Voices of Alaska Education
Our Mission: To advocate for children and youth by assisting school boards in providing
quality public education, focused on student achievement, through effective local governance.
February 2021
Maintaining Nonpartisan Local Control
Lon Garrison, AASB Executive Director
Alaska’s model of school governance is most likely one of the purest forms of representative democracy that exists.

Any qualified citizen of a municipality, borough, or regional education attendance, no matter their political leanings or affiliations, profession, ethnicity, religion, gender, or level of education, may run for the office of school board member.
Lon Garrison
The elections are nonpartisan, meaning each school board member’s seat is not aligned with a political affiliation. There are no recognized political majorities or minorities on school boards. Thus, any qualified resident1 of the community has the opportunity to be a representative voice for governing the local educational system. This was the specific intent of the founding legislature and the Alaska Constitution.

'Inspiring Today's Leaders' Theme of Elizabeth Peratrovich Day Celebration
Tiffany Jackson, AASB Director of Membership Services

Every year the Alaska Native Brotherhood/Alaska Native Sisterhood Grand Council celebrates Elizabeth Peratrovich Day, and honors the work Elizabeth Peratrovich and Roy Peratrovich did for Alaska. This year, despite the pandemic, was no different. 
Tiffany Jackson speaks at the virtual Elizabeth Peratrovich Day Celebration, February 16, 2021.
In true Alaskan style, the ANB/ANS GC looked at the current environment as an opportunity. They partnered with First Alaskans Institute, and put on a virtual celebration with speakers from around the state, available to everyone with an Internet connection, with the theme “Elizabeth Peratrovich, Inspiring Today’s Leaders"

I was honored to be asked to speak at this event, along with many others from across the state. Elizabeth Peratrovich has been such an inspiration to me, ever since my mother shared her story with me. My remarks are included with this article. 

I encourage everyone to watch the video of the Elizabeth Peratrovich Day Celebration hosted by the ANB/ANS Grand Council and First Alaskans Institute, as all the speakers were incredible. 

However, if you have just a little bit of time, I highly suggest watching Betsy Peratrovich speak about her grandparents, and how much Elizabeth Peratrovich valued education. Betsy begins speaking at 54:56 of the First Alaskans Institute video. Betsy shared a quote from Elizabeth saying “We are getting a background for the future by going to school”. Betsy also shared more about how much Elizabeth Peratrovich valued education, and encouraged others to pursue education.

If you have a little bit more time, you can check out video and text of the remarks I shared.
Swain Urges Closing of "Achievement and Access Gaps"
at NSBA Equity Symposium
As chair of the National American Indian and Alaska Native Council of School Board Members, Michael Swain participated in the recent NSBA Equity Online Symposium, presiding over a “Stories from the Field” session that featured local school board members from across the nation, sharing their inspirational stories and lessons learned through their personal journeys to advance equity.
In his introduction to the session, Swain underscored the importance of dismantling institutional racism in education to ensure all students receive equitable access.

“Each of our presenters' service to education in their communities has focused on raising awareness of pervasive inequities and pushing for policies and practices that close achievement and access gaps to ensure that under served students are served, and that each student can and will receive a high quality education that maximizes their potential,” he said.
Michael Swain speaks at the virtual 2021 NSBA Equity Symposium. He is President of the Bristol Bay Borough School Board, and a long time AASB board member.
After each of the presenters shared stories from the field, all participants gathered for a panel discussion. Video of the NSBA Equity Symposium sessions can be viewed by clicking the button below.
“Stories from the Field”session starts at 2:51:47
Does Trauma Engaged Training Make A Difference?
Emily Ferry, AASB Collective Impact Coordinator
A growing body of national evidence has suggested that Trauma Engaged practices improve outcomes for students. But the question we all want to know is: Does investing time and money in Trauma Engaged training and support make a difference in our schools and for our students?

Social and Emotional Learning Coordinator Maressa Jensen recently used the School Climate and Connectedness Survey (SCCS) to gain insight about how Trauma Engaged practices were impacting staff and students in the Juneau School District. She looked at six elementary schools in the district. Four of those schools serve higher rates of students who are Alaska Native or mixed race or whose families qualify as low-income and thus were included in the STEPS grant. STEPS – or Supporting Transitions and Educational Promise Southeast Alaska – is partnership supported by the AASB aimed at improving outcomes for students by working collaboratively from womb to world. A dozen community agencies including five school districts are part of the partnership.
How connected
Through STEPS and other targeted efforts, including a three year training and coaching program with Washington State University’s Collaborative Learning for Educational Achievement and Resilience (CLEAR), staff at those four schools have received ongoing training, coaching, and support. The other two schools only participated in district-wide in-service training focused on ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences).

2021 Alaska SCCS

There's still time to register!

For the 2021 school year, additional questions have been added to better understand the needs of students, staff, and families during COVID-19.
For more information and to register, click here:
Contact Jenni Lefing with any questions.
Upcoming Events
We hope you plan to join AASB on March 20
for this Session’s Second Legislative Academy! 
This academy is a unique opportunity for education advocates from around the state to come together to learn about what is currently driving the legislature, and how together, school board members can engage legislators in crafting solutions to the challenges districts face.

