Update August 16, 2019:

Jim Rogers is withdrawing from the race for Sitka School Board.

Rogers notified the municipal clerk’s office on Thursday afternoon (8-15-19) that he would no longer run for board.

In an email to KCAW, Rogers said that he was concerned that a 3-way election for school board increased the chances of someone being elected who did not share his views or concerns.

That leaves former board member Cass Pook and political newcomer Paul Rioux still in the race for the seat currently held by Jenn McNichol, whose term expires this year.

MicNichol announced at a school board meeting on August 7 that she’ll not seek another full term, in order to spend more time on family issues.

The deadline to formally withdraw from the municipal election was 5 pm this afternoon (Friday 8-16-19). Any candidate who withdraws after the official deadline can do so, but their name will still appear on the ballot on the October 1 election ballot.

Original report:

It’s now a two-way race for the Sitka School Board.

Jim Rogers, who works in the schools for Sitka Counseling, filed his candidacy on Wednesday (7-31-19).

Jim Rogers

Rogers moved to Sitka in 2016, following his wife Laura Rogers, who was hired as the assistant principal of Blatchley Middle School the previous year.

Jim Rogers planned to retire, but says he “wasn’t very good at it.” Instead he became an Americorps volunteer and was assigned to support Sitka Counseling staff members in Baranof Elementary School. He has since joined the Sitka Counseling staff.

Rogers says that his decision to run for school board germinated during his daily work in a kindergarten classroom.

“It’s not that there wasn’t support from up above, but I don’t think individuals fully understand what the teachers go through on a daily basis and what they have to deal with,” said Rogers.

Rogers says that the involvement of parents and support staff is critical in the elementary grades. He’s a believer in small classrooms — and in more than one adult in those classrooms.

“I think somewhere, at least for kindergarten and first grade,” Rogers said. “I would say somewhere between 15-17 kids is a good number, with some other type of support in the classroom.”

Rogers earned degrees in Business and Marketing from Virginia Tech in 1987. That’s where he met his wife, Laura. Before moving to Sitka, the couple lived in New Hampshire, where he worked for the state Division of Children, Youth, and Families for 15 years.

Rogers says that in New Hampshire, building administrators developed the budgets for their schools. It doesn’t work that way in Sitka, but Rogers says it’s important to budget from the bottom-up.

“I would really like to see a lot of input from the community and from administrators in the schools,” said Rogers, “and come up with a plan — which is going to be difficult no matter what — but at least everyone has some input, and some buy-in.”

Next year is likely to be challenging for Alaska’s schools. This year, Gov. Dunleavy signalled that he was prepared to make significant cuts to education funding — despite strong opposition from the legislature. Nevertheless, Sitka’s school board — and school boards statewide — may be forced to make unprecedented  decisions about what to keep and what to lose. 

What if Rogers were forced into a tough choice over a program at Sitka High, where his wife Laura is now principal?

“You make the best decision for the community,” he said, “and that’s what I’ll have to do. And yeah, there’s always the possibility of some hard feelings for a period of time, but we’ve been together since 1986. I really can’t see this being a tremendous problem.”

Rogers has no children attending school in the district, but his grown son and daughter-in-law have moved to Sitka, and have made their home here.

Rogers joins former school board member Cass Pook in the race for one seat on the Sitka School Board. The term of current board president Jen McNichol expires this year. The municipal election is Tuesday, October 1.