Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Race From Hell: Making Sense Of The 2009 Race For Anchorage School Board Seat B; Marc Grober, David Boyle, And Mia Costello The Top Candidates

Post updated April 5th to include links to Anchorage Daily News candidate surveys.

Except for KSKA, the local media want absolutely nothing to do with this race. Not because they don't want to cover it - but they don't really know where to begin. The race for Seat B on the Anchorage School Board has 13 candidates, and attempting to do it justice is like asking Hercules to clean out the Augean stables all over again. Not only are there actually 22 candidates competing for four different school board seats, but it's difficult enough for the media to chase after 15 different mayoral candidates.

However, somebody's got to take a stab at it. School board members aren't just elected to stand there and look pretty; the seven-member board controls a district budget which topped $700 million for the 2008-9 school year. Board members not only make themselves available to deal with public concerns outside of board meetings, but regularly visit schools to ascertain conditions for themselves. Thus it's imperative to know who they are as the first step towards making an informed decision during the April 7th municipal election.

Identity: I constructed a static page listing all 23 school board candidates, with links to campaign websites and other pertinent information. But because of the sheer number of candidates, I am cross-posting the Seat B portion of that list below, with one modification: For candidates who don't have websites, I provide links to their e-mail addresses.

Note: A more detailed page on the Seat E, F, and G candidates is available HERE. Report on candidates' April 1st appearance on KAKM Channel 7's "Running" HERE.

-- Nels C. Johnson:
---- Anchorage Daily News candidate survey HERE.
---- Background information HERE.
---- Received AEA endorsement.
-- David Boyle:
---- Official campaign website HERE.
---- Additional background information HERE.
---- Anchorage Daily News candidate survey HERE.
-- Michele Quier:
---- Background information HERE.
---- KSKA interview accessible HERE.
-- Jeannie Mackie:
---- Official campaign website HERE.
---- Additional background information HERE.
---- Anchorage Daily News candidate survey HERE.
---- KSKA interview accessible
HERE.
---- Mackie has received an AEA endorsement.
-- William P.H. Nye:
---- Background information HERE.
---- KSKA interview accessible HERE.
-- Starr Marsett:
---- Official campaign website HERE.
---- Additional background information HERE.
---- Anchorage Daily News candidate survey HERE.
---- KSKA interview accessible HERE.
-- Richard B. Foster:
---- Anchorage Daily News candidate survey HERE.
---- Background information HERE.
---- KSKA interview accessible HERE.
-- Jennifer Lucas:
---- Official campaign website HERE
---- Anchorage Daily News candidate survey HERE.
-- Steve Pratt:
---- Official campaign website HERE.
---- Additional background information HERE.
---- Anchorage Daily News candidate survey HERE.
---- KTUU 2008 candidate profile from previous run HERE.
---- KSKA interview accessible HERE.
-- Marc Grober:
---- Official campaign website HERE.
---- Additional background information HERE.
---- Anchorage Daily News candidate survey HERE.
---- KSKA interview accessible HERE.
-- Stephen P. Johnston:
---- Anchorage Daily News candidate survey HERE.
---- Background information HERE.
-- Mia Costello:
---- Official campaign website HERE.
---- Additional background information HERE.
---- Anchorage Daily News candidate survey HERE.
---- KSKA interview accessible HERE.
---- Received an AEA endorsement.
---- Endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News.
-- Dan Garcia:
---- Anchorage Daily News candidate survey HERE.
---- Background information HERE.

Response to Candidate Surveys: Now I begin the process of elimination to whittle this list down to manageable size. Are there any candidates who should be excluded from serious consideration? One litmus test I use is the candidates' willingness to respond to candidate surveys from advocacy groups. The Anchorage Education Association (AEA) asked Seat B candidates to respond to their survey; all responded except Michele Quier. It doesn't matter how a candidate feels about unions; the AEA is a major player, and response to their candidate survey merely shows that the candidate acknowledges the AEA's existence. Since the AEA represents one of ASD's primary four consituencies (voters, teachers, parents, and students), failure to respond to their survey implies reluctance to consider their interests. Thus I must exclude Michele Quier from serious consideration.

Campaign Websites: This is no longer merely optional; it now should be considered a requirement. While an Internet presence is no substitute for personal campaigning, it is now a necessary precursor. One can start a campaign blog for free on Blogger, Wordpress, MySpace, or Facebook (although APOC has ruled that a "paid for" disclosure statement is still required for free websites), so there is no excuse not to have an internet presence. Thus I also exlude Nels Johnson, William P.H. Nye, Richard Foster, Dan Garcia, and Stephen Johnson from serious consideration for not starting websites, although all can be contacted by e-mail and through other means.

Now that we've whittled the list to a more manageable seven, we can proceed. Note that school board races are city-wide races; these names will appear on your ballot regardless of where in Anchorage you vote.