Sessions include:
  • Legislative Priorities & Bill Review
  • Focused sessions on Advocacy in Urban, Rural, and Federal settings
  • Like Size District Forums
  • Scheduled district Zoom meetings with legislators throughout the week.

First Term Board Member Webinar Series

Now Thru April
Want to make sure you’re starting your new role as a school board member off on the right foot? Been on the board for a little while, but would like to brush up on some of the basics? Be sure to check out our First-Term Board Member Webinar Series!

This series of webinars will be held from January through April, and will cover topics such as conducting effective meetings, school finance, working with your community, school law, and more!
Registration is FREE
and Open Now!

March 4 – Board Policy – Development and Use for Governance

School Boards rely upon their Board policy to govern the district. Find out more about what policy is and is not, how to use it, and how the Board develops and adopts its policies.
Schedule of Upcoming Webinars

  • March 4, 12-1 pm - Board Policy - Development and Use for Governance
  • March 11, 12-1 pm - Working with Your Board
  • March 25, 12-1 pm - Working with Your Community
  • April 1, 12-1 pm - School Law Basics
  • April 22, 12-1 pm - Holding Your Meetings Remotely
Previous Webinar Resources Available

  • February 4, 12-1 pm - The Superintendent - Building a Relationship
  • February 18, 12-1 pm - School Finance with an Expert!
  • February 25, 12-1 pm - The Board and the Budget
  • January 28, 12 - 1 pm - Effective Meetings & Roberts Rules of Order
Virtual Leadership & 
Legislative Academy 
and Youth Advocacy Institute

Slides, session video and other
resources are now available
Virtual Leadership & Legislative Academy attendees listen to remarks by Commissioner Dr. Michael Johnson of the Department of Education and early Development.
Virtual Leadership & Legislative Academy
Saturday, February 6, 2021
SESSION SUMMARY: Welcoming Remarks
DEED Commissioner Michael Johnson
Commissioner Johnson welcomed participants and acknowledged their strength and leadership as they worked through the challenges of the past year to provide a safe and meaningful education to Alaska’s students.
Commissioner Johnson asked boards to consider three suggestions:

  1. Protect local authority, and your role in governing as school boards. This past year you have faced intense public pressure. Local control was the best way before, during, and after the pandemic. Locally elected school boards are closest to the students and families in your district. Don’t ever give up control. If you do, you may not get it back.
  2. Learn as much as possible about your schools, and embrace your responsibility to govern them. Don’t settle or anything less that what you want for your students. School boards have stepped up to guide your schools thru a very rough year, and I’m super proud of you all.
  3. Look to your own educators for answers. The path forward lies within your own school. If we would just behave the way we teach our kids to behave, we will figure out the answers much quicker, including how best to handle conflict.

SESSION SUMMARY: Superintendent Contracts
John Sedor, Sedor Wendlandt Evan & Filippi, LLC
Attorney John Sedor provided a deep dive into writing an effective superintendent contract. Throughout his presentation, he emphasized the importance of boards maintaining good relations with their superintendents. “You lose opportunities as a district if you don’t have a good relationship,” Sedor said. “The contract represents the terms of conditions of employment, but it is not the relationship. When I get a call about issues between a board and superintendent, it’s usually too late.”

Using a template as a reference, Sedor guided attendees through various components of a well constructed contract framework.

SESSION SUMMARY: Communicating Over The Great Divide
Tiffany Jackson, Director of Membership Services, AASB
Building upon John Sedor’s presentation that stressed the importance of good communication in cultivating a positive relationship between the board and superintendent, Tiffany Jackson delved into the potential repurcussions of avoiding awkward discussions, and the mechanics of how to have successful conversations.

Relationships are always evolving, Jackson said, and will grow together or apart based on the last written or spoken interaction. Avoiding difficult conversations, such as sending an email or text because you didn’t want to have an actual conversation, delivering a message to a group that pertains only to one person, or hoping someone else will raise an issue so you don’t have to, can have negative consequences

SESSION SUMMARY: How do we Communicate During These Pandemic Times?
Pegge Erkeneff, Director of Communications, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District
Drawing upon personal experiences, Pegge Erkeneff explored effective methods—and challenges—of communicating with the public during a pandemic. The key factor in good communication, she said, is “grace;” with ourselves, with one another, and with our communities. Erkeneff framed her interactive presentation around the letters in the word “GRACE,” using each letter to illustrate different aspects of communications.

She began with the letter “G” and showed words beginning with G that encapsulate some of the things she has observed her school board, leadership team, staff and parents go through.

SESSION SUMMARY: Mindfulness for the School Board
Kay Douglas, Senior Consultant, Texas Association of School Boards and Timi Tullis, Associate Executive Director, AASB
In this recorded session that has been shown to school board members in Virginia, Texas, and Mississippi, Kay Douglas and Timi Tullis presented a fun, engaging, and interactive look at mindfulness practices that can help people focus in times of stress, and how to model them in personal and professional life.

