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Monday, October 26, 2020
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ASD is committed to supporting parents

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By DEENA BISHOP and KELLY TSHIBAKA

Out of concern for the health of its students, staff, and teachers, the Anchorage School District (ASD) recently announced that its schools would be closed to in-person education for the first quarter of the 2020-2021 school year, due to the widespread transmission of COVID-19 throughout the Anchorage community.

While this development presents a challenge to our community, ASD and ASD parents remain committed to partnering together in providing an education that promotes student engagement and facilitates the attainment of students’ learning objectives. 

To that end, ASD is deploying a digital curriculum to provide instruction to students at home. For their part, in order to effectively partner with ASD under this educational paradigm, parents will need to assume much of the responsibility of schooling their children at home. 

While ASD parents and guardians are committed to their children’s education, many of them are working outside the home, are seeking employment, are infirm or disabled, are raising children with special or unique needs, or are fostering children they had not anticipated a homeschooling-like responsibility.

They need assistance to ensure their children remain engaged, complete their curricula, and learn effectively from home.  Recently, many ASD parents signed a petition requesting an allotment equivalent to the one Alaska homeschooling parents receive.

Their objective was to keep their children enrolled in ASD by securing the resources and assistance they needed to ensure their children’s “time on task” was effective and productive (e.g., tutors and academic assistants, special needs educators, supplemental materials, etc.).  

However, ASD is not in a position to reconfigure its budget to support homeschool allotment equivalents for every student without affecting teacher’s salaries, which would be an unacceptable outcome either to ASD or the author of the petition.

Nevertheless, ASD is sympathetic to the concerns parents have articulated both in the petition and in other fora. Accordingly, the school district is diligently working to develop solutions that will better address the needs and concerns parents have raised, including the following: 

·       Teachers will work closely with support staff who will, in turn, liaise directly with families and students as learning advisors to assist with engagement, teaching, and distance learning.

·       ASD is building greater community capacity and engagement to support learning, such as partnerships with daycares and learning pods to which students and families can be directed for additional support. 

·       ASD has created a new virtual option, in addition to its E-learned blended in school model, to support families’ desires to have flexibility in their schedule and a more independent facilitation of learning.

Our intent in sharing these solutions is to give the Anchorage community confidence that the school district remains committed to supporting parents in educating their children, even if parents are unable to remain home during the day or to provide for their children’s educational needs on their own. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a rapidly changing environment to which ASD must rapidly adapt. As much as possible, the plans we develop must work for all involved: the district, the teachers and staff, and the parents.

But, above all, they must always work for our students. As a school district, we remain mindful of our critical role in ensuring educational excellence and equity for all our students, and we remain ever grateful for the advocacy and support of ASD parents, including the author and signatories to the recent petition, in achieving that shared objective.

We will overcome this challenge as we did those that preceded it: Together.  

Deena Bishop is the Anchorage School District superintendent. Kelly Tshibaka is a parent of school district students.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • “…without affecting teacher’s salaries, which would be an unacceptable outcome either to ASD or the author of the petition.”

    Bunch of sociopaths; ‘give up your entire livelihoods, but we won’t sacrifice a single red cent from our salaries.’

    • Just plain disgusting from both ladies. Remember, it’s all about protecting the Education Industry. So, it’s not all about the kids, after all.

  • Taxpayers continue to full amounts in our property tax and receiving less. Time for them to cut the school tax if they are not going to open the schools. Maybe we should send a bill to the school system or not pay the full amount. We already get substandard education by ASD it’s time they move to reality.

  • Think for a moment, look at what has happened. Schools are supposed to be a place where children go to get an education. Now it seems that their main mission is an 8 to 5 baby sitting service complete with meals? It’s no wonder to me now how so many parents have accepted the poor quality of education in our public schools in lieu of the convenience of free day care.

    • Exactly right. I often wonder just how bad it will have to get before parents will exclaim, “Enough is enough!” Boys sharing girls bathrooms and showers? Nope, not enough. Though Anchorage government schools fail to provide a basic education at a cost to property tax payers of $22,000 per student per school year, they successfully indoctrinate a captive audience of impressionable youth into Communist ideology where America is bad, God is bad, Socialism is good, Sexual Deviancy is good, and Abortion is good. Tragically, the convenience of Secular government daycare is just too tempting.

