Family: Only child raised by mother and grandmother
Current community involvement: None
Previous government or other relevant experience: Former student representative on the Juneau School Board in 2015-2016 school year, 2016 summer intern to Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Washington, D.C., former participant in the Alaska Association of School Boards’ Youth Advocacy Institute
Highest level of education: High school graduate
Quick HitsWhat was the last book you read and/or what are you reading now? The book that I’ve been reading actually recently, just glossing over, was I believe it’s called “Politician Quotations.” It’s like this huge, like, almost almanac book of just all these different quotations. And other than that, the only other book that I’ve really been reading was just how to improve your speaking voice, I suppose. They’re really the only two books I’ve recently been reading.
Positions on Juneau Issues
Right now, what I am doing to prepare is mainly looking at the big bulk of the issues that I have put forth in my candidate’s statement. And that was mainly looking at what I am seeing as issues that I thought of when I was a school board member, a student school board member. And that’s where I really have started. And also reviewing what current, you know, terms and current policies and how could a youth perspective, a younger perspective, somebody who had just gotten out of most of what these policies are, how could that apply to the board? And that’s what I’ve been starting out, you know, that’s mainly what’s been going around in my mind, what’s also in my assistant’s mind. You know, that’s mainly what we have been doing to prepare for this, is what would it be like if there was a younger perspective there and present when these policies were being made?
Well, they say that one of the best teachers, you know, within a school is always learning. I believe, roughly, I suppose, a relevant statement to that would be also the school board member should also be constantly learning. If there is an issue that the board is not really, I suppose, knowledgeable in an issue that just came up, I believe that’s when we should be treading much more careful waters. Because the biggest problem is going in on an issue that we are, well, not really we, but when I was on the board, going in on an issue that there wasn’t much background knowledge on.
And one of the biggest issues, in my opinion, is that sometimes, those issues are not taken, like I said earlier, from a youth and student perspective. And that’s why I’ve found the Youth Advocacy Institute so important because that’s what needs to happen. There needs to be those students not afraid to step up and say, “Look, you know, what policy you’ve made here is roughly good, but how it applies to me and my personal opinion about how it applies, I don’t think it’s that great.” And there needs to be more of that.
Some parents have had difficulty helping their kids with their schoolwork because of changing curriculum standards and the way they’ve reshaped the way their kids are taught. Are you receptive to the new standards, or do you think some of those curriculum standards should be rolled back?
Well, one thing that I recently have gone to was a work session for the school board that was on the innovation age, the technology rolling into the curriculum more. And it is true. When it comes down to education, or really, most things, we should be keeping up with the times. But when we make, really, calling back to a quote, when we make these illustrious new plans for the new world, we should keep some of the old. And, really, parents are extremely important to the child’s education because there is not always going to be a teacher there to assist the student.
And so we always call on the support of the parents to make sure that the student is always catching up. And if the student’s falling behind and the parent can’t really help them, either it be they are too busy or it is like you said, you know, the curriculum is a bit different, something they never really remembered when they were in school, then there is a lot of resources within the school that I am sure that could help them. But that doesn’t mean we should take the parents out of the picture. That’s not what we should be doing. We should make sure that the parent’s always involved in the system like that.
There has been a lot of volatility in the school district’s budget in recent years because of issues at the state level. With recent cuts affecting pupil transportation and classroom funding, how should the school district deal with budget volatility?
Well, now that you’ve put it that way, well, what’s definitely an issue at times is that when we make these cuts is that sometimes, I suppose, even I didn’t realize it when I was a student member, was that sometimes, the negativity and/or what the public may see as a bad move is sometimes what’s no other choice for us at the school board, I suppose. Because when you think about it, we do determine the budget, what we have to deal with with the money thrown at us, but how much money is being put our way is being put our way from an upper body.
And so sometimes, you can advocate to the school board all you’d like, but what needs to happen is that there’s also that advocation at a state level, too, for education and making sure and telling those legislatures, “Look, our school district is having a hard time. Why don’t you give more funds towards education to make sure that, you know, school district like ours and school districts all across the state are at least having an easier time?” So that’s sometimes what needs to happen within the budget process is that there needs to be the account that it’s not always in the hands of the school board. It is also in the hands of our legislature.
But when it comes down to the budget, it’s always a rocky road. You know, you’ll have those points where you’re going up the hill, it’s a little bit of a rough hill, and there’s a little bit more revenue, and then the hill could go right down, speeding. And it’s always been an up and down situation. Like I remember how we were talking about the issues with middle school activities and I said, “Well, that’s ridiculous. We should be funding them.” And then they said, I can’t exactly remember whether that was before or after, but either way, proving the point, they had then said, “Well, it’s been a rather warm winter. We saved money on fuel and oil. We saved actually a pretty good sum.”