The presenters began with an explanation of what mindfulness is:

  • Directing our attention to our experience as it unfolds
  • Trains us to respond skillfully to whatever is happening, good or bad.
  • Improves our thought process, feelings, and concern for others
  • Helps us perform better, feel calmer, and less depressed

Virtual Leadership & Legislative Academy
Sunday, February 7, 2021
SESSION SUMMARY: Legislative Context & Process
Norm Wooten, Advocacy Director, AASB
During two concurrent presentations, AASB Advocacy Director Norm Wooten provided an overview of progress by the Senate and House in organizing their majorities and committees, as well as a review of key education-related bills that have been pre-filed by both bodies, and their current status within the legislative process.

Norm Wooten, Director of Advocacy, AASB
Following his overview of the legislature’s organization, AASB Advocacy Director Norm Wooten reviewed a number of key education-related bills that have been filed this session to provide attendees with a basic knowledge of legislation that may be considered this session.

He apologized for the lengthy list of bills, explaining that since the House has been unorganized, it is unclear at this time which bills will be taken up by the legislature.

SESSION SUMMARY: Telling Your Story
Norm Wooten, Director of Advocacy, AASB
This session brought together information imparted during Saturday’s communication-focused presentations, Sunday’s legislative content and bill review sessions, to assist attendees in crafting impactful presentations for their meetings with legislators.
During the week following the Leadership & Legislative Academy, AASB set up Zoom meetings between school boards and legislators. The meetings were organized so that all districts would have an opportunity to speak to the Senators and Representatives who represent them.

To prepare boards for these virtual meetings with legislators, Wooten guided board members through a series of effective advocacy techniques for conveying district successes and challenges. He suggested using the following guidelines for crafting a message:

Like Size District Forums & Coming Together
Lon Garrison and Jenni Lefing, AASB
Following the Telling Your Story presentation, board members and superintendents gathered in Like Size District Forums to discuss priorities and craft presentations in preparation for virtual legislative meetings AASB had arranged throughout the following week with each district's Senators and Representatives.

Boards were joined in the forum discussions by students attending AASB’s concurrent event, the Youth Leadership Institute (YAI). The students' priorities and opinions during the discussion were invaluable in helping to shape district legislative messaging.

When the Like Size District Forums concluded, attendees reconvened for a 'Coming Together' session facilitated by Lon Garrison and Jenni Lefing. Districts shared their discussion notes and a set of common priorities was crafted. These priorities were condensed into a set of 2021 Legislative Talking Points that formed the framework for district presentations to their legislators.

Legislative Meetings
Monday-Friday, February 8-12, 2021
Southeast Alaska school districts met with House Representatives Dan Ortiz and Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins to discuss their regional priorities.
Senate President Peter Micciche, listens to a presentation by Katie Oliver of Kodiak Island Borough School District. Other legislative offices in attendance were Sen. Gary Stevens, Rep. Louise Stutes, Rep. Ron Gilham.
Senator Donny Olson discusses issues he is working on, including improved Internet access, Power Cost Equalization, affordable teacher housing, and maintaining the BSA.
Representative Tiffany Zulkosky makes a point during a meeting with Western Alaska districts. She expressed interest in seeing small districts held harmless due to COVID-19. 
Rep. Harriet Drummond speaks with members of the Anchorage School Board during a Zoom meeting as part of the AASB Virtual Legislative Academy. Also in attendance at the meeting were Rep. Chris Tuck, and Kim Skipper, aide to Rep. David Nelson
Rural school districts listen to comments by Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky and Sen. Donny Olson. As boards advocated for improved internet access, among other priorities, many participants had to turn off their video cameras to preserve bandwidth in order to participate in the meeting.
SESSION SUMMARY: AASB Virtual Meetings Connect School Boards with Legislators
Norm Wooten, Advocacy Director, AASB
In the week following the academy, legislative meetings were arranged by AASB for school board members to meet with their legislators through Zoom. Legislators received invitations to meet with constituent school boards in a series of meetings held during the week of February 8 – 12. These meetings provided opportunities for board members across the state to connect with their Senators and Representatives to advocate for education priorities:

  • Adequate, reliable, and predictable public education funding.
  • Mental health and student safety - suicide, abuse and neglect.
  • Internet connectivity and broadband access - equitable access for distance delivery of instruction
  • Supporting literacy and early childhood education - reading proficiency and cultural responsiveness.
  • Support teacher retention and recruitment - including housing, wages, and retirement.

Additional issues boards discussed with legislators included Power Cost Equalization, rising health care costs, fewer ferry sailings increasing shipping costs, and bond debt reimbursement.

From all feedback these “pandemic advocacy meetings” were successful. The format was more of a conversation rather than a meeting and board members were able to interact with legislators over the course of an hour rather than the normal 15 to 20 minute meeting in legislative offices. Legislators were extremely busy and those who had scheduling conflicts were encouraged to send a legislative staff member to meet with board members, which a number of them did.

Listed below are the participation metrics from the meetings over the week. Of particular note is the participation of the Anchorage School District. Because of the large number of legislators within the boundaries of the district, they were split into four separate meetings.

