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September 2001 / Voting

Question Mark
Ask the Superintendent: Voting
Superintendent's Column
Peninsula Clarion
D. Peterson

September 20, 2001

Yes, our priorities have changed. Yes, our patriotism is more visible than ever. Now, the big question is whether those principles that are the bedrock foundation of our democracy will reflect the realigned priorities and patriotism. For example, will the tragedy on the East Coast and resulting feelings of unity result in an increased voter turnout? Those of us in service to our communities are hoping that the polls are so busy on October 2nd that we have to good-naturedly wait in line to vote. Why? Because the will of the people shapes the policies and practices of their government. Let's put this in perspective. In the last local election, less than 19% of the registered electorate of the Kenai Peninsula Borough voted. With an average of less than one out of every five voters choosing their representative leadership, one has to wonder about the will of the people.

Certainly the election that is of primary interest to the school district is the school board seats. With so many choices to make - three candidates running for each of three seats, it is going to take some effort to make an informed choice. Each seat is elected at large - everyone in the Borough votes on every seat on the school board. You can imagine with a seven-person board how a single election with three seats open can have a profound change on the direction of the school district.

The first step in becoming an informed voter is to understand what a school board does. The school board sets school district policies. They hire the superintendent to oversee implementing the policy. A school board provides leadership in establishing long-range educational plans and programs and adopts an annual budget to carry out those plans. As the citizen link to the school district, interpreting the needs of the peninsula communities and 10,000 students at 41 sites, is a vital function.

The Association of Alaska School Boards provides the following tips for "What to look for in a School Board Candidate."

  1. Time commitment - public education has become far too complex and community expectations far too great to expect much less than 20-30 hours of service per month.
  2. Team commitment - individual school board members, by themselves, are not empowered to make districtwide changes, but working well with colleagues is a must for true service.
  3. Strong interpersonal skills - communication, trustworthiness, honesty, confidentiality, consistency, and other such traits cause interpersonal relationships to blossom.
  4. Concern for the entire school district - keeping a broad view of the district rather than representing a special interest or a narrow philosophy is important to honoring and supporting the diversity between and among represented communities.
  5. Willingness to learn - the system works best when able and committed people step forward and serve; those who approach the job with a desire to be more knowledgeable and skilled are most effective.

So, how does one get to know the candidates? For the most part, the school board election is pretty low key, with little money being spent on signs or advertisements. Therefore, the voter has the more important task of taking the time and effort to learn as much as they can about school board candidates. A starting place is the Borough election brochure. Additionally, several public forums are scheduled throughout the district (specific forum time/place information is found on the district website at www.kpbsd.k12.ak.us). The news media, both print and radio, are also providing information for making a decision. Now it is up to you, the voters of the Kenai Peninsula Borough. No matter your politics or your philosophy - NOT voting shouldn't be an option. Let your voice be heard and let this basic freedom remain strong throughout the land.


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