Tim Fulton represents a kind of school board candidate who is becoming more common lately: He started six years ago on the board just as his daughter was poised to enter high school. Two terms later, his daughter long since graduated, Fulton wants to keep working on behalf of children.

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Incumbent school board candidate Tim Fulton. With cuts on the way, he's hoping more people become involved in the school budget process. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

Incumbent school board candidate Tim Fulton. With cuts on the way, he’s hoping more people become involved in the school budget process. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

There hasn’t been a huge amount of turnover on the Sitka School Board. Several members have stayed on past the careers of their own kids. This is how they sound.

“I consider all Sitka kids my kids. It’s interesting to watch them grow up and become successful, and it’s really gratifying to know that you can help shape their future.”

Fulton’s guiding principle on the board has been equity. Other board members have taken on duties like legislative lobbying, or cultural programming. But it’s one thing to talk about equity, and another to achieve it.

A couple of years ago Fulton decided to take action on funding for school activities. With rising participation fees, some students were feeling excluded. Economically disadvantaged. Fulton wanted to open a dialog on the subject, but it didn’t get too far.

“I ran that up the flagpole and stood there and defended it for a long time. But the last meeting I had trying to find some type of way to fund activities outside of fundraising in the community — and making activities more equitable for all students — I couldn’t generate anything from the community, even to get a conversation going about how we might change things up there.”

He says only two people attended the last meeting on activities funding.

Discussions on the overall school budget drew much more attention last spring. Fulton says this year won’t be any different.

“We’re going to have to be cutting some programs.”

After running through several scenarios, the board ultimately cut the middle school Home Economics program, and an elementary Reading specialist at Baranof. These were the first real cuts the board had made in some time.

“We’ve lost programs since I’ve been on the board, but most of that was through retirement and stuff. Last year really hurt.”

But at least people played an active role in the decision. Fulton says the board is going to try involve the public earlier in the conversation — by design.

“I believe in local control, and I believe in our community. One of the goals we set this year was to redesign our budget process. I’m not quite sure what that looks like, but we might start the conversation with, This is what’s going away. That tends to get people excited and maybe will get them to the table to talk with us about their priorities.”

Fulton says he appreciates the efforts of Sitka’s legislators to win education funding in Juneau, but he’s not confident that they’ll be successful. The district has adopted new standards developed by the state Department of Education, new testing strategies for students, and new teacher and administrator evaluations based on student performance. That the state has not contributed funding for these efforts — estimated to cost almost $2-million this year — he says is a “formula for failure.”

Fulton says he’s got faith in teachers to pull the district through.

“Some of the stuff our staff does is incredible. And what is changing is the amount of special needs kids — I don’t know how to say this to make it politically correct — our social and economic status kids: not showing up with a good night’s sleep, not showing up with a full belly, and the stuff that happens there. And asking our teachers to help these kids become successful is something special that they do.”

Fulton supports the use of digital technology in the classroom, but he’s concerned about the lack of an overall plan. He says, “We should know where we want to go.”

And the board’s equity member is also concerned about the complaint filed against the district in the federal Office of Civil Rights regarding the new Moller baseball field. At its August meeting, school board president Lon Garrison referred to the possibility of a full-blown Title IX investigation as “the 1,000-pound gorilla in the room.”

Fulton says it’s probably past time to act.

“That gorilla’s been rattling the cage for a while. We need to move forward with making an equitable field that is the girls’.”

Fulton is an employee of Alaska Airlines, where he’s worked for the last 38 years — since high school, in fact. He says he started college, and always meant to go back, but enjoyed the lifestyle offered by working for an airline.

“I still have a lot more of the world to see,” he says.