10 - Number of meetings over the week
28 - Number of legislative offices participating
31 - Number of school districts participating
AASB Text Alert Service

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Are You Signed Up?
It's Fast. It's Easy. It's Important.
Youth Advocacy Institute
Saturday and Sunday, February 6-7
Tegan, a senior at Seward High School stated her support for HB 19, noting “The ability to speak multiple languages is a vital skill in our fast-growing, culturally diverse world. Being multilingual allows one to extend their reach across cultures and impact more people…”
“You were very thorough in how you laid out your advocacy plan, and the points that you made…” Liz “La Quen Náay” Medicine Crow gave feedback and insight to students on their testimony.
Session Summary: 2021 Virtual Youth Advocacy Institute
Tyler Breen, AASB Community Engagement Educator

With the twists and turns of this last school, it is more important than ever to have student voices and perspectives on the policies that impact their education. Students from across Alaska gathered virtually on February 6th and 7th for AASB’s annual Youth Advocacy Institute to look at policies and discuss the issues important to their communities. From Northwest Arctic Borough School District to Anchorage and Sitka to Unalaska, students engaged with senators, representatives, tribal government, and nonprofit leaders on a wide range of topics unique to their districts. Students discussed issues impacting them and their peers this year, mentioning key impacts from COVID.

Students voiced their concern for how academics are suffering and the ways in which school openings/closures create an unstable learning environment for them. That instability includes how access to a stable internet connection is hard in rural areas, making distance learning difficult to sustain. For both rural and urban students, focusing at home can be hard, and many said they feel disengaged. Students noted the impact on mental health, stating that supports are needed for students who are struggling with their workload and dealing with stress they are experiencing. Students sought out insight on policy approaches to addressing a wide range of issues, including:

1. Student emotional and mental health as impacted by COVID-19. 
  • Students’ social lives have been upended.
  • Access to caring adults in an academic setting is harder to find
  • The stress of everyday life in a pandemic has made it hard to go on with adapted school activities. 
2. Access to safe drinking water.
  • 31 Alaska Native communities across the state have no running water or sewage. In the face of COVID-19, communities without running water experience even higher health risks. Students were able to ask legislators about how policies can impact water access in their communities.  
3. Changes to the ferry system limits opportunities for students.
  • Students spoke to the necessity of the ferry system to bring much needed resources to isolated communities along with the difficulty presented with quarantines and increased risk of exposure to illness. 
4. Safe school climate for all students.
  • Inequalities show up (racism and other isms and microaggressions) and students cannot learn or feel safe enough to want to be at school.
  •  Increasing alcohol and substance use create a stressful school peer climate. 
5. Road being built and impacts on subsistence and hunting. 
  • Students from the Northwest Arctic Borough brought up the proposed Cape Blossom Road project and the impacts it may have on their hunting grounds. As a source of both much needed subsistence hunting and the ecosystem that supports a way of life, the hunting grounds represent a deeply important part of their community. 

Students brought forward thoughtful discussion questions to legislators Senators Shelley Hughes, Josh Revak, and Jesse Kiehl, as well as Representatives Geran Tarr, Andi Story, Harriet Drummond, and Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins during a luncheon panel and discussion.  

High School Seniors

Apply Now for the
June Nelson Scholarship!
The Association of Alaska School Boards is proud to announce its 30th Annual Scholarship Award Competition!
This 2020-2021 school year, AASB will award fifteen graduating seniors each with a $1,500 scholarship to apply toward their post-secondary education. The scholarship may be applied toward the student's choice of a business, trade or a college institution.

We at AASB completely understand the situation many students find themselves in with districts ability to administer the ACT and SAT impeded, given the current circumstances. For this this year’s 2021 scholarship, submitting your ACT or SAT scores will be optional. If you have any questions, or difficulty in submitting your application, please call (907) 463-1660 or email aasb@aasb.org.
Monday, March 8, 2021 at 11:59 pm
Save up to 50% when you register your district as a team. If budget constraints have limited the number of attendees from your school district in previous years, take advantage of bringing your entire board, superintendent, business official, and other members of your team for the cost of one person attending an in-person meeting.
In addition to significant savings, get relevant, valuable content for you and every member of your team at the NSBA 2021 Online Experience on April 8-10. Other benefits include:
  • Increased exposure to multiple sessions.
  • More new ideas, strategies, and best practices to implement right away.
  • Different perspectives from your colleagues who are dealing with similar challenges.
  • Expanded online networking opportunities.
NSBA 2021 continues to bring you speakers to inspire and impact both your work and career. As part of NSBA’s dedication to ensuring that all students receive the resources and support they need to succeed, we are excited to announce the NSBA 2021 Online Experience Signature Speakers hosted by NSBA Equity Councils.
Youth Leadership Forum slated
Bristol Bay Times
The virtual Bristol Bay Youth Leadership Forum is scheduled for March 23-25, 2021. Students in grades 9-12 from Southwest Region School District, Lake and Peninsula School District, Bristol Bay Borough School District and Dillingham City School District are invited to apply.
Students attending the virtual forum will have the opportunity to participate in cultural activities, learn critical work-readiness and leadership skills, and take part in presentations and dialogues focused on community initiatives, current issues impacting Native communities, and college and vocational career opportunities.

Student applications are due February 26. Here is the cover letter with more information, an application to download and submit by fax or email, and an online student application form: http://bit.ly/virtualBBYLFapp.

2021 Alaska STEAM Conference


October 22-24
Plans are underway for an inspiring and instructional conference in Juneau, Alaska. Already there are several keynote and featured speakers confirmed, including Gerry Brooks, a well-known internet speaker. There will be two days of presenter sessions, then activities for networking on Sunday. Juneau School District welcomes early arriving participants to join their in-service on Thursday. Consider presenting good work to your colleagues from across the state as well! More information to follow. copy here.

