Three candidates are vying for the District 1, Kalifornsky Beach seat on the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education.
Incumbent Dan Castimore is trying for his third term on the board. He’s an IT manager for the city of Kenai and a lifelong peninsula resident whose parents taught in the district. He said he’s running again because he thinks there’s more work to be done to shield students from budget cuts.
Patti Truesdell just retired from teaching, with her last placement at Hope School. She was recognized as a BP Teacher of Excellence in 2016. She said she’s running because she promised her students she’d keep fighting for them.
Susan Lockwood taught elementary school in villages across Alaska. She says she’s running because she doesn’t like how education is changing, being influenced by liberal ideas. She says she wants to get back to reading, writing and arithmetic and honoring our nation’s Founding Fathers, the flag and Pledge of Allegiance.
If elected, Castimore and Truesdell say their priority would be students. For Castimore, that means keeping class sizes as low as possible, especially in elementary schools.
“We can’t get back to a situation where we have 30 kindergarteners in a classroom where the focus moves away from education entirely to what many people will refer to as herding cats,” Castimore said.
Truesdell agrees with putting students first, and also says she’d prioritize advocating for teachers and schools for more funding.
“We need to educate our community on what we need and we need to educate our state leaders on what we need and we need to advocate for, not just our kids, but for our teachers and for our support staff that they need more help,” Truesdell said.
Lockwood says her priority would be getting back to the basics.
“I’m very concerned that the kids just don’t know enough about our country. And the kids are starting to, the older children, are starting to think poorly about our country, and that bothers me,” Lockwood said.
To increase student success, Lockwood says she’d do away with common core curriculum, and she’d like to see teachers be more positive.
“I’ve noticed that there isn’t as much family participation in the schools and I think that there needs to be more parents taking part in what the kids are learning and how they’re learning. And I feel that if a teacher’s more positive with a kid, the kid won’t act out,” Lockwood said.
Truesdell praises the district’s charter schools and alternative programs and wants to see those keep going. She also thinks school safety is an important part of student success and wants to see the district better prepare students for jobs of the future.
“They need to learn to problem solve and think for themselves and have skills that they’re going to need in the 21st century,” Truesdell said. “That would be a successful thing if they go from kindergarten to high school to graduation and they can get a skill and learn and move into, not always college, but into a career.”
Castimore says the district is already doing a lot to support student success, particularly with interventionists and other programs to catch and address learning problems in early elementary school.
“We just have to make sure that we have students that walk out the door that can be successful. And I think that our district is doing a better job, but there’s always progress to be made,” Castimore said.
The school district has been dealing with budget cuts year after year after year. Castimore says the school board has discussed possibilities if more cuts need to be made this year, and he’d support cutting swimming pools and looking at consolidating small schools that struggle with enrollment.
“We have to make sure that when cuts happen, we impact our students the least. Our job as a school board is to educate students, it’s not to provide recreation to the public, it’s not to provide community development,” Castimore said.
Truesdell would also support cutting pools, but not small schools. She also says she’d be an outspoken advocate for increasing school funding, whether that’s reinstating a tax to support schools, putting cans out in grocery stores or lobbying the borough and Legislature.
“We need to let our community know that it’s going to hurt — it’s going to hurt our PTR, it’s going to hurt kids, it’s going to hurt teachers. And we’re going to have to shame this community and shame the state,” Truesdell said.
Lockwood said she couldn’t think of any areas to cut.
“I’m all for music, I’m all for singing and orchestra and I’m all for ceramics. I’ll have to just see what the curriculum, what they have here for the curriculum,” Lockwood said.
The municipal election is Oct. 1. Early voting is open now at the Borough Building and city halls.