Sitka families who rely on the district’s after-school latchkey program spoke out against its possible closure, at the regular meeting of the school board this week (Tue 4-5-16).

And an elementary school Science teacher is headed to Washington DC on a year-long fellowship.

Downloadable audio.

In addition to running before-and-after school programs, Ventures also provides summer activities. Over the past 10 years, the district's operating budget has subsidized Ventures at just over $15,000.

In addition to running before- and after-school programs, Ventures also provides summer activities. Over the past 10 years, the district’s operating budget has subsidized Ventures at just over $15,000.

The Sitka School Board has not made a decision yet on Ventures — a program that cares for K – 5 students both before and after school — but that didn’t stop parents from voicing their objections during persons-to-be-heard.

Blossom Twitchell said she became a single mother last year. Ventures allowed her to find a job and support her two children.

“If it wasn’t for the services provided, which was a safe learning environment that my children have enjoyed, I wouldn’t have been able to move on in a healthy, productive manner.”

Four other parents — most of them single — testified along this theme.

Lolly Miller, however, offered the board some perspective. She’s been running the Sheldon Jackson Childcare Center since 1988.

“Childcare is in crisis in many of the smaller communities of Southeast Alaska. It’s not just Sitka. The options are very limited. If you take this one from the school-aged, I’m just not sure where these kids are going to go, what they’re going to do after school. And you have to have continual care. There are lots of great programs here, but they don’t go from 7 in the morning to 5 in a workday. There’s lots of great things, but many parents don’t have the option of dropping them off here, having an hour here, then getting them to here. They need a good program that they’re at for the day.”

Miller said that she didn’t believe that Sitka’s other childcare centers could absorb the more than 60 kids currently served by Ventures.

(Note: The Sitka School District reports current enrollment in Ventures as “about 25.”)

The school board began the conversation about closing Ventures at a budget work session last week in the district office. The board will hold a public hearing on Ventures — and other possible budget cuts — at 7 PM Wednesday April 13 in the Sitka High School library.

In other business Tuesday night, the school board recognized Sitka High’s two Mock Trial teams — who took first and fourth place in statewide competition last month in Anchorage. Superintendent Mary Wegner said Sitka’s success against the state’s large schools is a credit to dedicated coaches and families.

The board also recognized the Sitka boys Basketball team, which did not place in the state tournament, but won the spotlight for rescuing 11 Anchorage residents from an apartment fire. The board distributed iTunes gift cards to each member of the team.

The school board voted unanimously to authorize a one-year leave of absence for Keet Gooshi Heen Science teacher Rebecca Himschoot, who has been named an Einstein Fellow. The Einstein Fellowship was created by Congress in 1994 to bring accomplished teachers to Washington DC, to design and implement national programs in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math — or STEM.

During her year in the capital, Himschoot will work with the National Science Foundation on teacher quality, evaluation, and preparation.

The good news for Rebecca Himschoot doesn’t end with an Einstein Fellowship. Last month Gov. Bill Walker appointed her to the state Board of Education.

Himschoot told the board that she planned to do both.

“I learned about the fellowship offer on — ironically, Einstein’s birthday — March 14. My first call was to Dr. Wegner. My second call was to the governor’s office. The governor’s office is in support, and there are no regulations that say I can’t do it from the state board side.”

Himschoot said that she’s agreed to pay for her own travel back from Washington DC to attend Board of Education meetings.

Her confirmation hearing before the Alaska legislature is scheduled for April 15.

And finally, in her report Superintendent Mary Wegner formally notified the board that standardized testing had been cancelled for the year. The interim Commissioner of Education, Susan McCauley, made the decision late last week, after a communications failure at the University of Kansas interrupted testing for students in Alaska, and thousands others nationwide.

The AMP Tests — or Alaska Measures of Progress — were due to be replaced next year anyway.

Superintendent Wegner seemed pleased to put the experience behind the district.

“So, 4-6 hours of students’ time is now back in the classroom, and we’re thrilled about that.”

The Sitka School Board will meet next with the Sitka Assembly in a special budget meeting 6 PM Thursday April 6 in the Sealing Cove Business Center. Again, the board will hold another public hearing on next year’s school budget at 7 PM Wednesday April 13 in the Sitka High Library.