3-year term - Two Seats Open
Published: September 26, 2011
I am married to Kim Simpson, who is a Kayhi Class of ‘81 graduate, and I have 7 children, including four grown daughters. I am stepfather to 3 children in Ketchikan schools: Corbin, age 14 (Kayhi), Kiernan age 7 (Houghtaling), and Catriona, age 5 (Houghtaling.) I have always been very involved in my children’s education and despite a demanding career, I made them a priority. I attended all conferences, helped with homework, volunteered in their classes, attended all field trips and was a soccer, softball and basketball coach for 9 years and a Sunday School teacher for more than a decade. I enjoy youth sports and began attending Kayhi sporting events immediately after moving to Ketchikan, despite knowing no one on the field/court.
I grew up in a small town in the Midwest: Wamego, Kansas. I worked several jobs to put myself through college and was able to still graduate on-time with a BS in Business Administration/Accounting from the University of Kansas. I then earned a law degree from the University of Kansas School of Law.
I have worked in public accounting and banking, in addition to practicing law. My legal work has encompassed municipal, real-estate, business and family law. I am currently an attorney in private practice in Ketchikan. I love it here and want to be able to give back to my adopted home.
EXPERIENCE and QUALIFICATIONS:
I am delighted to be currently serving on the School Board. I have never missed a meeting since being appointed in February. I have also attended every Transportation Committee meeting in which the public was present, despite not being a member of the committee, because I wanted to hear for myself the opinions of parents affected by the proposed changes. I was also the only School Board Member this year to attend all 3 graduations (Schoenbar, Kayhi and Revilla) because I think it is important to support and celebrate our graduates. I also made a point in attending school special events and fundraisers.
Prior to moving to Ketchikan, I was active in the Branson, Missouri public schools: I was asked to serve on the citizen’s advisory committee for hiring the new superintendent and I was a member of the committee that wrote the district’s random drug testing policy (which was subsequently adopted by school districts throughout the country because of its innovative policy of testing most of the students in high school). For 7 years I was a part-time volunteer teacher of classes to grades 6, 7 and 8 dealing with the potential consequences of high risk behaviors.
I have also substitute taught in Ketchikan Schools for grades 1, 2, 6, 7 and 8, so I have a good understanding for what teachers and students encounter on a daily basis in this district.
As an attorney, I have represented schools and governing bodies in a variety of issues, and I am familiar with the state statutes, laws and regulations, and with the legislative process. There are times when my legal background has benefited the school board, such as the recent appeal by a roofing contractor which could have resulted in a lawsuit, had it not been properly phrased and handled. I believe I am unique, in that I care passionately about children, but I also have a rational and reasonable perspective when faced with major decisions that have far reaching implications, such as those that we will be facing in the next few years.
There will be one overriding issue that will impact every aspect of our school district in the future- and that is the level of funding available to us.
This year, the Borough Assembly did not fund the school district at the level requested by the School Board. As a result, in order to operate this year the district must utilize its financial reserves of about $825,000. In addition, it is almost a certainty that the federal government will eliminate the Secure Rural Schools program, under which the Borough received $1 million in federal funds. Therefore, before the discussion even begins, funding available for next year is already down nearly $2 million from this year.
The school board will need to be effective in communicating the needs of the district to the Borough Assembly for funding purposes. With economic uncertainties it will be necessary to prioritize funding requirements and requests. Next year will be difficult, and tough choices will have to be made by both the Assembly and the school board.
In times of limited revenues, my number one priority will be to retain teacher positions and I will seek to apply necessary reductions to other areas. I acknowledge that finding expenses for reduction will be tough. 78% of the school district’s current operating budget goes to direct instruction costs. This is significantly higher than the amount required by the State (70%), and no school district in Alaska has a higher percentage than does the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District.
My overriding goal as a School Board member during these difficult economic times will always be to provide the best possible education to our children in a fiscally responsible manner. I appreciate your vote and welcome the opportunity to hear your concerns and ideas regarding the education of our community’s children and ensuring that they will be successful now and in the future.