ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — Tuesday update:
Responding to a written request submitted by KTUU on Monday, the Anchorage School District disclosed on Tuesday the Scope of Work of Strategies 360, which includes a cost of $12,000 per month for "crisis communications outreach and processes."
The Scope of Work outlines services including but not limited to "language development and editing; media relations including press releases, opinion editorials, media briefings, and when appropriate, press conferences; (and) strategic communication processes and planning."
The outline indicates the first month of service to be billed would begin on August 27 and end on September 27, at which time, "discussion of a longer term agreement, if necessary, would follow."
In a companion statement, included below, Superintendent Dr. Deena Bishop says ASD's work with Strategies 360 is all about transparency.
"The Anchorage School District is as prudent as possible with its resources. Using state and taxpayer dollars wisely is imperative to us," Bishop said, in part. "Working with Strategies 360 is all about helping ASD get clear and transparent information out to our students’ families and the public."
Bishop goes on to say that the firm has worked with ASD's internal communication staff, and has encouraged them to publicly provide as much information as legally possible.
Some parents and teachers are questioning Anchorage School District Superintendent Dr. Deena Bishop's decision to hire an outside public relations firm to help handle the recent controversy at Dimond High.
Teachers and parents dressed in red lined the sidewalk outside the ASD Education Center before Monday’s school board meeting, demonstrating their commitment to reaching a contract agreement.
"My concern is how the district chooses to prioritize where they spend their money," said Donna Purcella, whose son is a teacher with ASD.
Purcella is speaking in part about Bishop's recent hiring of PR firm Strategies 360 to handle the allegations of misconduct involving sexual assault by Dimond High football players.
"And she complains that there's no money to pay for teachers, and yet she is willing to pay for her own PR person," said Purcella.
Purcella acknowledges that the money paid to the PR firm is not near enough to meet the union's contract demands, but she objects on principle.
“It's kind of a slap in the face to teachers, right?” said Purcella. “Because all they want is some recognition that their time is valuable, and all of the sudden, she's saying her time is more valuable than theirs."
Bishop says the public relations contract was considered a normal expense for the school district, saying 90 percent of school revenue goes to human resource expenses, and ten percent to things like hiring Strategies 360.
"So the general operations of schools are such a small amount to settle a contract," Bishop said.
But Bishop maintains they are moving in the right direction towards a contract compromise.
"I'd like to say that there isn't anyone from the board room all the way down to the classroom that doesn't want a contract,” said Bishop. “We all want a contract. It's a matter of how do we balance a budget without new revenue yet increasing costs?"
Judging by testimony at Monday’s school board meeting, teachers are still frustrated by the lack of a contract.
"Teachers have no common students, or time, with one another to really make a difference,” said an ASD teacher. “It's impossible. Students are big losers, but so are the teachers."
And if a contract isn't reached soon, Purcella says the future is foreboding.
"I think the school board is miscalculating the anger and the angst amongst the teachers,” said Purcella. “And I think that if they don't start addressing some of their concerns, that the community is going to suffer a teacher's strike."
Bargaining sessions are still ongoing. The next one is set for September 13th from 4-8 p.m. at South High. It will be open to members of the public, however they are not allowed to participate. For those who cannot be there in person, the Anchorage Education Association will have a live feed of the session on their website.
Channel 2 News has submitted a written request for the cost of Strategies 360.