Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Rest Of The 2009 Anchorage School Board Races; Seats E, F & G: Kathleen Plunkett, Jeff Friedman, And Crystal Kennedy The Best Choices

Post updated April 5th to incorporate links to Anchorage Daily News candidate surveys and to make the format a bit easier to decipher.

I originally 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've decided to break it into two parts.

A more detailed page on the 13 candidates for Seat B is available HERE. This page will cover the remaining 10 candidates, spread out between Seats E, F, and G. For candidates without campaign websites, I provide links to their e-mail addresses as a substitute. Report on candidates' April 1st appearance on KAKM Channel 7's "Running" HERE.

All school board seats are city-wide seats. Their names will appear on the ballot regardless of your voting location in Anchorage.

Seat E Roster:

-- Don Smith:
---- Anchorage Daily News candidate survey HERE
---- Background information HERE.
---- KSKA Interview accessible HERE.
-- James LaBelle:
---- Official campaign website HERE
---- Additional background information HERE.
---- Anchorage Daily News candidate survey HERE.
-- Bobby Jo Kramer:
---- Official campaign website HERE.
---- Background information HERE.
---- Anchorage Daily News candidate survey HERE.
---- KSKA Interview accessible HERE.
-- Jody Smith:
---- Official campaign website HERE.
---- Background information HERE.
---- Anchorage Daily News candidate survey HERE.
---- Received an AEA endorsement.
-- Kathleen Plunkett:
---- Official campaign website HERE.
---- Additional background information HERE.
---- Anchorage Daily News candidate survey HERE.
---- Received an AEA endorsement.
---- Endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News.
-- Michael C. Lindbeck:
---- Background information HERE.
---- Anchorage Daily News candidate survey HERE.
-- Marilyn Stewart:
---- Background information HERE. Note that the background information shows that she's a member of the NAACP; not a plus.

Seat F Roster:

-- Jeff Friedman (incumbent):
---- Official campaign website HERE.
---- Anchorage Daily News candidate survey HERE.
---- Read Friedman's responses to Eagle Forum Alaska's 2006 candidate survey HERE.
---- KSKA Interview accessible HERE.
---- Received an AEA endorsement.
---- Endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News.
-- Dawn Bundick:
---- Anchorage Daily News candidate survey HERE.
---- Background information HERE.
---- Craigslist posting HERE.
---- Close relationship with organized labor; serves on AFSCME Local 52's Women's Issues Committee occupying the Central Region seat.
---- KSKA Interview accessible HERE.

Seat G Roster:

-- Crystal Kennedy (incumbent):
---- Official campaign website HERE.
---- Anchorage Daily News candidate survey HERE.
---- Read Kennedy's responses to Eagle Forum Alaska's 2006 candidate survey HERE.
---- Received an AEA endorsement.
---- Endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News.

Process of Elimination: First, I found out that the following Seat E candidates did not respond to the Anchorage Education Association's candidate survey: Michael Lindbeck, Don Smith, Marilyn Stewart, and Bobby Jo Kramer. Since the AEA represents a major group constituency of ASD, this calls into question the willingness of these four candidates to give AEA a fair hearing on issues of concern to them. Thus three of the four exclude themselves from primary consideration as a result; but Kramer remains in consideration because of a candidate website.


Seat E Profiles (in order of personal preference):

Kathleen Plunkett: Holds a B.S in business, extensive involvement with local community council. Interests include municipal revenue sharing, fully funding PERS/TRS, forward funding for education, continuation of the debt reimbursement program, vo-tech and college prep, and promotion of standardized school designs.
Review of infrastructures with the municipality for knowledge sharing and savings (gad, I can now see why the Anchorage Daily News endorsed her).

Jody Smith: A teacher in the Anchorage School District, her interests include assuring high-quality educators, greater investment in and deployment of the most current technological resources, increased family, community, and school partnerships, pre-K education for all kids to narrow the achievement gap at initial accession, and supports a return to defined benefits for ASD employees. On the flip side, her vision for a classroom environment seems too permissive. Students should always be able to participate vigorously in the education process, but the teacher must ALWAYS be in charge, and be the ONLY ONE in charge. In today's discipline-deficient environment, nothing else will do. Jody Smith is a well-intentioned candidate worthy of consideration, but she's not the best answer.

