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.
Norm Wooten
AASB Executive Director
AASB Is Here For You
Until just a few months ago, few had ever heard of Coronavirus (COVID-19) until we began to hear news stories out of Wuhan, China. As the death toll began to rise and confirmed cases began to show up Europe, we started to take notice. And then it rapidly spread across the United States. We knew it was only a matter of time before it would reach Alaska.
Thankfully the Alaska state government began to ramp up and put contingency plans into place, so when the first confirmed cases appeared in our state, we were prepared to respond.

Alaska is determined to stop the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) before it reaches the level experienced in the lower 48. Governor Dunleavy enacted health mandates that just months ago would have seemed draconian, but Alaskans are a special people who care about each other. So we took those mandates to heart and began to practice all the simple things we might do – hand washing, self-isolation, increased disinfecting, and paying attention to the advice of our medical experts.  

Then, the thing happened that most of us couldn’t imagine. I have been involved in education as a school board member on the local, state, and national levels and an employee of AASB for the last 36 years. I had never dreamed that our schools would close. But this didn’t faze Alaska’s educational leaders. I get emotional as I observe our “education machine” continuing daily to serve students in the face of the pandemic.  

My new heroes are DEED, school board members, superintendents, principals, central office staff, teachers, paraprofessionals, and support staff. After the initial disbelief over the school closure, they all sprang into action. They began to derive answers to the great question, “How can we continue to serve Alaska’s students during this crisis?” They knew all the challenges – isolation, travel restrictions, lack of adequate broadband, supply chain slowdowns, communication difficulties, and a myriad of others. And yes, there was fear of this silent pandemic. But they have remained focused on the job at hand and are serving students.  

I want to assure you that AASB, as with all our other organizational partners, is continuing to serve our membership. We are complying with all the health mandates, and our staff is teleworking. You can still contact us for assistance at the usual phone numbers and through email. We are still responding to your questions. We are posting resources on our website ( See Below ) . The Session and Commentary are still providing information. We continue to advocate with the legislature – although at a distance. Our superintendent searches are progressing. We are holding webinars on relevant topics of importance to you in the new world in which we find ourselves. 

In short, we are creating new ways to ensure the needs of school districts are met. The teams within AASB—board governance, Alaska ICE, and administrative—are all continuing to serve our members every day, even though they are not in the office.  
AASB’s board of directors is holding its spring board meeting through Zoom. The board takes its governance role seriously and understands the need to move forward.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to AASB – We are here for you!


Leadership In the Time of Coronavirus
By Timi Tullis and Lon Garrison

Based on an article from the Texas Association of School Boards

With the uncertainty surrounding the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the public is looking to their school district leadership teams to provide a unified message to employees, parents, and the general public.
Your board and superintendent have crucial and unique roles to play as this unprecedented event unfolds. With the situation changing daily, best practices are as important as ever. Here’s what school board members can do to serve their district best.

A Message to Board Members and Teachers
from DEED Commissioner Michael Johnson
To Board Members

School boards are champions for our kids and schools, and we are not giving up. Please share all the stories you can with the department, as those are what keeps us positive and moving forward.
Commissioner Johnson
There is quality instruction happening and you as school board members must be spokespersons, telling your community what we can and ARE doing for our kids. This is the time to be advocates and cheerleaders for everything positive that is happening in your district. 

Secondly, be sure to check in with your superintendents, as they are really working hard right now on behalf of all students. Be a cheerleader for them. We as a state don’t want a lesser experience for our kids, and though it might seem like an impossible task, we are staring this thing down and we will make it! 

Lastly, I encourage us all to get outside with our students, BUT keep a 6’ distance between each other! We need to keep reminding everyone of that over and over!
To Teachers

In just a few short days, life has changed dramatically. That’s true for each of us, personally and professionally. What has not changed is the need for you, Alaska’s teachers.

Teaching is not about a location. It is about relationships. Teaching is defined by the actions we take to ensure students are learning and growing. It's not about the rooms or buildings within which we take those actions.

As we navigate the uncertainty before us, remember who you are, and what you do. You are a teacher. You teach, and when you teach students, wherever they are and from wherever you are, our fellow Alaskans will be reassured. They will see that education and opportunities for our students to learn will not stop.

Even in this shift to a very different world than the one we knew just a few short weeks ago, to your students you are still their teacher. You will always be their teacher. Alaska students are counting on you. Thank you for your tireless efforts to re-imagine teaching and learning during this time.