(1). Marc Grober: In my opinion, the most experienced and one of the most electable candidates in this race. Has a superb IT and legal background, both essential to the operation of a modern school district. Has participated in numerous ASD Budget Review Teams and responded briefly but succinctly to the AEA survey. Supports the two school bonds and opposes merit pay for teachers as "unworkable". On the downside, shows a progressive streak by supporting the agenda of the Alaska Women's Political Caucus, which is a feminist group protectively cloaked behind the cover of "equality". But his powerful technical qualifications and exceptionally relevant background make him a major player in this race.

(2). David Boyle: My favorite candidate, ideologically. Campaign website temporarily offline as of this post, but the only candidate in this race who emphasizes the need for greater discipline amongst students. Wants to link teachers' compensation more explicitly to student performance. Retired U.S. Air Force; he's probably the Dan Sullivan of this race.

(3). Mia Costello: Formerly worked for Frank Murkowski, so she understands how to run campaigns and to interact politically. Interested in more vocational education and smaller class sizes; wants to reduce bullying. Some responses to the AEA survey a bit verbose. Received the endorsement of the Fairbanks Republican Womens Club; offset by an AEA endorsement. An AEA endorsement implies the candidate might be predisposed in favor of the AEA in any dispute involving them; I prefer a candidate who's more explicitly independent. Costello is also publicly supported by the Scribbit blog, edited by a traditional wife and mother who's an active member of the LDS Church.

(4). Jeannie Mackie: The incumbent, although only appointed recently after the resignation of Chris Tuck. Some have characterized her resume as "skinny", but she has a bachelor's degree in elementary education, and since she was raised in a rural Alaska village, has special insight into the difficulties rural children, in particular Alaska Native children, encounter when transitioning to an urban environment. Has received an AEA endorsement.

(5). Jennifer Lucas: This candidate brings a student's perspective into the race. She's a UAA student working towards a masters in English, with an undergraduate in political science. She has worked with students of all ages, in particular teaching piano and tutoring students in English. She's worked with the South High School‘s DDF team, running speech/debate practices and brainstorming sessions. She supports both school bonds, and wants to restore defined benefits for ASD employees. Other interests include pre-K for all children, more vo-tech, and lowering dropout rates. A motivated, enthusiastic candidate, but veers a bit too much to the left.

(6). Starr Marsett: A substitute teacher in the ASD, with an autistic grandchild. Consequently, she brings first-hand understanding of special education needs to the table. Her interests include pre-K education for all kids, assigning a teacher's aide to all classrooms with more than 25 students, increasing Vo-Tech opportunities, and improving school safety.

(7). Steve Pratt: Holds a B.S. in Economics/Political Science. Extensive private sector experience; since 2002, has owned a sole proprietorship consultant business dealing with energy, utility, and regulatory issues. This means he not only is experienced in profit-making, but his expertise on energy issues can help ADS better cope with rising energy costs. Has also served on two ASD budget review teams. His interests include high-quality, cost-effective programs/environments, bringing curricula into the 21st century, and improving graduation rates. Some rather weak responses to the AEA candidate survey; he needs to learn how to say "I don't know" without sacrificing credibility.

Recommendation: Marc Grober, David Boyle, and Mia Costello appear to be the best prepared and most electable candidates in this race.

4 comments:

  1. Someone in Anchorage who is actually interested in the fact that with three seats in issue the direction of our schools can be altered with this election? Unbelievable!

    So let's find a venue where the candidates can actually debate the issues and maybe we can wake some people up.

    http://grober.asdk12.info/node/29

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  2. I think the absolute lack of interest in these important school board races is utterly appalling. How can people claim to care about the kids when they take no interest in this?

    You'll note that the officially "cool" blogs like The Alaska Standard, Alaska Dispatch, Diva's Blue Oasis, and even Andrew Halcro have taken no interest in this issue. All some of them are preoccupied with right now is Sarah Palin's wardrobe. Only this "outlaw" blog has addressed the issue. Pathetic, itz!

    BTW, you will probably not find a venue - too many prospective organizers are scared of the logistics of having 23 different candidates show up at one place. Consider contacting your opponents and collectively organizing your own venue. Imagine holding an open-air debate in a public park, and inviting the media. The human interest aspect alone might attract KTUU, at the very least.

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  3. As someone who knows and has worked with Jennifer Lucas in the past, let me say that it is a shame she has not made your top three recommendations list. She is indeed enthusiastic, but is also an exceptionally bright individual who would bring not only youth and energy but a powerful intellect to the position.
    Spot on with the analysis of Marc though, he is certainly a strong candidate and his IT expertise is something the school board could use.

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  4. I want to thank you for your recommendation as one of the top 3 candidates for Seat B. Because of the lack of coverage by the "media", the community of Anchorage and its youth stand to be the biggest losers. Many complain, few get informed could be the motto for this election. BTW, a good link to info on candidates is www.adn.com/city election. Here one will find answers/positions to ADN's 30 questions. We need people on the school board who will challenge the administration, insist on economic analyses for major projects, and who have the skills and time to basically do CSI-ASD when it comes to the budget! Thank you for your service to this community. I agree wholeheartedly with Marc Grober re forums/discussions. David Boyle

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