SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


By Kathleen Svenson


August 17, 2008

Dear Editor

Why is the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District distancing itself so rapidly and so far from the Ketchikan-Kanayama Exchange Inc.? Perhaps it's because disgruntled students and parents see the District as "the ultimate deep pocket?"

I attended the Kanayama Board meeting of August 14. The minutes reported a secret meeting July 15, 2008, at the home of Christa Kotrc, "Superintendent Robert Boyle talked to us about the relationship of KKEI and the School District and what was needed to clarify the relationship," the minutes passed out by KKEI Board Secretary Gail Alguire read.

Well, what is needed to clarify the relationship? The minutes were strangely silent on that topic. (I'm still wondering how the Kanayama students and chaperones are covered under the school's insurance when the Kanayama school is not a "real" district class. Doesn't that leave the district open to some pretty serious liability issues? This is a question for the School Finance (read "audit") office of the State Department of Education and Early Development. (Question: are publicly funded non-profits subject to the Open Meetings Act? I'm certain there were many interested parties who would have liked to have attended the July 15th meeting where board policy may have been set or "clarified.")

I understand from the discussion, the school district will no longer be the contractor for the Ketchikan teacher in Japan. It seems the cozy relationship between the Kanayama Program and the School District is coming to a close." (Mr. Boyle) affirmed his support for the program," the Kanayama minutes read. "Mr. Boyle then left the meeting."

Glad someone is finally giving this outfit (the Kanayama Assoc.) some oversight, even if it's just in the form of an exit.

My gosh, what will be next in the severing of the district-exchange relationship? District employees not being able to use district time, copying machines, paper and facilities to run the Kanayama program? No school board member (currently Ginny Clay) required to serve on the Kanayama Board?

The student application is under revision, and this year's students and parents will be given a policy clarifying when tickets can be refunded and when they can't by deadlines. Nice. The by-laws are also under revision. And the Kanayama Board, in a mad stab at transparency, actually answered a written request for basic information i.e. a copy of the Kanayama Ass.'s by-laws. "Oh, the times they are achangin.'"

I'm glad all my complaining has effected positive change. I'm glad this year's ejected student's suffering has not been in vain. I am grateful to the other Kanayama Ejects who bravely stepped forward to tell their stories of ejection at the last minute and how they lost hundreds of dollars in the bargain with no explanation given. I am excited to serve as a Kanayama Board member. I have many revolutionary ideas I am eager to share, such as let's create a student interest inventory questionnaire so that homestays can be matched more effectively.

Jim Alguire, Kanayama Board Treasurer, was flat-out amazed this year's Ketchikan students raised so much money ($72,000-a record breaking amount), and still had money ($3,000) left over. (A grand total of $139,000 was extracted from this community for the Kanayama Program this year if you count borough, city and school district grants and "tuition" paid by parents to Kanayama School)

I explained money was left over in part because we raised money for 20 students and 4 chaperones, and only 19 students and 3 chaperones went as they kicked one student out because they decided she wasn't popular, and one chaperone quit in disgust over what they did to the Ketchikan girl. It's pretty obvious that's how they ended up with the extra money. The Kanayama Board will never admit it. They'll never admit any of their wrongdoing. But things are changing now, boy howdy, and for the better too, thank-you very much. The Kanayama Ejects' mission (an adhoc group of disenfranchised Ketchikan families who suffered at the hands of the Kanayama Assoc.) was to make the Kanayama Experience for this year's eighth graders better than ours (students and families) was. To that end, "Mission Accomplished!"

There's nothing like pitching a good fit to effect positive change, and public opinion. And I'm not done yet. I want the girl the Kanayama Board ejected in April to go to Japan in 2009. It seems among the least of the things they can do for her after all they've put her through. Gee whiz, this girl, after studying Japanese language and culture two years, graduated Schoenbar, not just an honor roll student but as a Presidential Academic Award student. This girl is quite probably the first student in her class to earn college credit at the University of Alaska through her studies at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, yet she was treated by the Kanayama Board as if she'd been caught cooking meth in the Schoenbar girl's bathroom because she missed a class to attend her grandfather's funeral down south!

In my opinion, this student deserves a lot more from the Kanayama Board (and perhaps the school district for allowing this kind of bullying) than a paltry trip to Japan. That is if this girl will have anything to do with any of the Kanayama Assoc. after all the embarrassment, heartache and grief her Kanayama Experience has caused her. Clearly, there are darker forces at work in these matters, but thank God the bright light of justice is shining into the Kult of Kanayama at last. Never underestimate the power of a good fit.

Kathleen Svenson
Kanayama Board Member Wanna-Be
Ketchikan, AK

Received August 17, 2008 - Published August 17, 2008



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