Morse, Navarre vie for Kenai school board seat

Sep 20, 2018

Credit Wiki Commons

The District 2 — Kenai seat of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Board of Education is up for election. Incumbent Tim Navarre faces challenger Matt Morse.

Navarre has held his school district seat since 2009, is also currently on the Kenai City Council, has served on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and was the chief of staff under borough Mayor John Williams. He is vice president of the family’s business, Zan, Inc., which owns the local Arby’s restaurants.

Morse graduated from Kenai Central High School, went off to college in Fairbanks and returned to Kenai to work in the family business, Partner Management Recruiters South Central Alaska.


Navarre has held his school district seat since 2009, is also currently on the Kenai City Council, has served on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and was the chief of staff under borough Mayor John Williams. He is vice president of the family’s business, Zan, Inc., which owns the local Arby’s restaurants.

Morse’s priorities on the school board would be ensuring school safety, raising the earning potential for newly hired teachers to attract top candidates and ending health care coverage for school board members, which he says is an unnecessary cost to the district. Morse also wants to support workforce readiness.

“Not everybody is college bound,” Morse said. “… I would like to look at ventures to partner with local businesses and associations, unions, things like that to encourage kids to maybe look to that direction.”

School safety is a top priority for Navarre, as well, as is keeping the pupil-teacher ratio low in elementary grades.

“When you deal with kids K-3, third grade, especially, if you lose them there, you lose them for the rest of their school life almost. It takes a lot of intervention to impact those kids’ lives and make drastic changes so that their learning capability has increased,” Navarre said.

Navarre and Morse both say the district does a great job, but that improvements can always be made. Morse says he’ll bring his business experience to the school board.

“There’s a number of ways that we can kind of see what’s working, what’s not. It kind of goes back to cost-benefit analysis,” Morse said.

Navarre praised the individualized learning opportunities and the diversity the school district has developed in order to get kids to graduation, including charter schools, the Connections homeschool program and alternative high schools.

“It’s amazing what our educational system is doing to look at different kids’ learning abilities and how to enhance that. All of those different choices and opportunities are what makes our school district as great as it is in the state,” Navarre said.

The school district has cut its budget every year since fiscal year 2015. Both candidates say the school board should advocate for more funding from the Legislature and the borough.  And both say that cost-savings and efficiencies should be sought, as well.

If more cuts need to be made, Morse would evaluate where to cut based on a business analysis.

“We already have key performance indicators, so we know what the goals are of the district, but we need to be looking at things — what does this cost, what’s the benefit? And I’m not for cutting any extracurricular activities. There’s been numerous studies that show that kids that are involved in extracurricular activities are better students,” Morse said.

Navarre talked about the school board’s fund balance policy, which requires a certain amount be reserved so the district can cover shortfalls year to year without having to make huge cuts. He says there aren’t any easy cuts left to make.

“I’ve been through the budget a number of times and the primary place where you find the real dollars, unfortunately, is in the classroom — you put more students with one teacher,” Navarre said.

If additional money comes the district’s way, Navarre’s first priority would be to lower the PTR and reverse cuts to things like art and music. And in the meantime, he says the district should continue to find creative ways to still offer that content.

Those comments were made Wednesday on KDLL’s Kenai Conversation. You can find the full audio of that program on our website, kdll.org, or tune in at 5 p.m. Saturday for a re-airing of the program.

The municipal election is Oct. 2.