Coronavirus Information and Resources

AASB staff have compiled a variety of useful resources and best practices on the Coronavirus Resources for Districts page to assist boards, educators, and families in confronting the daily challenges we're currently facing.
Please explore this compilation to find parent and teacher tools and materials for engaging young learners at home, get useful tips for online meetings and instruction, learn about free internet offers, stay informed on the latest COVID-19 developments in Alaska, the United States, and globally, and much more.
Help slow the spread of COVID-19 in Alaska by following social distancing protocols and quarantining at home. These protective measures help to "flatten the curve" and keep from overwhelming the medical system's capacity.
Resources have been grouped under the following heading descriptions:
Get the Latest COVID-19 Public Health Updates
Click on the logos below to get updates from state and national public health organizations and government agencies. These pages are maintained and updated daily by the organizations listed.
Alaska Public Health Mandates

COVID-19 infections are continuing to expand in communities across the state. In an effort to protect the health of Alaskans by slowing the spread of the virus and preventing our health care system from becoming overwhelmed, a series of mandates have been issued by the Governor and the Department of Health and Social Services.

Two recent mandates issued restrict intrastate travel and require remaining at your residence. To understand why it is critically important for Alaskans to follow these mandates, please read this Mandate Fact Sheet. See a list of all mandates here.
Interactive Map: COVID-19 Spread and State Precaution Levels
This interactive map was developed by Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins and a team of engineers and designers to inform policymakers nationwide and frame the decisions political leaders must make to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Resources for Parents and Educators with Students at Home
From coloring pages to college courses, educational tools, materials, activities, and virtual field trips, you'll find plenty of ideas and resources here to support teachers, parents, and caregivers looking for ways to deliver instruction and daily activities that are educational, creative and entertaining for students learning remotely at home.
There are also numerous companies listed that are offering their platforms and materials for free. This list is being updated frequently. Check back to see what’s new.

Virtual Meetings and Instruction
Holding Meetings Remotely
In this board-focused webinar, Lon Garrison and Timi Tullis provide an overview of what board members need to know about holding meetings remotely.

Tips for government bodies meeting remotely
Ann Macfarlane, Professional Parliamentarian

You’re all set to launch your first totally remote meeting. How are you going to make it a win? This article offers guidelines, tools and tips to conduct a remote school board meeting with success.

Internet Service Providers
Click on the links below to review special offers from Alaska Internet Service Providers to help get students and households new or upgraded service for the remainder of the school year.

  • ACS - Free internet for new customers until the end of the school year.
  • ASTAC - Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative Relief Credit – Free internet usage for the month of April.
  • GCI - Free Internet through May 31 – for Households Without GCI Internet and Current Customers
  • KPU - Telecommunications in Ketchikan – increase residential fiber customers speeds, no overages on any internet plan for residential or business.
  • MTA - Matanuska Telephone Association eLearning Enablement – Free temporary upgraded service.
  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – Any federally recognized Tribe or Alaska Native Village may apply for a 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Window.

Alaska Coronavirus Newsfeed
A summary of statewide Alaska media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

Updated daily.

Additional Public Health Information
Links to key resource pages of state, national, and global public health organizations:

These resources are updated as new information becomes available.

Education Partners
COVID-19 information updates and resources from some of our education partners:

District Response to School Closures
With school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, school boards across Alaska are rapidly developing effective ways of delivering instruction and support to home-bound students. Here's how some districts are responding.
Alaska Gateway School District
AGSD schools have implemented meal delivery for families who have requested it, and Grab and Go for easy pick up of meals and school packets every day from each child's school.

The district produced an informational video to instruct parents on Grab and Go procedures.

Anchorage School District
Starr Marsett, School Board President
Our first task was to call every students family or email with a survey. Do you have internet access, a laptop or PC, or a phone with internet? Is daycare an issue?
To date I believe we have made contact with all students and families. Our priority is our graduating seniors to ensure that they do graduate for those who still need credits. ASD is providing Chrome Books to students who need them and making sure that internet access is available. We should have plans out this week to getting other students online.

Chugach School District
Mike Hanley, Superintendent

Delivering learning packets and breakfasts to our kids. The following day when delivering, we pick up the previous day's work. We are also doing video lessons, using google classroom, and providing online curriculum to students.

Fairbanks Northstar Borough School District
The district has launched an interactive map that shows meal distribution sites. The map lets users to search for a location in their area at which parents and students can pick up school breakfasts and lunches.

