we must continue to focus on the alternatives that have proven to improve student success. For example, the district began using the MTSS Framework a few years ago with positive results. This framework allows teachers to utilize varied approaches and strategies to assist students who struggle. With proper resources, implementation and support, we can provide educators with innovative trainings, tools, and
frameworks. As a School Board member, I will support these efforts.