Martin Stepetin Sr.
Candidate for School Board
My wife Ann and our four kids
Catering and courier driver
Languages advocate; helped get HB 122, a state bill protecting Funter Bay’s Unangax cemetery, started; board member of Friends of Admiralty Island
High school and trade school
Writing and Social Studies
I’m running for school board because I believe in a strong, stable, balanced education for our kids here in Juneau. I’m running because I have a vested interest in the school board’s success and the schools’ success. I have four kids in school, ranging from Head Start all the way to high school. So I am running to ensure that our schools are guided properly, especially through these turbulent times. And I want to be in place to help make the tough decisions, if there (are) any to be made.
I think across the Alaska and in Juneau, by far the most pressing issue is funding for education, period. And running for the school board, I don’t have a whole lot of control of that. But that is honestly the No. 1 issue. We’ve been flat-funded since since the late 2000s, and that doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon. So that’s going to start affecting us here, and it already is and has been for such a long time. So I believe funding is the No. 1 issue facing our school district.
Amid uncertain state funding for K-12 education and a downsizing of the University of Alaska system, what can the Juneau School Board do to prepare our students for the future? What advice would you have for a current Juneau high schooler about their future?
I think that, in the face of low funding and getting our students prepared for the future, as you know, the strategic plan is coming up and I think we need to add to that strategic plan. … We need to entertain the idea of supporting trades: construction, labor, truck driving, carpentry, welding. In our current strategic plan, we focus highly on the universities. And we know that we send half of our students to the universities, but the other half are either unprepared or not ready for life after high school. So I think we need to focus on that.
Should the Juneau School District do more to expand and improve early education opportunities? If so, how?
I think we do need to focus more on early education pre-K. We have a (school) board right now that is supportive of that. We can legally spend foundation money from the state on pre-K. But that would mean we’re taking that money from somewhere else in the district that has been spent and probably has an interest to be spent on it in the future. But I believe we win and we lose a lot of our students in pre-K. They come to us not ready. They come to us delayed and behind. … We don’t have a strong enough support for pre-K. And I think we need to either put more money into it or put more resources into it, whatever that looks like. We need to do more to support pre-K.
The Juneau School District recently adopted an indigenous language policy that affirms the district's commitment to supporting Tlingit language revitalization. How would you hope to see this policy put into practice?
I’m really proud of the current school board’s work on the Tlingit languages. We have a school board and a community that supports Tlingit language (and) culture. And I want to see that go forward. I want to see the program, TCLL (Tlingit Culture, Language and Literacy) specifically, I want to see it grow. I want to see a second location opened up here in Juneau, preferably in the valley. The one that we have right now is in downtown. So right now everybody that wants to be in TCLL, a student or a parent’s student, is not, because there’s just not enough room for the students. Just like there’s not enough room for Head Start, there’s not enough room for TCLL students. We need to provide at least enough for those students who want to be in TCLL to get into TCLL.
Safety is one of my number one, top priorities. Not just gun safety, and not just doing drills to protect against mass shootings. Those are important, and those should be done, especially these days. We know that’s a very important topic. But also, there’s a couple schools here in the school district that have roads that are not even zoned for school zones, and it’s a very dangerous spot for our students and our children. I know at one of our schools, the site council has been trying to get one of the roads turned into a school zone, so that cars have to slow down and keep our students safe. So many things just like that, we can improve safety in our school district, along with gun safety, violence, bullying, online bullying. Our school district is working on this already, and I would like to see it continue.