2012 School Board Candidates
SEAT F: TAM AGOSTI-GISLER
Neighborhood: College Village
Place/date of birth: Minneapolis, Minnesota, 54 years old
Occupation: Executive director of Anchorage School Business Partnership program and UAA adjunct professor, College of Education, MAT program (training World Language teachers).
Length of time in Alaska: 53 years (came to Alaska in 1959 as a toddler)
Previous elected office(s) held: None
Other biographical information:
• ASD student for 12 years, West HS grad.
• BA, Stanford University; MAT from SIT
• ASD teacher for 22 years, at Dimond HS, Mears MS, Search program for at-risk students, Gruening MS and Central MS of Science. Taught Social Studies, French and Business.
• My husband of 32 years and I are parents of 2 ASD grads and 1 HS student
• Served as chair, Mayor’s School Budget Advisory Commission.
Why are you seeking a seat on the school board and what makes you the best candidate for the job? I am a life-long Alaskan with a 50-year relationship with the ASD. I am passionate about helping students achieve higher academic success and ensuring every dollar is spent to meet that goal. My knowledge, skills and familiarity with the education and business community will allow me to hit the ground running if elected. I am an innovative thinker with a lot of energy!
What is the biggest single issue currently facing the Anchorage School District? Academic achievement of students; standards that need to be raised; budget deficits due to declining revenues.
Do you feel the ASD budget is too large, too small or just right? Why? I feel it is too large for the results we are getting. Each department needs be scrutinized for savings and fund reallocation.
Are you in favor of Proposition 1, a $59 million bond package up for approval during this election? Why or why not? Yes. This bond has 43 projects for 40 different schools. Facility work has been vetted through the new Facilities Condition Index system and are not the normal maintenance projects that need to come from the general operating budget. Service High project has been scaled back to finished educational space and not the auditorium. Girdwood school is bursting at the seams and design money is needed for a new facility. The Career and Technology Education monies in the bond will allow expansion of offerings in 11 middle and high schools to directly address dropout rates through courses offering relevance and rigor.
In your opinion, what specifically can the school board do to improve the quality of education in Chugiak-Eagle River schools? If bond monies pass, improvements will impact Mirror Lake MS, Chugiak HS, Eagle River ES, Gruening MS and Ravenwood ES. Additionally, the board has supported the implementation of an engineering academy at Eagle River High School that has the potential to increase STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills in students who choose to enroll. This has already occurred in the Dimond HS Engineering Academy and the career pathway is expanding to Mears MS in the fall. The same could occur between Gruening and ERHS. Other academies for which I support expansion are: Health Care and IT. These academies allow students to earn industry certifications as well as college and high school credit simultaneously through tech-prep agreements with the university.
SEAT G: STARR MARSETT
Neighborhood: East Anchorage
Place/date of birth: Chanute AFB, IL / September 10, 1955
Occupation: Associate Broker/Realtor
Length of time in Alaska: 29 years
Previous elected office(s) held: None
Other biographical information: I met my husband, David, while serving in the military. We have been married for 35 years. I have two children who both graduated from the North Star School Borough, one adopted grandson who attends Wendler Middle School and another grandson who is 4 and will attend school in Anchorage.
I returned to college at age 40, earning my Bachelor of Science in Business Management while working full time, being a wife and mother. I spent 16 years in the financial industry, starting as a teller and working my way to vice president.
Why are you seeking a seat on the school board and what makes you the best candidate for the job? I am a mom and grandmother and have been involved in my children’s education since day one. I have done everything from bake 55 pies in two days to serving as PTA president in several schools, currently PTA president at Wendler Middle School. I chair the Special Education Advisory Council, appointed to the Capital Investment Advisory Committee, which made recommendations to the school board on the 2012 School Bond and the Six -ear Capital Improvement Plan. A substitute teacher in the district for three years, asked to serve on two other ADS committees, one to review findings on Everyday Math and to review the District’s Educational Specifications. For me the next step is school board, going from making decisions to taking action.
What is the biggest single issue currently facing the Anchorage School District? Besides the budget, it is ensuring that every child has access to the same education. Currently there is an inequality to the education that are students are receiving in our schools. Compare test scores between whites and subgroups, between schools on the east side vs. schools on the south side. The purposed District Improvement Plan for the past two years is not working and yet little has been done to change it. As a school board member, I would recommend that our improvement plan has to be measured for success and failure and not wait until annual test scores are reviewed to make the necessary changes.