COVID-19 Vaccines and the Workplace
Lea Filippi of Sedor, Wendlandt, Evans & Filippi, LLC 
Part six of the series, Ripped from the Headlines

Many are rejoicing this month as Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services has been able to extend eligibility for receiving COVID vaccines to a tier that includes educators and school support staff.

The pandemic continues, however, with high rates of community transmission in many regions of the state. It is important to be realistic about the scope of the role that vaccines can play as districts continue the on-going process of planning for safely educating students.

Lea Filippi
Remedies for abuse of authority by the chair during a meeting
Ann Macfarlane, Professional Parliamentarian
Abuse of authority by the chair can be challenging. If the chair at a meeting acts improperly (for example, fails to recognize a member entitled to the floor, or ignores a motion properly made and seconded that is not dilatory, and neither states the question on the motion nor rules it out of order), a Point of Order may be raised, and from the chair’s decision an Appeal may be taken.

ASK AASB: Is Board approval needed for staff changes made by the superintendent?
Q: If the superintendent transfers or changes a staff member to a new position, such as from Principal to Assistant Superintendent, Assistant Principal to Principal, or counselor to Principal, does it need to go before the board for approval?
A: Recommended BP 4213 reads as follows:

"Classified employees shall be assigned by their immediate supervisors with the approval of the Superintendent or designee….A regular employee who has been reassigned or transferred to a promotional position will be expected to serve a transitional probationary period in the new position for purposes of supervision and evaluation of job performance. The new probationary status will not affect the employee's benefits.”

Nowhere in policy does it say the board must approve transfers.

Lastly as a reminder, the board has one employee, the superintendent. The board doesn’t have a say in staffing issues. While it is good practice for the superintendent to keep the board informed, it is the superintendents decision.
Read more answers to frequently asked questions at ASK AASB
Got a question? Email Timi Tullis or Tiffany Jackson.
The beach can be fascinating at low-tide, but even your backyard or front stoop can offer new things for little ones to check out. What are some of your favorite outdoor spots to explore?

#parentingtips #rainorshinelearningallthetime

State & National News
Please Note - Some news outlets may require registration or a paid subscription for link access. Others may grant free access to a limited number of articles before requiring a paid subscription.
Service High principal Frank Hauser named to lead Sitka School District
Robert Woolsey, KCAW
Frank Hauser has been named as the next superintendent of the Sitka School District. Hauser is currently the principal of Service High School in Anchorage.

The Sitka School Board met in executive session on Saturday morning, February 20, to pick from three remaining finalists. Although there was never any in-person interaction due to the pandemic, the candidates each appeared in four online public forums with district staff, the community, the Sitka Tribe, and finally, last Friday (2-19-21) in their job interviews with the board.

Frank Hauser speaking to the Sitka School board during his job interview on February 19. Hauser was selected in part because of his “experience and willingness to be culturally responsive,” said Sitka School Board president Amy Morrison. Photo: SSD screen capture
Wrangell Schools announces four finalists for superintendent job
Sage Smiley, KSTK
Wrangell’s school board is looking at four candidates for the district’s top job. That’s to replace current superintendent Debbe Lancaster, who is leaving at the end of the school year.

The four candidates are the result of a nationwide search that began late last year. The district approved an $11,000 contract last November with the Association of Alaska School Boards to assist with the recruitment effort.

Church St. in Wrangell, 2021.
Photo: Sage Smiley
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy tests positive for COVID-19
Alaska Public Media Staff
Alaska GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy has tested positive for COVID-19 and is suffering from “mild symptoms,” his office said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

On Saturday, Dunleavy, 59, was exposed to a person who later tested positive for the virus, according to a statement from the governor’s office. He received a rapid test on Sunday, which came back negative, but has been quarantining at home since then nonetheless.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy
Photo: Office of the Governor
New State and Federal Guidelines for Suggested School Reopening
Updated information has been released by the State of Alaska, Section of Epidemiology offering guidance on COVID-19 testing, vaccination, quarantine periods, sequencing and variant detection, and more.

Additionally, two documents from federal agencies are now available, offering suggested school reopening guidance.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its science-based recommendations on reopening schools. This update is a data-driven effort to expand on old recommendations and advise school leaders on how to "layer" the most effective safety precautions: masking, physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory etiquette, ventilation and building cleaning, and contact tracing. 

The U.S. Department of Education released its ED COVID-19 Handbook to support the education community with implementation guidance, strategies, and considerations to help reopen schools safely. 

State widens COVID-19 vaccine eligibility, bumping up all teachers and others including at-risk Alaskans over 50
Annie Berman, Morgan Krakow, Zaz Hollander, Anchorage Daily News
Alaska health officials on Wednesday announced a dramatic shift in groups eligible for scarce COVID-19 vaccine after interest from seniors waned, leaving hundreds of appointments for February still open statewide.