James Labelle: During his unsuccessful school board run in 2008, earned effusive praise from opponent John Steiner for his intelligence, commitment, and elevated discourse. His interests include fiscal responsibility, a return to a defined-benefit retirement system for Anchorage School District employees, more hands-on, experiential learning techniques, more private partnerships, and an increase in vo-tech. These are superb goals, and, by themselves, would instantly make him the most electable candidate in the race.

Unfortunately, there's a flip side. During a time of budget crunching, he wants more extra-curricular, sports and after-school programs; what he should be pushing for instead is more recess and more physical education embedded within the school day. But more disturbingly, Labelle promotes diversity - but as an end unto itself rather than a means to a greater, more flexible unity. Labelle believes the school board should be as diverse as its student population, which means it appears he's promoting racial proportionality. This could be taken as divisive and un-American, and hinders what is otherwise a good candidacy. We are supposed to be Americans first, Alaskans second, and our ethnicity third, otherwise America cannot survive intact. But unlike Bobby Jo Kramer, at least Labelle doesn't tilt toward any particular race. But his preoccupation with diversity weakens his appeal.

Special Note: Labelle has posted a comment in response which is worthy of being replicated here where it can immediately be seen. He states, "But I did want the chance to clarify myself regarding "diversity." I've been saying, and believe, on the campaign trail the school board should be as diverse as the population. But diverse in terms of experiences, education and background. I've never actually said we should be 'racially proportionate'".

Bobby Jo Kramer: Has three kids in ASD schools, one of them attending SAVE High School, which is a "second chance" school for those who get into trouble. Grew up in the Bristol Bay area, becoming familiarized with Alaska Native issues. Interests include increasing graduation rates and reducing dropouts, hiring and retaining more highly-qualified trachers, and greater community involvement. Interest in tracking the qualifications of teachers is noteworthy. On the flip side, Kramer, in my opinion, tilts too much towards Alaska Natives. This tilt weakens Kramer's candidacy.

Recommendation: Unlike the Seat B race, where three candidates literally reach out and grab me by the collar, no one in this race has the same effect on me. Kathleen Plunkett and Jody Smith are the best of a distinctly ordinary bunch, and I lean strongly towards Plunkett.

Seat F Profile: Jeff Friedman is the clear-cut choice here. Though a Democrat, he's always been a moderate. Considers all constituencies important; one of the few Democrats who was willing to respond to a candidate survey by Eagle Forum Alaska back in 2006 (most Democrats don't respond to candidate surveys by pro-family organizations because they don't think they have a chance to secure the organization's endorsement). Friedman is constantly looking for more efficient and innovative ways to accomplish the education mission. Above all, the man conducts himself with absolute professionalism.

Seat G Profile: Yes, I know, who else but Crystal Kennedy. She's running unopposed. But the fact that she's running unopposed is a tribute to her political skills; though she's a social conservative like Sarah Palin, she doesn't attract heat. One of two candidates in the school board races explicitly concerned with discipline; has long sought to convene a work session to brainstorm for some real solutions (the paddle would be a good start). A classy lady who deserves a third term.

2 comments:

  1. I want to thank you for your blog and providing your perspective on the school board race. But I did want the chance to clarify myself regarding "diversity." I've been saying, and believe, on the campaign trail the school board should be as diverse as the population. But diverse in terms of experiences, education and background. I've never actually said we should be "racially proportionate."

    And I do understand with todays uncertain times that by providing more extra-curriculur activities would be difficult to pay for. That is why it is important to be fiscally responsible.

    Bottom line for me with ASD. Are we doing enough for all of our students? What works and what doesn't? What can we do better? What can we afford/not afford? Those are the questions I would like to answer on the school board and my approach will be to engage the community, as partners, in answering those questions and then we can hold ourselves accountable based on our collective priorities.

    That is my experience in the work that I do, engage the community, engage partners, dissect the problem and create solutions.

    I appreciate your time and your perspective and thanks again for the opportunity!

    James LaBelle

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  2. Thank you for your response. I have now posted your clarification of your position on diversity on the main post, in green, so that all readers can immediately and easily see it.

    I appreciate the interest you're showing in our community and the time you're devoting to delivering your message. Even if you don't succeed on election day, you're planting seeds that may germinate in some way down the line.

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