SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Regular Election - October 05, 2021

Keenan Sanderson

Candidate for Ketchikan School Board 2021
3 Year Term (3 Seats Open)


Received: September 17, 2021
Published: September 20, 2021

jpg Keenan Sanderson Candidate for Ketchikan School Board 2021

Keenan Sanderson
Candidate for Ketchikan School Board 2021

Hello, my name is Keenan Sanderson (pronouns he/him), son of Rob Sanderson Jr. I was born and raised here in Ketchikan. I am a Haida Indigenous man that is enrolled in both the Ketchikan Indian Community and the Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. I grew up within the Ketchikan School District attending Houghtling Elementary School, Schoenbar Middle School, and Ketchikan High School. I am running for a seat on the school board because I believe that I can make significant and positive contributions to our community. My priority will always be making sure that our students have a safe learning environment that allows for as many opportunities to grow in the way they choose. While I am not a parent, I believe that I can be useful to the school board in a number of different ways. One thing that I pride myself is being able to communicate with anyone who is willing to have constructive conversations with me. I believe that I can be a part of the decisions that are made that benefit the students, parents, school district faculty, and the general community. I would encourage and invite anyone who would like to discuss anything related to our district. Before I continue, I would like to personally thank all of the teachers and faculty within the school district that have provided the best education possible because without them, I wouldn’t have been able to run for this position today. Special shout outs go to former Ketchikan High School faculty Julie Landwehr and Robert McClory.

After graduating high school in Ketchikan, I went to the University of Alaska Fairbanks to get my bachelor’s degree in Fisheries and Ocean Sciences with minors in marine science and general biology. The primary focus of my studies dealt with salmon and groundfish ecology and population dynamics. During this time, I also served as served as the Emerging Leader for the Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska where we addressed issues such as education, mental health, drug & alcohol abuse, suicide, natural resource rights, and housing for tribal citizens.

Currently I work for the Ketchikan Indian Community in the Cultural Resources Department as the Indigenous Food Sovereignty Specialist. Essentially my primarily goal in this position is to find various ways to allow the people in our area to have better access to traditional foods in our lands and seas, which is accomplished through policy’s, education & outreach, science, and breaking financial barriers. This position connects me with people throughout Ketchikan, the state, and the country.

Outside work I am engaged in a variety of public service activities for Ketchikan and the state of Alaska. I currently serve as the vice-chair for the Ketchikan Tlingit & Haida Community Council, I am a member of the Alaska Chapter American Fisheries Society Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion and Planning committees. One of the things a take great pride in is my involvement with Ketchikan’s National Ocean Sciences Bowl where we teach students everything there is to know about the ocean.

I have a laundry list of things that I would like to address if I am fortunate enough to be elected into this office, however I will bring up 3 for the purpose of this forum.

1. One of the biggest things that our school district faces, and seems to always face, is our budget woes. My philosophy behind use of money is STUDENT FIRST. Students of all ages should have every opportunity to grow and learn in the ways that empower them the most. Opportunities to pursue the trades, STEM, liberal arts, or general life skills. This cannot be accomplished with major cuts to classes, extracurricular activities, sports, and support programs for “at risk” youth. Another issue the relates to this is the compensation for staff and teachers within the school district. We have to be finding ways to support the people on the front lines to allow for our community’s students education is as successful as possible. This goes for teachers, paraprofessionals, substitute teachers, librarians, and all support staff. If we want to attract the best teachers, we have to be willing to compensate accordingly. Additionally, I will be spending a significant amount of time advocating with our local and state governments to secure more funding to address our budgetary needs.

2. One issue that our school district has been dealing with for almost two years now is the ever-evolving coronavirus pandemic. It has impacted our entire community in more ways than one, and has had profound impacts to our students. Yes, I recognize that this virus is not going to go away overnight. This is something we are likely going to be dealing with in some fashion for years to come. I in no way, shape, or form claim to be any sort of medical expert or microbiologist. However, I believe we should rely on the facts, the data, and the science to assure that we are keeping our community safe, especially our students. I do believe we will have to find ways to accommodate our students to have as “normal” day to day learning as possible, but I will be seeking information input from the experts, faculty, students, and teachers. It is possible to find some sort of middle ground, but my priority is student safety, which includes faculty and community safety as well.

3. Another issue that I feel that is imperative that is addressed appropriately is having opportunities for students to better their mental health. It comes to no surprise that the mental health of our young population has suffered since of March of 2020, but this is something that precedes that date by years, perhaps even decades. I believe we need to be shoveling resources into anything that will support mental health in our schools. Whether that is after school programs, better accommodations for students who may be struggling, “mental health days,” among other options. I am not saying that this school district isn’t doing anything to address this now, but I see some alarming red flags that there isn’t enough being done. For example, there is a devoted mental health counselor who works with high school students here in Ketchikan to help students cope with things they may be struggling with. I LOVE that this exists. I wish each school would have devoted to mental health for not only the students but the teachers/faculty as well. However, there is a large portion of the high school student population that has no idea this person exists. WHY? We have resources available, but for some reason it is not getting to where it needs to go. While it is not the place for the school board to micromanage faculty, something needs to be done.

I just would like to finish this by saying that I am thankful and honored to be where I am today, having an opportunity to represent my community. Ketchikan has and always will be my home. If I am fortunate enough to be elected into this position, I do everything in my power to create places of education safe, productive, and most importantly fun for all! Again, I would welcome any conversations on how to make that happen at any time.

Haw’aa (Thank you),

Keenan Sanderson

On FaceBook: Keenan Sanderson for Ketchikan School Board

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Ketchikan Regular Election October 05, 2021 - Tuesday
Early & In-Person Absentee Voting Begins September 20, 2021

Ketchikan Regular Election October 05, 2021 - Tuesday
Early & In-Person Absentee Voting Begins September 20, 2021

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