Juneau School District
Dawn Pisel-Davis, Principal
Riverbend Elementary School
Here is what families can count on from us:
  • Communication on DOJO, both the school story and your classroom story.
  • Older students will use Google Classroom.
  • We are preparing activity bags for each student. The bags have workbooks, art materials, books, and other items.
  • We are launching a RB YouTube channel that will have teachers reading, singing, demonstrating math or science, and other exciting videos.
  • Will continue to use the online sites kids are familiar with: IXL, reading eggs, math seeds, etc.
  • We will be mailing each student a letter and including a stamp, addressed postcard that the student can use to write back to their teacher.
  • Teachers will be calling their students once a week chat. You are also welcome to check in with the teacher.

Kodiak Island Borough School District
As the coronavirus pandemic exposes vulnerable Kodiak families to joblessness, poverty and food insecurity. the district has launched a meal delivery program to ensure that students ages 1-18 have access to breakfasts and lunches.
Lake & Peninsula School District
Shannon Johnson-Nanalook, School Board
Homeschooling program and breakfast and lunch provided. Teacher phone and texting available every day.

Northwest Arctic Borough School District
Terri Walker, Superintendent
Since the majority of families don't have internet, teachers are preparing two week learning packets. Students come to the school at lunch time to pick up their sack lunch and learning packet.
D epending on site locations, learning materials for younger students will vary. Packets for elementary schools, audio conference lines for students to call into, using the VHF, etc. High school students will use the Canvas platform to upload assignments and download materials. Not all classrooms or high school teachers have used Canvas previously, but we’re going to work in that direction since students have one-to-one laptops in high school. The district is partnering with GCI and Alaska Communications to get internet access to students who don't have it.

Scammon Bay teachers made a video for students about how much they are missed.

Petersburg School District
Sarah Holmgrain, School Board

Breakfast and lunch are served to every child ages one through 18. So we’re also serving kids that aren’t old enough for school. We are utilizing our school buses to deliver prepackaged meals and handed out by staff that will be properly covered for their own protection but to deliver both lunch for the day and breakfast for the following morning. Deliveries are at specific times and cover the bus routes and more.

Skagway School District
Heather Rodig and Jaime Bricker, School Board
Most teachers have a Google classroom they use during regular instruction, so that has been a huge help.
Teachers have gotten creative with email check-ins & videos sent via the Remind app. Students have been asked to respond to a survey on what is working and what is not for their learning environment.

Additionally, there is a curbside pick up system in place for picking up anything that cannot be delivered electronically. As COVID-19 events change daily, our district is getting information out to the parents and adjusting as necessary. Parent support has been another huge part of the success.

Our superintendent has pushed out information to board and staff as soon as it becomes available. Staff worked diligently to prepare "home schooling" packets for every student. Parents were allowed to pick up items via curbside service at the school. All of last week, teachers engaged with students and parents via e-mail, text, Google Docs, classroom videos and chats, even some social media.

We are incredibly lucky and in many ways unique because we are such a small school and this process was easier to facilitate then it would be in a large school. I'm grateful for our district, board, superintendent, staff, teachers, parents and students for powering through this. I'm a parent and not the best teacher for my kids, but they provided the tools I need to support my kids' education and they've made themselves available to help.

The Code Must Go On!
Cheryl Bobo, Program Manager, Alaska Code.org
Interior Alaska middle school and high school  teachers found themselves unable to meet for their final followup workshop due to COVID-19 school closures. They had completed the first five days of their training in Fairbanks last summer. Code.org Computer Science Discoveries Facilitators Brian Meade of Mat-Su and Teresa Hintze of Anchorage decided to take their class online.
Code.org Circuit Playground Kits being readied for shipment to school districts.
I packaged up the needed Circuit Playground Kits and began shipping them to the cohort that still needed their last workshop to complete their course. They will prepare the teachers for the Code.org Discoveries course that teaches how to use the circuit boards with sensors to teach programming. Students will write their own APPs using the boards and sensors.

The Circuit Playground is family of small microcontroller boards with LEDs, buttons, and sensors built in. Designed specifically for novice programmers, the Circuit Playground enables students to get up and running quickly with physical computing, without worrying about many of the traditional barriers to entry. Developed by our friends at Adafruit, the Circuit Playground is the core tool used in CS Discoveries Unit 6, Physical Computing.

The teachers teaching from home this semester are from Alaska Gateway in Tok, Denali, Delta Junction, Fairbanks and North Pole. Thanks to ASDN for supporting Computer science PD opportunities for all K-12 Alaska educators. Contact cbobo@alaskaacsa.org for info about CS training for next summer.
How is your district supporting students at home?

