School Board candidates (L-R) Conan Steele, Misty Archibald, Matt Eisenhower and Matt Tibbles at KRBD.

School Board candidates (L-R) Conan Steele, Misty Archibald, Matt Eisenhower and Matt Tibbles at KRBD.

Three positions are open on the Ketchikan School Board, each with a three year term.  The five candidates running are Conan Steele, Matt Tibbles, Misty Archibald, Matt Eisenhower and Alma Manabat Parker.

Four of the five candidates were able to attend a live forum on KRBD last week.

With more candidates than usual running for School Board positions this year, the conversation began with each candidate’s motivation for running. All candidates talked about their passion for helping children and a desire to improve education in Ketchikan, each with a variety of backgrounds.

Conan Steele is the only candidate running who is currently on the Board. Steele replaced Colleen Scanlon, who resigned.  Misty Archibald has served as a Board member in the past, but took a year hiatus. Matt Tibbles is a father and has been working with children in a myriad of ways for most of his adult career. Matt Eisenhower says his work in health care has given him experience balancing large budgets.

A large part of the conversation centered on this year’s budget, and anticipated cuts to come.  All of the candidates commended the current Board for retaining staff positions, but like everyone, Archibald saw places to improve.

“ It is bothersome to me that every year, year after year we’ve got staff, teachers really in a state of flux for several weeks before the budget it complete. I just can’t even imagine the emotional turmoil these people go through.”

Eisenhower echoed the concern saying that the timeline for budgeting, which puts employees in angst, could be improved by better relations with the Ketchikan Borough Assembly.

He adds that while there will always be a natural tension between the two bodies, each can bring its best to the table.

“I think that the job that I see on the School Board is to ask some better questions, maybe stronger questions to better understand some things, for instance surrounding Secure Rural Schools fund. The annexation of a few years should have resulted in more funds, but in the end the school district did not see a net gain from that. So those are some questions I think we should be asking and looking at.”

With the Ketchikan Gateway Borough preparing its arguments for the Alaska Supreme Court regarding education funding, the candidates were asked if they believed the state’s current funding system was constitutional. None of the candidates offered a strong position either way, saying the decision is ultimately up to the courts. However Steele, like several other candidates, recognized the impact to education.

“Now I do think regardless depending on which way it goes  it is going to have some implications. I think there are a lot of boroughs and districts around the state that are just waiting and watching and looking to see what’s going to h appen with this thing.”

As a result of recent safety survey, Ketchikan High School is preparing to install security cameras.  All of the candidates say they support the district doing so. Tibbles says safety in schools is one of his greatest concerns.

“I hate that we’ve come to that point in our culture and society, but I do agree that if it does support the safety and learning environment in our school system, then we need to do that. Hopefully we won’t get down to the point where we need metal detectors and all that kind of stuff.”

Alma Manabat Parker was not able to attend the forum due to a family emergency. Local elections are October 6th.

The candidates also discussed Native studies, wellness in schools, the athletic director job and the proposed Excellent Education Enhancement grant. The full hour and a half conversation is available here.