Teachers and child care staff of all ages will become eligible for the vaccine beginning Thursday, according to a statement from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
East High School nurse Siobhan Finnegan draws Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from a vial during a public vaccination in the Anchorage School District Education Center.
Photo: Bill Roth
Also eligible: Alaskans 50 and older with at least one high-risk medical condition; certain front-line essential workers 50 and older who work near others; people living or working in shelters, prisons, and other congregate settings; and ‘pandemic response staff’ who may come into contact with the coronavirus through their work.

The Rural Alaskan Towns Leading the Country in Vaccine Distribution
Caroline Lester, The New Yorker
Towns across rural Alaska are beating the rest of the country in vaccine distribution.

In Manhattan, about seven per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated, and in L.A. County, the number is just under ten per cent. These states have been plagued by rollout mismanagement, overloaded Web sites, and supply-chain problems.

In Kotzebue, Alaska, where tribal health organizations are in charge of distributing the vaccine, herd immunity is on the horizon.
Photo: Jonathan Newton
Free mental health counseling services available to youth
Maria Dudzak, KRBD, Ketchikan
Free youth counseling is available through a partnership between WISH, Ketchikan Indian Community, and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District.

Phone: 907-228-4327 (Arika Paquette)

Rural Alaska Natives Hope Elon Musk’s Starlink Internet Service Can Level Playing Field
Jenna Kunze, Native News Online
SpaceX Starlink, an upcoming satellite-beaming internet service, has begun its testing to offer high-speed internet to remote tribal areas in the U.S. where broadband is notoriously spotty, throttled and expensive.

Since 2019, business magnate and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has sought approval from the Federal Communications Commission to launch more than 1,000 satellites into orbit in an effort to achieve global internet connectivity.
Official SpaceX Photo, Wikimedia Commons
In early January, the FCC approved the launch of an additional 10 satellites to travel into polar orbit, covering Alaskan communities along the Arctic Circle for the first time ever. Those satellites took off on Jan. 24.

Internet access in rural Alaska is notoriously expensive, making the prospect of Starlink in remote Alaskan villages and cities all the more intriguing for the people who live there. Residents say it would improve online education and services like telehealth,

The 10 US school systems that cover the most land are in Alaska
American School & University
The largest U.S. school district, in terms of student numbers, is New York City.
But there are other ways to rank the size of school districts.

The largest school districts in terms of land area are in Alaska. That’s not surprising because it is the largest state—more than twice the size of the next largest state—Texas.
This Interactive map illustrates the boundaries of Alaska's school districts.
According to the Proximity One website, all ten of the largest school districts by land area are in Alaska,

Ten largest U.S. school districts by land area:

North Slope Borough
Yukon Koyukuk
Yukon Flats
Iditarod Area
Northwest Arctic Borough
Matanuska-Susitna Borough
Lake and Peninsula Borough
Copper River
Bering Strait
Lower Kuskokwim
Land Area (in square miles)

Molly of Denali education project teaches the world about Alaska's forests
Kris Capps, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Molly of Denali learned about the boreal forest in the Denali National Park area Saturday.

She will share those lessons with children all over Alaska, thanks to Alaska Project Learning Tree.

Molly of Denali and Molly Gillespie of Alaska Project learning Tree dance to the Molly of Denali theme song. Photo: Kris Capps
Mystery of 60-year-old Alaska tourist photos is solved
Francesca Street, CNN
In 2008, Jennifer Skupin bought some slides at an Amsterdam flea market. They appeared to be taken in Alaska, decades ago. Now, after an international effort, several of the individuals behind the photos have come forward.

Courtesy of Jennifer Skupin
Supporters of a tax on vaping want to make it cost-prohibitive for teens
Amanda Bohman, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
The state doesn’t tax vaping products but a bill in the Legislature aims to change that, adding the 75% excise tax on tobacco products to electronic cigarettes and boosting state revenues by $1 million for the first year, and $2.7 million by 2027.

An e-cigarette is used.
Photo: lindsayfox/pixabay
Applications rising for University of Alaska, a sign of confidence in state’s university
Tim Bradner, Anchorage Press
For UAA, applications for admission to degree programs are up 14.8 percent compared with a year ago (which would be before the COVID-19 pandemic).

Applications at University of Alaska Fairbanks are up 6.9 percent. Applications at University of Alaska Southeast are down 2.4 percent, but university-wide, the applications to degree programs at is up 10.2 percent for spring semester compared with the same time last year.

University of Alaska Anchorage campus.
Alaska School District News
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Mayowa Aina, Alaska Public Media

Teachers across the state became eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines Thursday. Many jumped at the chance to grab an appointment.“Excited, relieved. Definitely felt like I won the lottery,” said Elizabeth Dick, a high school German teacher in the Anchorage School District.
Mayowa Aina, Alaska Public Media

There have been several classroom closures since Anchorage students began phasing back to in-person learning two weeks ago. Eight classrooms are currently closed due to a combination of positive COVID-19 cases and staff shortages, administrators said at a school board meeting this week. Two others were closed, but have since reopened.
Zachary Snowdon Smith, The Cordova Times

The city of Cordova raised its public health alert level after 10 new novel coronavirus cases were reported. Classes at Mt. Eccles Elementary School and Cordova Jr./Sr. High School were canceled after five students tested positive for the virus.
Isabelle Ross, KDLG