Do you feel the ASD budget is too large, too small or just right? Why? The budget could be tightened; one way is too continue with the outside audits that are certainly being conducted. An audit was completed on the procurement process which leads to more efficient operation with hopefully a cost savings. An audit on Administrative Management is currently being conducted and will have recommendations for additional savings. Another is to evaluate the programs that the district has in place and eliminate those that are not producing the results they were intended for.
Are you in favor of Proposition 1, a $59 million bond package up for approval during this election? Why or why not? Yes, I do support Proposition 1. As a member of the Capital Investment Advisory Committee we looked at the age of buildings, deficiencies that impacted the education of the students and worked hard on only putting forth recommendations that were truly needed. We felt it was important to move forward with the CTE recommendation as that will increase the types of programs and expand it into the middle schools.
In your opinion, what specifically can the school board do to improve the quality of education in Chugiak-Eagle River schools? The same thing that should be done for all schools:
1. Put programs that work into place to bring our SBA scores up to a national level.
2. Keep quality teachers by providing a retirement plan and pay them adequately.
3. Provide professional development and mentorships to our teachers.
4. Create a teacher advisory group that can report to the school board directly with recommendations and feedback on programs implemented by the District.
Always ask the question on any decision “how this impacts the quality of education that students are receiving”.
SEAT E: DAVID NEES
Neighborhood: Campbell Lake
Place/date of birth: Peterborough, England, 1956
Occupation: Retired teacher, Ramp Supervisor Delta Global
Length of time in Alaska: Since1979, 33 years in May
Previous elected office(s) held: None, please visit www.nees4schoolboard2012.com
Other biographical information: My family was in the Air Force so when people ask where I am from, I usually begin with “which year?” I graduated from Perrydale high school in 1974 in a class of 16. I then earned a BA in History at Pacific University 1978, earning
8 Varsity letters in track and Cross Country running Pacific U. I earned a BA in elementary Education from UAA in 1982 and spent 28 years teaching in ASD and
70 total seasons coaching.
Why are you seeking a seat on the school board and what makes you the best candidate for the job? I am alarmed at the rate of spending in the ASD we have a $800 million dollar total budget. Anchorage cannot afford to keep this rate of spending.
Of the $540 million dollars in operating budget only 33 percent reaches the classroom.
ASD has spent $3 billion dollars in construction over the last 30 years of which only $2.1 billion was reimbursed by the state. Leaving Bonded Debt in the ASD at $928 million. It takes payments of $90 million each year over the next 20 years to pay off this debt.
We have 7.7 million square feet of school building space to maintain — as a reference the Sears tower only has 4.4 million feet..
What is the biggest single issue currently facing the Anchorage School District? The build and the rebuild mantra in the ASD. Construction is not the job of the ASD, educating children is. We have rebuilt almost every building in the ASD. We even tore down two buildings, Clark and Dimond. The board in the 6 year plan intends to spend $550 million between now and 2018 on construction.
Do you feel the ASD budget is too large, too small or just right? Why? The ASD budget is bigger this year than last. When you accept $40 million in stimulus money and only cut $20 million, you have a larger budget. The ASD has added 2,000 jobs in the last 20 years. I am not in favor of cutting jobs because that affects families. However the ASD must live within its means.
Are you in favor of Proposition 1, a $59 million bond package up for approval during this election? Why or why not? Please Vote No on Prop 1.
The district has $57 million in unspent bonds in the bank. The Board allocated $60,000 for advertising. The group 2012 School Bonds Yes! Has raised another $10,000. The donor list is predictable, including candidate Tam Agosti-Gisler (she wants to rebuild West at a cost of $300 million) Carol Comeau, Carpenters Local 1281, construction Industry progress fund, four engineering firms — all with vested interest in the projects.
In your opinion, what specifically can the school board do to improve the quality of education in Chugiak-Eagle River schools? Allow the creation of a separate district in Eagle River.