We at AASB would love to get your input about methods and strategies that are working well for your schools. We'll compile and share your helpful tips across the state.
Please take a few moments to add your thoughts to our brief survey, describing how your district is providing remote instruction and support to your students.
Your strategies may be just the thing a board member, educator, or parent somewhere in the state could use right now. We'll help get the word out by collecting your responses and sharing them through AASB's communication channels. Thanks!
STEPS Spotlight
Articles in this section are excerpted from the AASB STEPS Alaska Promise Neighborhood Newsletter that focuses on the work in progress among the Supporting Transitions and Educational Promise Southeast Alaska (STEPS Alaska) grant regional partners, who are striving to improve outcomes for Southeast Alaska’s youth.
Supporting Alaskan Families through COVID-19
Like many families across Alaska and the country, we at AASB are following the guidance of public health officials and are staying at home to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

For those of us who are able to work from home, this sudden transition to remote work and disruption to our daily routines is a time of uncertainty. However, we as Alaskans are all in this together, and we want to share resources and best practices to help educators and families get through these challenging times.
This 11th-grade student, like millions of students around the world, is taking distance-learning courses from home. Credit: UNICEF/Yuyuan Ma
Staying at home does not mean that your professional development, work meetings, or teaching needs to stop, but it may require some new technology and adjustments in delivery style. AASB has compiled a list of resources to help school districts, educators, and parents navigate the Coronavirus while keeping kids engaged and learning.
Learning from a Distance

Here are a few of our favorite tools, with even more available on AASB’s website .
How To Facilitate Effective Virtual Meetings

Beth Kanter, author of "The Network Nonprofit," is a nonprofit consultant who has been working remotely and facilitating virtual meetings since the 1990's. In this article (linked below), she shares her wisdom and best practices that she has learned from her decades of distance-facilitation of work meetings. After learning the ins and outs of Zoom, please read this article by Beth to make sure you make the most of your distance meetings.

Teaching from a Distance Workshop

This educator-focused webinar provides an overview of Zoom basics and best practices, and engagement in online classrooms. Hosted by Megan Gahl, Heather Coulehan, and Emily Ferry. Megan is a Juneau-based Professor at Minerva Schools at KGI and Director of Curriculum Development at Minerva Project and has been developing curriculum and teaching students all over the world using distance technology. Access the recording and supplemental materials in the link below.

Free Zoom for K-12 Educators

Zoom, the distance-facilitation and distance-learning platform used by many organizations around the world, is temporarily lifting the 40-minute cap on free Basic accounts during the COVID-19 crisis.

In order for your school to take advantage of this opportunity, sign up for a Zoom account in the link below. You'll be notified in Zoom if the limits have been lifted on your settings page when you log into Zoom through a web browser.

To learn more about STEPS Alaska projects,

School Law
Business as unusual in the age of Covid-19
Lea Filippi of Sedor, Wendlandt, Evans & Filippi, LLC

On March 20, Governor Dunleavy issued a COVID-19 health mandate 8.1 which directed that all public and private schools be closed to students through May 1. Like all Alaskans around the state, school districts are faced with sorting out what must be done during these trying times and how to go about doing it.
Lea Filippi
Resources that can provide guidance and valuable information to school administrators during this time include state and local public health authorities.

Youth Advocacy

Harnessing the Power of Youth Advocacy in Alaska
The last few years have shown that across the globe, young people now have the ability to set the agenda and impact real change. Our Alaskan students can be an excellent resource for advocacy work in Alaska.

David Song
AASB Alaska Fellow
Q: If our Board has the capability for online remote voting, and the voting results are displayed for the board and the public on the screen (and captured in the recording), is there a need for roll call voting to be done?

A: Although it specifies teleconferences, we recommend taking a conservative stance and including digital meetings within this context. Better safe than sorry. It is possible for the public to attend a Zoom meeting via voice only and they must be able to know how all members voted. 

Constitutional Quiz
Test your knowledge of Alaska's Constitution

Q: How many Senators and Representatives represent Alaska in the United States Congress?

  • One Senator and two Representative
  • Two Senators and two Representatives
  • Two Senators and one Representative

State Budget 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.
Alaska Legislature approves $4.5 billion budget plus $1,000 Permanent Fund dividend, then departs Juneau
James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News
Spurred by the coronavirus pandemic, state lawmakers worked into the early hours of Sunday before approving $4.5 billion in operating and capital spending, plus $680 million for the 2020 Permanent Fund dividend, enough for $1,000 per person. A planned $1,000 spring supplemental dividend was not funded.