And it just shows the example that when you make cuts, there seems to always be, you know, out of thin air sometimes, almost, that there always seems to be this extra surplus of money. And, really, it’s hard to determine, do we make that cut right now or do we wait until there is extra revenue, you know, whether it be from the legislature or whether it be from another outside source? And so that’s the issue with the budgeting process sometimes, is making those determinations. Do you wait it out or do you wait until an outside source, legislature or whatever it be, community, supports and throws more money?
Well, one big thing that when I suppose you word it like that, when the question is like that, is on my campaign trail, on my campaign profile, we’ve been talking a lot about opportunities for students to participate in programs and activities that may influence their future choices. And I don’t think that there’s really, there should be a barrier between what a student would like to do that may influence their future choice. And if that situation does come apparent, I do not believe that we should be blocking that student’s opportunity to do something like that because it is very important that they have those choices. Because with those choices that they choose early, either it be middle school, high school, or, heck, even elementary school, then it may influence what they’re doing in their next stage of their lives.
I mean, heck, even for me, when I was just a school board student representative, senior year, that really influenced into what I’m doing now in the next stage of my life. I’m running right now. So really, I know every student learns differently, but it just seems to be a thing that’s a very common trend, I suppose.
Well, with testing, we gotta make sure there isn’t, you know … for lack of a better term, that there’s too much of the testing. Because when I was in school, you would find two groups of people, and of course, one group having a lot more people than the other, and that was the group that always worried about, always cared, and always studied for the next upcoming test. And then you have the other group that was just tired of testing, you know. They’ve gone through testing over and over throughout their entire academic career so far.
And we need to make sure that we do have that testing because we need to have just a general basis of where our students, of how our students are doing. We need to make sure that we don’t test them too much. And I do believe that standardized testing is important, but we just need to make sure that we find that nice balance of tests that have, you know, credibility, things that we can work off of, but also make sure that students aren’t overworked.
Definitely, we should be looking very, very much with a microscope at the equity of the students. And I think right now, it’s doing fine being maintained within the school district. But for every time that we add a program that, well, not really every time, but when we add a program for a student base that maybe, needs a little bit more help, needs a little bit less challenge and more assistance, we should also make sure that when we have those kids, we need to make sure that we also have the programs available for some of the kids that need more challenge because that’s an issue, sometimes. Some kids are just not challenged enough on what’s the very base education.
And so I believe that, yes, absolutely, we should have these programs that assist these kids that are falling behind because we need to make sure that they can graduate. But we also need to make sure that we can help those students that just need more challenge.
Well, absolutely. I am Tlingit, Athabascan, just native Alaskan, and it is very important. When I went to those community events that I mentioned earlier, those were very strong. The air was just thick with, I suppose, cultural … I really don’t know how to explain it, but it was just a very strong feeling. And I believe that those kind of communities should be fairly represented on the board. But in curriculum, we should make sure that we do add, where it’s a responsible choice to add those cultures into the curriculum. I mean, you don’t want to be adding them all over the place, you know, “Oh, we gotta incorporate it into math.” You know, we need to make sure that we add them into areas that make sense.
And I believe that with the cultural para-educators, those were very valuable resources within the school district. Because, say, a lit teacher, you know, they go through maybe, say, one Alaska Native story … and it would be very valuable if we had an actual para-educator, somebody actually from one of those communities. And I’m not just talking about Alaskan Native. We’re talking about other types of stories, too. It would be valuable to have those resources from the community come in and say, you know, the actual traditional story or what it means, culturally speaking.
Like I said earlier, when we’re speaking of the budget, it’s an up and down … it’s a wave. And I believe when we are riding the, I suppose, higher point of the wave when we have a lot more extra revenue, when there is room in the budget, activities should at least be considered. And if I am elected, I will definitely push those things like the extracurricular activities because, really, sometimes, the students or it be the teachers or it be the parents, they really don’t realize sometimes how much these really do influence the kids on what their choices are after high school, whether it be going into college or into the workforce. Sometimes, these activities, they have valuable assets of knowledge that really help these kids and we should make sure to maintain them, and responsibly, too, because we don’t want to take too much out of the classrooms either.
I mean, I heard how much, a little bit of how much reorganizing needs to be done after the huge bulk of kids. And like I said, you just don’t predict things like that. I mean, we did predict that we were going to have a lower count of students enrolling in the next year and actually, that was completely wrong. We went up. We had the upper, the upper prediction because there’s three different types of predictions. We are going to have a lower one. We are going to have a medium one. We are going to have a higher one. We actually started writing the higher one and that was rather surprising because everyone expected the lower one. But back to your main question, I suppose, we should definitely be funding and finding room, when we can, those extracurricular activities, but I do not believe we should be cutting out of the classrooms to do that.