First in series of community meetings focused on public input for ASD’s upcoming strategic plan

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Anchorage School Board President Starr Marsett opened a community meeting Thursday night by reminding attendees of the team effort that goes into educating Anchorage students.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” she said. “It takes a community to educate a child.”

Marsett and fellow board members, as well as Anchorage School District officials, assisted in hosting the meeting at Goldenview Middle School in South Anchorage. The meeting is the first of four gatherings dedicated to gathering public opinion on the future of Anchorage School District education institutions and what community members want to see out of their local schools.

ASD is using the information gathered, Marsett said, to make further contributions to a new set of district-wide goals, to be introduced in the fall of 2020.

Set in groups, ASD staff recorded responses on a whiteboard throughout the night. Many sentiments in response to presented prompts were echoed across the room. Feedback about what is particularly important in classrooms, for example, included multiple mentions of self-sustainability, independence, cultivation of critical thinking, and increased social awareness.

“Also, programs that are self-sustainable and adaptable,” said Tom Miller, a former university educator who attended the meeting. “This would come best from consistent contact with skilled teachers.”

Calvin Schrage, who directs a tutoring company, said financial stability is something that needs more emphasis.

“Being career-ready or education-ready,” he said, “so that you are prepared for opportunities that come up.”

When asked what issues families might face that could slow or inhibit a student’s education, most if not all of the groups - represented by a single speaker for each response - had similar concerns: Language barriers, misunderstood cultural differences, student depression and financial distress could easily be adverse factors as a student pursues an education.

A student in attendance also said that feeling a need to conform, both as teachers and students, presents pressure-related challenges.

“It makes it harder for teachers to teach and for students to learn,” she said, “because everybody is different.”

Beth Elliott, a Goldenview parent at the meeting, said she was grateful to have the opportunity to engage with ASD officials and other community members about the future of local schools.

“We haven’t really had a voice,” she said, “so I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here tonight.”

The meeting at Goldenview was meant primarily to serve the South and Service regions of the district, though anyone from any district may go to any of the meetings. Three other forums, also open to the general public, will take place in November. Meetings will be held at Begich Middle School on November 12, Mirror Lake Middle School on November 13, and Mears Middle School on November 21. All meetings are scheduled to run from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

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