After two months of distance learning, Dillingham’s classrooms re-opened for a short couple weeks before switching back to remote instruction. Kindergartners shared their thoughts on being back in school during this brief window of normalcy.
Amanda Bohman, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

The teachers union continued negotiating with the school district as it seeks to raise working conditions for its members, many who believe it’s unsafe to teach in-person classes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alena Naiden, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Students will be able to get a rapid COVID-19 test at 18 Fairbanks schools in starting in March. The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District received rapid molecular tests from the state, and school nurses will be able to administer the tests to students showing COVID-19 symptoms during the school day.
Michael S. Lockett, Juneau Empire

Two people in the Juneau School District have tested positive for COVID-19, prompting quarantining and testing of exposed groups, including boys on the high school basketball teams, City and Borough of Juneau announced.
One person at Auke Bay Elementary and one person at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé have confirmed cases.
KINY, Juneau

The Juneau School District has a project on the Governor's top 25 projects to be funded via the capital budget he has proposed to the Legislature. School Board President Elizabeth Siddon said on Action Line that the repair needed to the roof of Sayeik Gastineau Elementary is on the list.
Ashlyn O’Hara, Peninsula Clarion

Linnaea Gossard was learning remotely before it was cool. A senior at Cooper Landing School’s one-room schoolhouse, Gossard has taken 24 live/synchronous classes at eight different Kenai Peninsula Borough School District institutions over the last six years and will become Cooper Landing School’s first high school graduate in May.
Ashlyn O’Hara, Peninsula Clarion

After the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced Wednesday that pre-K through 12th grade teachers would become eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District said they would offer vaccine clinics specifically for district staff.
Eric Stone, KRBD

Ketchikan superintendent of schools Beth Lougee has been medevaced to the Lower 48 as she battles complications from COVID-19. The district’s business manager, Katie Parrott, said that Lougee was “doing well” and that she’ll be acting in Lougee’s place until further notice.
Amanda Bohman, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

A letter from the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District Board of Education to state leaders said education workers there have diligently offered in-person classes for the last 100 days and should get priority for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Eric Stone, KRBD

Ketchikan’s school board is set to consider whether to extend its partial closure of secondary schools. Most Ketchikan middle and high school students have been learning in a combination of in-class and virtual settings since early this month.
Andrew Kenneson, Kodiak Daily Mirror

It’s not final yet, but the Kodiak Island Borough School District will likely ask for just over $11 million in funding from the Kodiak Island Borough for next year’s budget. That’s $1.7 million more than the borough gave the schools last year.
Andrew Kenneson, Kodiak Daily Mirror

Kodiak Island Borough School District Board of Education will add two sentences to the opening of its meetings to acknowledge that they are on land that once belonged to the Alutiiq people.
Greg Kim, KYUK

Two school districts in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta are reopening schools in some of their communities. Students in several villages in the Kuspuk School District are back in class, and the Lower Yukon School District is allowing any communities that have not had COVID-19 cases for the past two weeks to reopen.
Zaz Hollander, Anchorage Daily News

Five Mat-Su schools closed to in-person learning amid reports of numerous COVID-19 cases. Colony middle and high schools shifted to online learning. Pioneer Peak Elementary is also conducting online learning only. School district officials said that COVID-19 cases at two more schools — Wasilla High School and Career Tech High School — prompted them to order early releases at both. It wasn’t immediately clear how long those buildings would be closed to students.
Tess Williams, Anchorage Daily News

former Bethel elementary school principal pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal charge of attempted coercion of a minor for his attempts to exchange sexually explicit messages with an underage girl.
Associated Press

Some parents in the Bethel region of Southwest Alaska have called for a return to classrooms after a high failure rate among students while school buildings were closed by the coronavirus pandemic.The Lower Kuskokwim School District made public a report showing high school students failed 59% of their classes during the first semester, KYUK-AM reported. Students did not submit enough work to receive grades in 36% to 52% of kindergarten through eighth-grade classes, the report said.
Greg Kim, KYUK

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation supports a return to in-person learning for all elementary students whose schools meet certain COVID-19 mitigation measures. YKHC updated its recommendations for reopening schools in response to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidance for schools.
Joe Viechnicki, KFSK

Petersburg health officials Monday upgraded the community’s risk level to red status and local schools are switching to online learning with COVID-19 spreading in the community. As of February 22, Petersburg reported 16 active cases, the highest amount the community has seen since the start of the pandemic.
Angela Denning, KFSK

Petersburg School District will open a preschool this fall. It will be the only pre-K school run by the school district and will focus on special education students but other students will be able to enroll as well.
Katherine Rose, KCAW

Canada’s extension of its ban on large cruise ships until 2022 will have a big impact on communities in Southeast Alaska — and could directly affect schools. When the Sitka Assembly and the school board met last week to discuss next year’s school district budget, the news from Canada cast considerable uncertainty over how much funding would be available.
Robert Woolsey, KCAW

The Sitka School Board is not backing away from its decision to ask the Sitka Tribe of Alaska to help rename Baranof Elementary School, despite some public opposition. Board members last week (2-3-21) decided to stick with their original plan of identifying a “significant local cultural educator” to name the school for, rather than bow to public pressure that struck some board members as racist.
Maggie Nelson, KUCB

