Juneau, Alaska (KINY) The three candidates for the Juneau Board of Education squared off in a forum hosted by the Juneau Chamber of Commerce Thursday.
Moderator Mike Satre said the Chamber knows the community and its businesses depend on a thriving public education system, "We need graduates who are qualified and willing to work."
The candidates answered questions about why they think they are the best candidate, how to deal with less state aid and declines in student enrollment, how best to reduce the costs of public education, and how to improve teacher recruitment and student performance.
Candidate Kevin Allen, a recent graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School, who attends Alaska South East University, said his youth is an extreme asset, "I empathize with the student population. My youth would be an extreme asset to the board. You are talking about your number one customer (students) and the customer is always right. I learn from all kinds of people and youth is a real asset."
Candidate Jeff Short said he is retired and fully willing to put time and effort into the job. He said the State Legislature has held public education hostage by not having the education budget approved sooner. 'They are supposed to pass the budget in March or April, that is when principals are trying to fill positions for the next academic year. If they don't have the budget done by July, the principal can't offer teacher positions. By July, most of the good teachers available have already taken jobs. They are kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel."
Short said the state also hurt teacher recruitment by turning the Alaska retirement system from one of the best into one of the worst in the nation.
Incumbent School Board member Brian Holst said student achievement is the main goal. He also advocates improvements to the pre-kindergarten programs, and better communication between the school board, the students, administration and union members. "I'm proud of the progress the Juneau school district has been making and we have good schools in Juneau. We have the highest graduation rate in the history of our schools, the graduation rate for our native students is the highest its ever been. That is not to say everything is perfect because there is room for improvement."
The election is held on October 3. The two candidates who receive the most votes will be elected.