If that is not possible, allow for vouchers and more charter and optional programs by getting rid of the limits of neighborhood schools. Also, the removal of Whole Language and Everyday Math from the curriculum
SEAT E: KATHLEEN PLUNKETT
Neighborhood: East Anchorage, Wonder Park neighborhood
Place/date of birth: Fairbanks, July, 1955
Occupation: Accountant with ConocoPhillips Alaska Inc
Length of time in Alaska: born here
Previous elected office(s) held: Current School board member – Seat E
Other biographical information: I am a lifelong Alaskan and I have spent more than 45 years in Anchorage. I graduated from East High and UAA. I have worked as an accountant for more than 30 years. I have been an active community volunteer for more than 30 years as well. I am proud to be a mom and a grandmother.
Why are you seeking a seat on the school board and what makes you the best candidate for the job? I have been an active community volunteer concentrating on children, infrastructure and public safety for more than 30 years. I believe in our public school system. My husband and sons all graduated from our Anchorage public schools. My grandchildren now are attending our Anchorage public schools. I care about all of our kids!
We need to continue to work on student achievement. We need to continue to lower class size and I want all of our students to be engaged, challenged and interested in school. Our students need high expectations and they need the opportunity to achieve their full potential and to graduate.
We all need to work together on communication (students, parents, teachers, staff, mentors and community members) to improve and be informed about our school system. We need to continue to work with the state and municipality and we need to continue to work with and attract good teachers.
As Treasurer of the School Board, I have worked with the accounting department on fiscal policies, value based budgeting, audits, bonds and our fund balances at ASD. We have worked on several audits to help achieve efficiencies. The operations management audit will be completed in June. This audit will help target efficiencies and administrative changes as we transition to our new superintendent to help manage our resources more effectively for our kids. We set up the Capital Project Fund balance last year and increased the dollar level for the Equipment Replacement fund balance this year to allow for other funding avenues besides bonds. We are working with the Legislature to look at matching (at the 60/70 percent level) for both bonds and fund balances or cash methods.
I care about our community and our kids and I will continue to do my homework to be an effective school board member.
What is the biggest single issue currently facing the Anchorage School District? Student achievement. We need to focus our resources on our students by continuing to lower class size. I want all of our students to have high expectations and to be engaged, challenged and graduate. I believe working with United Way on their 90 percent by 2020 is a positive program for ASD.
Do you feel the ASD budget is too large, too small or just right? Why? The budget is about right but we need to continue to focus more resources on our children. This includes lower class size. The value based budgeting process has helped ASD identify programs and keep the ones that are best for student achievement.
Are you in favor of Proposition 1, a $59 million bond package up for approval during this election? Why or why not? I will be voting yes. All of the projects on the bond are important and the reimbursement from the state is essential for our community. The career and technical education (CTE) upgrades will develop and enhance our current programs which challenge our students and make their education relevant. The building life extension projects are mainly safety related and we used a Facility Condition Index to rank our schools with the highest need (based on an inspection). We have $9 million for Service High School for the required match for the $21 million state grant. Girdwood school design funding will deal with all of infrastructure and space requirements.
In your opinion, what specifically can the school board do to improve the quality of education in Chugiak-Eagle River schools? The school board is responsible for all of the schools in the municipality, which includes Chugiak-Eagle River, Anchorage and Girdwood. We need to continually work to improve all of our schools and learn about all of our different communities. I have worked with and been mentored by several residents and board members from Chugiak-Eagle River and I will continue that process so that we know all of the issues and concerns.
SEAT G: NATASHA VON IMHOF
Neighborhood: All seats are municipal wide. I live in South Anchorage.
Place/date of birth: Anchorage; horoscope: Cancer
Occupation: Financial Analyst
Length of time in Alaska: 41 years
Previous elected office(s) held: None
Other biographical information:
• Graduated from Anchorage School District
• Went to college. Also got a masters in business
• Financial Analyst with Latash Investments.
• Program Director for Alyeska Mighty Mites, a downhill ski racing program for kids
• Married to husband Rudi Von Imhof, two kids ages 12 and 9, and have a golden retriever named Jago.
• Love to ski, run in the mountains, fish for salmon and play cards.
Why are you seeking a seat on the school board and what makes you the best candidate for the job? I am running for school board because I believe that education is the cornerstone of a successful community. I have a vested interest in the health of Anchorage because I am raising my family here and my husband and I plan to retire here.
I have a business background. In order to have a successful business, it is necessary to think on a multi-platform level, which means a person has to simultaneously consider tax ramifications, regulatory effects, financial impacts, and human impact when making decisions. It’s not enough to simply ask the questions. Business owners must implement effective solutions that enable the company to thrive on its own, because business cannot rely on the state to provide an annual infusion of fresh capital. This usually means watching costs, and operating efficiently.
