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School board candidates state positions, policy

Election is Tuesday, Oct. 6

By the staff of the Hawk Highlights

The staff writers at the Hawk Highlights, the student newspaper for Galena high school students, asked the two candidates running for seats on the GCSD Board of Education to answer the following questions about the policies and plans they have for our schools.

School Board Member Seat C

Marylee Kauffman

What is one thing you would like to change about our school?

I would like to see a few adjustments to our PEAK system. We have been operating under PEAK for over 20 years, and although I agree with most of it, I do feel that some changes are needed.

What are you planning to do about sports this year? Tell me specific proposals for our athletes so they can play?

I will do all that is within my power to bring sports back into the school but until this pandemic has slowed significantly, I feel we need to abide by ASAA rules (Alaska School Activities Association) and by state guidelines. As far as Galena directly, perhaps we can find way to play each other until state guidelines are lifted.

Do you think it is more important to keep the students and teachers safe or keep them happy?

To keep them safe most definitely, and I feel that Galena school, clinic, and city are doing all they can to keep our students, staff, and community safe. True happiness is elusive.

What rules or guidelines in the district do you disagree with and how should they be changed?

I think some adjustments need to be made to PEAK (see above). As to the changes, this needs to be discussed by the school board, school staff, and community members.

Only 50 students were admitted to the boarding school this semester. What do you think the enrollment should be next semester?

I never felt that the enrollment number that was set for this semester was etched in stone. Sure, some adjustments can be made, but that depends on keeping our students safe and relying on our local clinic for advice. Seventy-five students could be a goal, but again, that has to take into account our student’s safety.

When are the two campuses going to combine and become one high school?

We are well on our way but this takes time. We need to have buildings for classroom space and this is not easily done, but I feel we are moving in the right direction.

And finally….

You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

– Abraham Lincoln

School Board Member Seat D

Karin Bodony

What is one thing you would like to change about our school?

My number one wish right now is for a solution to the Covid-19 pandemic that will allow us to return to full enrollment and “normal life.”

What are you planning to do about sports this year? Tell me specific proposals for our athletes so they can play?

This is not decided by the school board. My understanding is that decisions about sports this year are being made through collaboration between the Alaska School Activities Association, school administrators, and local health authorities.

Do you think it is more important to keep the students and teachers safe or keep them happy?

I believe it is possible to keep students and teachers both safe and happy, and that is what we should strive to do in our schools.  However, I also understand these are very challenging times – for everyone – and we have had to make a lot of changes from our normal daily activities in order to keep ourselves and our loved ones as safe as possible.  Safety is a very high priority for me, and I believe we can all find ways to be creative and positive so that we can continue to find happiness while staying safe.

What rules or guidelines in the district do you disagree with and how should they be changed?

Right now I cannot think of rules or guidelines I strongly disagree with. I do appreciate that there is a process to bring proposals for changes to rules and guidelines to the board for consideration. I want there to always be an environment in which anyone who does have a problem with school rules or guidelines feels comfortable sharing their concerns.

Only 50 students were admitted to the boarding school this semester. What do you think the enrollment should be next semester?

The limit of 50 students was developed as a way to minimize the potential spread of Covid-19 in our community while allowing students to have more “regular” social interaction within small groups. I think we are blessed to be able to have students at our boarding school, when many students in Alaska are not allowed to attend face-to-face classes right now.  Current projections suggest a Covid-19 vaccine may become available sometime in the spring (March or April). Unfortunately this is not likely to be soon enough for us to be able to anticipate increased enrollment after the winter break.

When are the two campuses going to combine and become one high school?

This is a complicated topic and nobody knows the answer.  I think it is extremely important to have ongoing discussions about the pros and cons of moving the high school to a single campus, and a clear awareness of what the current obstacles are.  Students, staff, and community members all have unique perspectives on what the future of Galena schools should look like.  On the practical side, there are upgrades to buildings at GILA that need to be funded and accomplished before having a single campus can become a realistic option. As a school board member one of my highest priorities is to have open discussions about topics like this. One of the biggest jobs of the school board is to gather information and create a vision for the future of the school district.