Lived in Sitka: 22 years
Describe your family:
I am married to Vaughn Morrison who works for the State of Alaska Department of Transportation. We have three daughters. Chloe Morrison and Riley Nutting are both freshman at Sitka High School. Ashlyn Nutting graduated as valedictorian from Sitka High School in May of this year and is a freshman in the Honors College at Boise State University, where she is studying Spanish Secondary Education.
Occupation: I am the Account Manager at Venneberg Insurance.
Current community involvement: I have been a volunteer member of the Sitka Fire Department since 2016, where I serve on the Incident Management Team in the Search and Rescue Division. I previously served on the Baranof Barracudas Swim Club board. I served as a board member for Junior Achievement, and volunteered as a classroom instructor for Junior Achievement in the elementary schools for several years. I also served as a high school Young Life leader for many years.
Previous government or other relevant experience: I currently serve as a board member on the Alaska Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers board. I have previously served as a board member for Baranof Barracudas Swim Club and Junior Achievement. I have a degree in Business Finance, and have worked at Venneberg Insurance for 22 years, which has given me invaluable experience in the business industry.
Why are you running for the Sitka School Board this year? I am running for the Sitka School Board because I want to serve the community that I have been a part of for the past 22 years. As a parent of three children in the Sitka School District, I have been actively involved in their education and extracurricular activities, including school sports, music programs, and drama/arts. I would bring a unique perspective to the board in that I am a parent of current students, I have been a business professional in the community for over 20 years, and I have a degree in Business Finance. In Sitka, we are privileged to have incredible teachers, administrators, and staff at our schools. As a board member, I will work to ensure that they are all held to the highest standards, and will make the success of our students my number one priority. I will be an advocate for students and will work to guarantee that they graduate with the skills needed to be successful in life and contributing members of society.
What are your top two priorities if elected? One of my top priorities would be to work to secure a sustainable budget. I would encourage the board to start the budget process sooner. I would like to take a fresh look at all aspects of the budget to see if there are areas where costs can be cut, but without sacrificing the services that are offered. My other top priority would be to make all decisions based on what is ultimately best for our students. Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders, and I feel it is the duty of the school board to support our administrators, teachers, and staff to develop the student as a whole.
Describe your leadership style. If elected, what kind of School Board member do you want to be? Do you see yourself introducing policy initiatives, or staying the course? How will you conduct yourself with parents? With the public at large?
My leadership style is a combination of democratic leadership and transformational leadership. The democratic approach takes into account the voice of everyone affected. I would listen to everyone’s perspective and opinion, including administrators, teachers, staff, parents, students, and community members, and then base my decisions on the combined input of each group, but with the success of students always being the top priority. The transformational approach recognizes that there are basic goals that need to be met, but encourages unique methods to accomplishing those goals. I would encourage the staff and administration to think outside of the box and explore new methods. I definitely see myself introducing new policy initiatives, but only after extensive research of the subject matter and a thorough understanding of the situation. I will be always be open to listening to parents and the public at large. I strongly believe that every person in our community has a voice in our public education.
As of right now, I see my priorities as a healthy balance between academics and activities, including sports, music, arts, drama, vocational education, and work experience. I do think technology has its place in education, and it certainly has proven to be necessary in today’s world. But before allocating a large sum of money to technology, I would need to see research and studies supporting their use in education, and a direct correlation of the technology to student achievement.
The Sitka School District is four years into a five-year moratorium on state spending for capital projects. Playground improvements at the elementary schools now top the district’s priority list, when the moratorium ends. Do you agree with these capital priorities, or do you see other critical needs that have been overlooked?
I do agree with these capital priorities, and support playground improvements as being the district’s top priority at this time. As a board member, I would rely heavily on the expertise and advise of the school’s maintenance department and the City & Borough of Sitka (as the owner of school district property) for recommendations for future capital improvements. I would put the highest priority on improvements that affect the safety and health of our students and staff.
Members of the Sitka School Board function as direct advocates for schools in the offices of the Alaska Legislature. What case would you make to legislators to continue strong support of public schools? Or, do you see yourself advocating for more parental choice, and the introduction of vouchers?
My campaign motto is “For our Kids. For our Future.” Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders. We have an obligation as a local community, on a state level, and on a national level, to invest in our children. Public schools are the key to developing the next generation of successful citizens. Public schools play a critical role in not only academic education, but also in building the student as a whole. Outside of the family unit, a child’s school experience has the strongest impact on developing their character, their morals, their social skills, and their emotional skills. Therefore, our public schools will continually need to take top priority in funding at the local, state and national levels.
Over the last few years the Sitka School District has incorporated new curriculum at all grade levels to meet Alaska Standards, which are based on the much-debated Common Core. Do you consider this transition to be successful? As a board member, would you support policy to reinforce — or roll back — the trend toward standardization?
I haven’t seen enough data to support whether the transition has been successful or not. This is a complicated subject matter and as a board member I will dedicate myself to studying it extensively in order to assess the effectiveness of the current Alaska Standards.
With standards come standardized testing. Does Sitka do enough? Too much? Is testing an appropriate way to measure student success, or should we be looking at other methods?
I don’t necessarily think that standardized testing is an appropriate way to measure the success of an individual student. However, I do think it can be useful for measuring the district as a whole. Testing can provide valuable insight, but only if administrators and teachers are reviewing the data that comes from the tests and using it to make appropriate changes where needed. I don’t think that an individual student’s success can be measured by a test score, or even a grade for that matter. Student success should take into consideration all aspects of the child’s development, which is measured differently for each individual child. But testing can provide a snapshot as to where the district is performing as a whole at a given point in time, and can be used to measure trends in specific areas of growth or decline.