Commentary

Sitka schools face unprecedented challenges

Garrison_200This candidate statement is a listener service of Raven Radio. It is not an endorsement of the candidate. All candidates for municipal office have been offered the same opportunity to broadcast and publish a statement.

Hello, my name is Lon Garrison and I am running for the Sitka School Board. I was first elected to the board in 2007 and then again in 2010, this will be my third time running for the board.
I believe this is a critically important election. The Sitka school board and public education as a whole are facing unprecedented challenges and potential changes. We face the selection of a new superintendent for the first time in 13 years, this is a huge responsibility that will have major ramifications on how our school district and our students advance and achieve in the future. I believe it is critically important to have a knowledgeable, objective board member with leadership experience to help guide the board through this process. I believe I am the right person for this task.

The district faces an unprecedented amount of work to adopt the new state standards, implement curriculum and instruction to align to those standards, implement new online standards testing and finally to implement a new teacher evaluation process; all by 2015! It is a very tall order! In order to do that we will need both an excellent administration and a school board prepared to take the time to do the work needed to make this happen. In my view, this will take experience, leadership, and the full commitment of every board member.

In my six years on the board I have tried to take advantage of every occasion to educate and train myself to be the best board member I can be. I have had the opportunity to be involved state-wide as a member of the Association of Alaska school boards board of directors, nationally as a member of several committees with the National School Boards Association and as a board member of the National Forest Counties & Schools Coalition. All of these opportunities have allowed me to work on my leadership skills and to bring back ideas and perspectives that I believe improve our board and our district. I know these are the skills that will matter most as we move forward to address the challenges I just spoke of.

The other looming challenge of public education and local school districts is at the state and federal government level. At no time in our history have state and federal governments wanted to wield their authority and power more than today. They seek to reduce or eliminate local control of education, to impose a “one size fits all” solution. Over the past six years as a School Board member, I have developed my skills in advocating for public education. I have spent many, many hours working to educate and advance our cause with state legislators each session. Most l have a limited knowledge of what it takes to run a school district, to educate kids, to provide for that basic human right; an opportunity for a free and high quality education no matter who you are or where you come from. I believe the relationships I have developed and the recognition I have with the legislature as a leader in education will serve both Sitka and our state well. Furthermore, I know the commitment and the amount of work it will take and I am ready, willing and able to do it!

Now is not the time to bring a new face to the board. There is too much at stake. It is critically important to have a board that has the capacity to objectively contemplate all of the hard decisions we have to make. We need now, more than ever a board member who has the school board experience, the leadership skills and the broad perspective of what education has been and could be for Sitka. I ask for your support and your vote to re-elect me to the Sitka School Board on October 1, 2013.

The municipal election in Sitka is Tuesday, October 1, 2013.

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