The budget bill will go to the desk of Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who has the power to veto individual items.
Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, watches as Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky, D-Bethel, speaks in favor of the proposed state budget on Sunday, March 29, 2020. (James Brooks / ADN)
The final vote in the Alaska House of Representatives, cast about 1:30 a.m., ended weeks of resistance by the Alaska House minority and independent Republicans who had sought a larger Permanent Fund dividend and further reductions in spending.

Alaska Education 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.
Holding Class on Zoom? Beware of These Hacks, Hijinks and Hazards
Tony Wan, EdSurge

On Tuesday, Kristina Ishmael was watching a webinar about how coronavirus will impact K-12 education policy, when the screen was suddenly flooded by pictures of pornographic images and racial slurs.
What she and about 100 other participants experienced now has a name: “Zoombombing.” It’s essentially internet trolling on video conferencing, involving somebody who takes over the audio and video controls to broadcast inappropriate materials and remarks.

The term was virtually nonexistent until last week, when the shuttering of schools and business places across the country led many people on try video-conferencing tools. The most popular has been Zoom...

How to Keep the Party Crashers from Crashing Your Zoom Event
Zoom Blog
We love that so many people are finding Zoom to be an easy way to stay connected in this time of social distancing, school closures, and work-from-home routines. So, a couple of reminders on using Zoom to host public events:

Under Quarantine, Without Internet, BSSD Teachers Deliver Distance Education
Davis Hovey, KNOM
Bering Strait School District employees went back to work Monday, although not in a physical sense. Schools across the state are closed until May 1st, and some teachers are unable to return to their home communities. So BSSD is working out a plan to educate its students from a distance.

Members of the Bering Strait School District’s board of education in 2015, including Superintendent Bobby Bolen, gathered in Golovin. Photo: Laura Kraegel, KNOM
Distance-learning lesson plans take shape as Alaska’s students settle in for coronavirus closure
Mayowa Aina, Alaska Public Media
There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding education right now. Schools statewide are closed until at least May 1st, but that doesn’t mean instruction has ended. 

State Deputy Education Commissioner Karen Melin said she understands how uncomfortable that feeling of uncertainty is for families looking for answers. 

“Information is changing rapidly and new information is coming out hour by hour,” Melin said in an email. “What may have been the situation on Friday is no longer how things are today. The same may be true for tomorrow.”

Melin said the state is working closely with partners across Alaska to keep the public informed.

Jennifer Knutson, the Senior Director of Teaching and Learning for the Anchorage School District, shows some textbooks and a district-issue chromebook that students will have access to. She says that there will need to be a combination of traditional and e-learning opportunities for students during school closure. Photo: Mayowa Aina/Alaska Public Media
Interior students navigate high school without classrooms
Kyrie Long, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
High school seniors and their families are finding their footing after testing, school and other aspects of student life grinded to a halt while institutions take measures to combat the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus.

The College Board, which administers standardized tests nationwide, has canceled SAT makeup tests and regular test dates through May, with the June date status being assessed.

One of those students affected is Alexis Lajiness, a 17-year-old senior at West Valley High School.

Hutchison High School senior Becky Widener, 18, is studying anatomy with a friend using FaceTime while schools remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy Rhonda Widener
COVID-19: Alaskans have questions. We have answers.
Jill Burke, KTUU
As the COVID-19 epidemic that started in Wuhan, China spread into a global pandemic, with confirmed cases now present in Alaska, you've sent us questions, and we're tracking down the answers.

This page will update with new questions and answers on a rolling basis. Stay healthy. Stay informed. Keep the questions coming!

Dr. Mary Wegner hired to lead UAS programs
The current Sitka School Superintendent has been named the new leader of the UAS Educational Leadership programs.

Dr. Wegner will lead the program that is responsible for offering a Master of Education degree, including satisfying the requirements for the Type B Certificate necessary to be a school principal, as well as the superintendent endorsement.

Mary Wegner
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

 Answer to Constitutional Quiz Question
Q: How many Senators and Representatives represent Alaska in the United States Congress?

  • One Senator and two Representative
  • Two Senators and two Representatives
  • Two Senators and one Representative

A: Two Senators and one Representative (Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Dan Sullivan, and Representative Don Young)
(Ordinance 2, Section 4, Alaska Constitution)

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