By Kathleen Svenson
August 17, 2008
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
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.
Kanayama Board Member Wanna-Be
Received August 17, 2008 -
Published August 17, 2008
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