/* Style Definitions */
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;

Garrison is a professional fisheries biologist who says he’s found his niche in the last three years working on Sitka’s school board. In an unusual move for a first-time board member, Garrison in 2008 took a seat on the Alaska Association of School Boards. He’s since become a member of that group’s executive committee and – if re-elected in Sitka – will become its president after next school year.


Garrison says the Sitka board has long been aware of the forces shaping education outside the boundaries of the district.


“Education and the problems that affect education are on a much greater global scale than they’ve ever been. We have issues – funding predicaments – that are driven from the federal government. How do we meet those challenges if we’re not adequately funded? We need to be a voice at the table letting people know ‘Hey, Alaska is a unique place, and we have unique challenges. We’re not going to fit the mold of the lower forty-eight.’”


Garrison’s previous three years were relatively free of public controversy, except perhaps for the board’s decision last year to allocate the district’s share of federal stimulus funding to the purchase of a new computer infrastructure for the schools.


Garrison says it’s still the right move.


“I think it where he have to go, or the rest of the world is going to pass us by. There was some very vocal opposition to that and there still is. I welcome that criticism – I think it’s healthy that we’re held accountable for what we do…. I happen to think it’s the right direction. And I want to make sure that anything we do is beneficial in the long term. It’s not just a matter of going and buying a whole bunch of new computers or the latest gizmo and getting it into the classroom. It’s a paradigm shift: It’s a way of trying to bring technology into the classroom such that teachers will be able to use it, they’ll get the training they need to incorporate it into their teaching …. We know being in Southeast Alaska that kids are on the road a lot. I think we can broaden their educational experience and give them the support they need to do well. You see a lot of other kids from other schools that have taken that initiative and those kids are able to do a lot of their homework assignments online and get information. So if they’re waiting in a community to get out they can still be participating in a lot of their schoolwork.”


Garrison and his wife Litia (leesha) first moved to Southeast in 1988, when he went to work for the Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association. The family had two girls, and briefly left the state to return to Garrison’s native Colorado to run the family feed store in Salida. But Garrison eventually was drawn back to aquaculture in Southeast. He’s now NSRAA’s operations manager in Sitka.


Over the years he’s witnessed the population decline in the region. He thinks Sitka’s schools should be aware of that reality, but no drastic action is needed yet. He says he opposes interest on the assembly toward closing Pacific High and moving classes next door into the Southeast Alaska Career Center.


“I think one of the most satisfying things as a board member for me is going to the Pacific High graduation in the spring and seeing those eight or ten students walk across the floor at the community house and receive their diplomas. Because I know those kids have struggled, and there have been a lot of people who have been involved in supporting them. And I feel if we didn’t have that program – and we didn’t have a place for that program – we wouldn’t be seeing the success that we have. Could we move it into the SEACC center? We could if we absolutely had to, but I don’t know if it’s the best in the long run. The facility is currently being used by a variety of different programs. We would have to do some remodeling in that building to make that happen. So there’s other ancillary costs that go along with it that don’t make fiscal sense either.”


Garrison says the funding for Pacific High would come out of the existing school bond structure, paid for by the one-percent seasonal sales tax increase.


Garrison has one child left in Sitka’s schools. Daughter Maggie is a senior. She’ll also serve as the student representative on the school board.

The municipal election is Tuesday, October 5th.

© Copyright 1970, Raven Radio Foundation Inc.