What is the biggest single issue currently facing the Anchorage School District? After looking at the school district for the last few years, I have not identified one single issue. Instead, there is a multitude of issues that all need to be addressed in order to see the needle moved.
We may have a risk of losing some of the social service programs due to federal and state budget cuts. It might be a good idea to be proactive and look at working collaboratively with the existing non-profits so we don’t have gaps in service.
The results of the managerial audit, due around June 2012, may provide recommendations where school district administration could be made more efficient.
Some positions originally created in 2009 as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a one-time federal investment, may not be economically sustainable.
Put all kids in demanding curriculum. If you raise expectations, then kids generally rise up to the challenge to meet it. Set stretch goals and aim high for all kids.
Hiring effective teachers, allowing them more autonomy in the classroom, and holding them accountable for student outcomes.
Do you feel the ASD budget is too large, too small or just right? Why? In the past decade, the school district has developed a philosophy of providing many social service (non-curriculum) based programs for students. This philosophy is noble in its intent, but in reality, the execution is time intensive, increases costs significantly, and spreads the focus rather thin for districts.
All leading indicators point to ASD entering into an era of shrinking revenues. When reviewing the annual budget these next few years, it’s important to be proactive, rather than reactive, and to be careful and thoughtful when considering which programs to keep and which ones may have to be eliminated.
My goal for ASD is to decrease to a more manageable size through innovation, cost cutting and elimination of duplication of services. This will allow the district to focus more on curriculum, improve its product, and weather a decline in state revenue in the event of reduced oil production. One idea to improve efficiency is to look at partnering with our non-profit community to help provide many of the social service programs. Another will be to review the results of the managerial audit that should be coming out sometime in second quarter 2012 and implement the recommendations of the audit that make sense.
Are you in favor of Proposition 1, a $59 million bond package up for approval during this election? Why or why not? I will vote in favor of Prop 1. However, I am concerned with how bonds are presented in general. First, I would like to find out more information on the process of how capital projects are vetted. I am concerned that the costs of ASD capital projects are higher than market, as well as I would like to learn more about how ASD ranks its capital priorities. Second, I understand that renovation and maintenance projects do not qualify for the 70 percent state reimbursement, only new construction does. It’s my understanding that current accounting requirements do not allow districts to carry over their funds from one year to the next. Instead, any unused funds go back into the general fund.
This is problematic because deferred maintenance projects are not paid out of operating funds, rather, they are paid by public bonds. A better solution will be to allow districts to plan ahead for the next 10 years, to take a proactive approach for what they believe their deferred maintenance needs will be, and then be allowed to save each year through excess operating funds. This would align closer with practices of the commercial real estate industry.
In your opinion, what specifically can the school board do to improve the quality of education in Chugiak-Eagle River schools?
1) Support the engineering program at Eagle River High School.
2) Support the AP classes at ERHS and Chugiak High School.
3) Create vocational and technology opportunities in Eagle River.
4) Support the construction academy at Chugiak High School.
5) Continue to support students who are home schooled.
Continue to support the Chugiak/Eagle River branch of UAA.
SEAT F: RICHARD WANDA
Place/date of birth: May 7, 1961
Occupation: Public services
Length of time in Alaska: 14 years
Previous elected office(s) held: None
Other biographical information: I have actively participated in public services for some time, and I also have received encouragement from the President of the United States and congressional leaders, as well as numerous members of the Congress, because the federal laws allow excellent individuals to provide comments to the government for good causes. Such a practice is an asset to the government; for example, Mr. Thomas Jefferson’s “Declaration of Independence” and Bradley’s “Gun Law” are excellent laws passed by the Congress from the public.
Why are you seeking a seat on the school board and what makes you the best candidate for the job? School Board is merely a member, who votes for any limited changes in local level. Actively participating public services are encouraged by nation’s leaders and will be elected by votes.
What is the biggest single issue currently facing the Anchorage School District?
This issue is best up to the incumbent board members.
Do you feel the ASD budget is too large, too small or just right? Why? I do not have enough information about this issue.
Are you in favor of Proposition 1, a $59 million bond package up for approval during this election? Why or why not? Yes, some money is better than no money.
In your opinion, what specifically can the school board do to improve the quality of education in Chugiak-Eagle River schools? Sorry, I am in the Anchorage area.