Eight teachers, the Unalaska High School registrar, and Eagle's View Elementary Achigaalux̂ Principal Chad Eichenlaub have all submitted letters of resignation, according to Superintendent John Conwell. Meanwhile, the Unalaska school board announced that it had unanimously chosen Dr. Robbie Swint Jr. for the new superintendent position.
Maggie Nelson, KUCB

It's been nearly a year since Gov. Dunleavy closed public schools to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus pandemic last spring. Since then, the Unalaska City School District has been bouncing back and forth between three different types of learning: home-based, in-person, and a combination of the two. And that 11-month juggling act has taken a toll on many of the island's teachers, parents, and students.
Alaska School Sports News
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Jeremiah Bartz, Frontiersman

Alaska Schools Activities Association has adopted a mask mandate for the upcoming state basketball tournaments. “This action requires all of those in attendance for an indoor state tournament to wear a mask at all times. This includes all athletes, even while engaged in actual competition,” ASAA executive director Billy Strickland said in a statement.
Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News

Alaska’s state high school basketball tournaments will be held in the Valley instead of Anchorage, the Alaska School Activities Association said Thursday.
Associated Press

School officials in Alaska have implemented a new policy requiring masks at sporting events last week in response to coronavirus outbreaks at a half-dozen Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District schools. Three large high schools in the district — Colony, Palmer, Wasilla — are among five facilities currently closed because of the outbreaks.
Sophia Desalvo, KNOM

In a meeting last week, the School Board for the Bering Strait School District (BSSD) approved a plan for basketball teams to travel between villages that are in the “GREEN” zone. It is optional for students to remove their mask when actually playing on the court, but they must still wear a mask when sitting on the bench.
Eric Engman, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Some gyms at public schools are opening to youth sports organizations, including the Eclipse Soccer Club and Interior Youth Basketball. The Fairbanks North Star Borough Board of Education voted 5-2 on Tuesday
Matt Nevala, Anchorage Daily News

Near the conclusion of last season, members of the Homer High hockey team admitted an eagerness to get home because a championship trophy awaited them.
Derek Clarkson, Kodiak Daily Mirror

A longtime Kodiak youth sports coach is facing charges of sexual abuse of a minor, according to court documents.
Nathan S. Benton, 46, is charged with four counts of sexual abuse of a minor — two Class B felonies and two Class C felonies — stemming from an alleged incident in 2020.
Derek Clarkson, Kodiak Daily Mirror

The path to the state football playoffs just got more challenging for Kodiak. Division I members Chugiak and Wasilla will be dropping to Division II, a move that Alaska School Activities Association’s board passed at their January meeting.
Casey Grove, Alaska Public Media

Several Matanuska-Susitna Borough schools remain closed this week amid an increase in COVID-19 infections, which the school district attributes mostly to student athletes going maskless while playing indoor sports.
Sophia Desalvo, KNOM

In a series of basketball games held at Nome-Beltz High School this past weekend, the Lady Nanooks, JV Boys, and Varsity Boys all came away with wins against their opponents.
Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News

The University of Alaska’s Board of Regents will decide the fate of UAA hockey and gymnastics in a few days, and before they do they’ll consider a plan that would keep the hockey team idle for one more season while extending the fundraising deadline for each program.
AASB Workshops for You and Your Board
AASB now offers condensed, distance-delivered versions of our popular workshops and training sessions. Member districts receive a special rate for AASB sessions: $600 includes preparation, up to 3 hours of training, and a post-training report.
  • Board/Superintendent Relations
  • How to run Effective Meetings
  • Board Self Evaluations (with a resulting board improvement plan)
  • Parliamentary Procedures
  • Board’s Quasi-Judicial Role
  • Using Your District’s Data for Planning
  • Data for School Boards
  • School Budget & Finance
  • Family Engagement
  • Youth Engagement
  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Policy
  • Facilitated Superintendent Evaluation
  • Advisory School Committees
  • Charter Schools
  • Communications with your board
  • Labor Relations
  • Ethics
  • School Climate: What does School Climate & Connectedness look like now?
  • Trauma-Engaged Schools
  • Specialized facilitation:
  • Focus on particular issues
  • Choice of program
  • Scheduling to meet the needs of your board members and administrators
  • Team building
We can also provide customized solutions based on your needs. 
Please reach out to us.

- More Information -

Email Timi Tullis or call 907-463-1660
AASB Superintendent Search Service
Looking for a New Superintendent?

The Association of Alaska School Boards has been conducting successful and economical superintendent searches for over twenty years.
Our Superintendent Search Service provides expert facilitation of the entire search process, including identifying the needs of the district, recruiting candidates, conducting background searches, facilitating interviews, and all the steps to help with the hiring process. Learn about our Search Service

If you would like AASB to conduct a superintendent search for your district, or have questions, Contact Us

Your school district is a vital member of the Association of Alaska School Boards, our state’s leading advocate for public education. Together, we work to ensure equity by strengthening the connections between schools, families, tribes, communities, and government so that every Alaskan child has the opportunity to receive a quality public education.

The many services AASB offers are designed to provide maximum benefit to our members in meeting their district's goals. Check out our Membership Benefits brochure and let us know how we can assist you!

Association of Alaska School Boards | aasb.org