Eric Van Cise
Lived in Sitka: 24 years
Describe your family:
My Spouse Leah and our two sons Tristan and Leif both attending UAF in Fairbanks. Household includes my mom, Margaret.
Occupation: Gear and freight manager for Alaska Marine Education Association (AMSEA)
Current community involvement: Community Schools soccer coach for ten years. Blatchley Middle School (BMS) soccer coach for six years. Sitka High School soccer coach for six years. Former volunteer EMT for Sitka Fire Department. BMS Math committee member.
Previous government or other relevant experience: Sitka school board member past 3 yrs.
Why are you running for the Sitka School Board this year? I am seeking re-election to my position because I believe our district is moving in a positive direction. Our district staff, fellow board members and parents are working hard to make this happen. They comprise a team of individuals that I strive to be an active contributor. Progress is being made on closing the achievement gap and continuing to make our schools safe and engaging for our children. Budget woes will unfortunately continue to challenge us, but I feel my experience enables me to make progress in attaining a sustainable, re-occurring budget.
What are your top two priorities if elected?
1. Increase public participation/input with our annual budget process. We have made gains on our outreach to staff, which I will strive to improve. I will seek out means and methods for parents and community members, who often are facing time and schedule constraints, to better enable their ability to participate in this critical process.
2. Expand awareness and utilization of our districts vocational education programs. We lead the State with our Voc-Ed facilities. BMS has an excellent wood shop and still retains a room dedicated to culinary training. Sitka High School’s Industrial Arts wing comprises or welding, auto/diesel mechanics, vehicle lifts, small engines, computer design/fab lab, 3D printers and a wood shop capable of building literal buildings. It too retains an intact culinary training room. Skilled labor industries in USA are facing dire employment shortages. Not all of children in Sitka are destined for college. Let’s give them the tools and abilities to excel in these fields and more.
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?
Listening. Being respectful. Walking a mile in a persons shoes. Bottom to top approach regarding district staff input; not top down. Open mindedness. Looking at the big picture. Determining what is a want, what is a need. Staying the course is fine if that course is showing itself to be the best path for our children, parents and staff. If not, the course must be changed.
I frequently ask parents, students and staff “What is working for you, what is not.” This results in either promoting something or seeking to change something. Parents and family are key to a child’s success. They will always receive my utmost attention, focus and advocacy in charting an educational path that is best for their child. Our district staff and community at large can expect the same from me.
Our funding is secured from Federal, State and local contributions. In our case, all three are struggling. It requires persistent advocacy from all sectors of our community. My priorities are for a sustainable, re-ocurring budget that enables long range implementation and planning of district programs, staff and infrastructure; and holding our State’s elected officials accountable to have the state budget completed at the identified deadline — no more extensions.
The variety of our education offerings and activities are unique to Sitka, which enable a well rounded, diversified means of educating our children. My priority is to maintain that status. When inevitable cuts must be made, an increased input from our community and staff is required to enable the best decision.
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?
Our City and District Maintenance personnel have done an excellent job maintaining our district facilities with the budgets they have been given. They (and we) have prioritized this process and as it stands now, I do support our capital projects to focus on our current priority list. Should additional priorities or concerns be brought to our attention, they will receive my utmost attention and inquiry.
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?
We are mandated by Federal Law to provided public education to all children who reside in our country and who wish to attend. If Legislatures truly adhered to the oath they took upon gaining office, it is clear that public education — the viability of our future — would hold a high priority. Presently both at the State and Federal level, this is not the priority of many of our elected officials. Special interest groups and profits before service are having a strong and in my opinion devastating impact on public education. Parents will always retain the right to choose the best option for their child’s education, be it home school, private or public entities. I am not opposed to charter schools as long as they are 100% funded on their own account. No tax revenue, local, state or federal revenues should be contributed for them.
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?
Standardization in the ideal world provides continuity and consistent abilities to monitor progress. It is utilized in many industries. We live in a real, diversified world where standardization can have challenges, most notably related to economy, ethnic diversity and equal access.
Alaska has taken a more blended approach of which I support simply due to the unique cultural, economic and geographic differences we have. I support the course we are on and am encouraged at the positive efforts our district is making in regards to math, most notably our high school curriculum’s that are transitioning to a blend of traditional and integrated math.
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?
We do not test our students nearly as much as some districts within our state. I do not advocate for more testing and feel where we are is adequate. I do support frequent re-evaluations of the efficacy of these exams via input from our parents, students and staff. The exams are a mere snapshot in time and with that the results must be viewed in the proper context. Regarding other methods, I do support locally generated, non-stress methods of testing that are hands on, interactive and relate to every day aspects of a students life and environment in Sitka.