Last night the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce and KMXT sponsored a candidate debate forum for those seeking Kodiak Island Borough Assembly, Board of Education, and Kodiak City Council.
We’ll hear first from two of the three school board candidates, challenger Duncan Fields and incumbent Katie Oliver. Incumbent Jeff Stewart, who was appointed earlier this year to fill a vacancy, did not attend the forum.
Fields, a prominent figure in fisheries politics, introduced himself first, giving the reasons he was seeking a school district seat.
“Frankly, I’m running for the school board because I think the Kodiak School District needs a change in direction," he said. "Perhaps that’s why most of us enter public service. We want tot work towards change. If the status quo was fine, why get involved?”
He added that he believes dissatisfaction with the school district is as high as he’s seen it in his 50-plus years in Kodiak. He cited the borough’s new website and its vision statements.
“And these are kind of the organizational documents for an organization or entity. And one of the vision statements is the community will take pride in the Kodiak Island Borough School District," he said. "Currently I have a sense that the district is not doing so well actualizing its belief that the community is an integral part of the school. And I just don’t think the district is doing well of meeting its goal of community pride and community support.”
Oliver, who also graduated from Kodiak Schools, and has two children in the system now, explained why she is interested in remaining on the school board.
“I was originally drawn to service on the school board because I believe in the idea that all children have the right to a quality education. And I strongly believe that a strong public education system is the cornerstone of a democratic society," she said. "I know that sounds lofty, and maybe a little aloof, but in the end of the day, that is the essence of it.”
She said challenge for the school board is to nurture students and make teachers feel valued and respected, given the budget situation.
“I believe our district is doing a good job the first aspect, which is student achievement, which is the primary focus of the school board. We have high-achieving students, we have diverse and strong programs, and every assessment metric I have seen has kodiak kids outperforming their peers statewide, which is a testament of the quality of our schools and staff," she said. "I think it is also fair to say, that with regard to number two, we are struggling with the need to ensure that teachers are supported and feel valued and respected. I hear that.”
The candidates also took questions about the school district’s role in shaping programs and in retaining experienced, quality teachers. Oliver cited statistics showing Kodiak’s teacher turnover is just slightly more than the statewide average, while Fields said the “brain drain” is probably the primary reason he decided to run for the school board. We have those full responses and the entire school board forum linked above.