  • That sound you hear in the distance is school choice revving up, along with vouchers. I hope ASD and the AEA have enjoyed their time off, as they are shortly going to have lots more of it. Cheers –

  • ” due to the Covid 19 epidemic & subsequent in person school closures the ASD will furlough 75% of ASD employees until further notice.” A Headline Alaskans will NEVER see!

  • I am extremely disappointed in the Commissioner of Administration over this walk-back of her earlier leadership. The parents need and deserve a material portion of the state funding allocated to ASD for the children that will not be physically present in school. Clearly and unarguably, Alaska schools, ASD included, have been doing a poor job; home-schooled Alaskans excel in every way while standardized test results from almost every school district in Alaska show very poor results. Handing some of that state money to parents in order to learn if a different direction might help some children would be a bright light in this otherwise dark pandemic era. Only government, when faced with failure decides more money is needed to do even more of the same, and in the same failed way. This Bishop-Tshibaka write-up defends the status quo in spite of excessive spending, terrible results, and children who enter Alaska schools with as much potential as do children anywhere, and at any time in Alaska’s past, and leave those school systems way behind (often with outstandingly high grade-point records!). I hope the state administration’s 2022 operating budget makes a material portion of the BSA available to those parents willing to give their children a better education than we are seeing from almost every Alaska school district. Clearly we won’t see leadership, nor even innovation, at the district level. (And if I stood up in any public meeting in Alaska and said I am waiting for leadership to come from the teachers’ union I would be laughed out of the room.) I hope that the Commissioner of Administration honestly rethinks this recantation as she has destroyed all of the hope I derived from her precedent puissance.

    • Spot on, and I fully agree. Makes one think, “I wonder what she got for this”?

  • Why on earth is Kelly Tshibaka, part of the Dunleavy administration, getting involved by flying top cover for this useless school supt.? The entire Anchorage education establishment should be thrown out and the school district rebuilt from the ground up.

    And I was amused by this sentence in the letter: “While this development presents a challenge to our community, ASD and ASD parents remain committed to partnering together in providing an education that promotes student engagement and facilitates the attainment of students’ learning objectives.” I would love for the authors to be more specific about the “learning objectives”. I suspect they have little to do with the 3 “R’s” and everything to do with social engineering.

    • I am extremely disappointed in the Commissioner of Administration over this walk-back of her earlier leadership. The parents need and deserve a material portion of the state funding allocated to ASD for the children that will not be physically present in school. Clearly and unarguably, Alaska schools, ASD included, have been doing a poor job; home-schooled Alaskans excel in every way while standardized test results from almost every school district in Alaska show very poor results. Handing some of that state money to parents in order to learn if a different direction might help some children would be a bright light in this otherwise dark pandemic era. Only government, when faced with failure decides more money is needed to do even more of the same, and in the same failed way. This Bishop-Tshibaka write-up defends the status quo in spite of excessive spending, terrible results, and children who enter Alaska schools with as much potential as do children anywhere, and at any time in Alaska’s past, and leave those school systems way behind (often with outstandingly high grade-point records!). I hope the state administration’s 2022 operating budget makes a material portion of the BSA available to those parents willing to give their children a better education than we are seeing from almost every Alaska school district. Clearly we won’t see leadership, nor even innovation, at the district level. (And if I stood up in any public meeting in Alaska and said I am waiting for leadership to come from the teachers’ union I would be laughed out of the room.) I hope that the Commissioner of Administration honestly rethinks this recantation as she has today destroyed all of the hope I derived from her precedent puissance.

  • It’s completely reasonable to either reopen the schools or reallocate funds from teacher salaries to the now-homeschooling parents. ASD budget is gargantuan, you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

  • How in the h— is a child supposed to learn with only 1 hour per day instruction for only 4 days a week? Then the ASD tells parents they must spend 3 to 5 hours per day per student!!! This is totally irresponsible from the superintendent. Union wins, kids lose. That sums it up.

  • “However, ASD is not in a position to reconfigure its budget to support homeschool allotment equivalents for every student without affecting teacher’s salaries, which would be an unacceptable outcome either to ASD or the author of the petition.”

    And there it is everyone. Not a single government employee will suffer losing their job or suffer an unpaid furlough, while the private sector remains expendable in the eyes of government officials such as these individuals. They will keep all of your money, and refuse to give any of it back. While Kelly Tshibaka is making these comments separate from her position, it is important to remember that she is still the Commissioner of Administration for Republican Governor Michael Dunleavy. Disgusting…

  • School Taxes should be cut since there is no in classroom instruction. The money coming into the ASD is not only for Teachers pay it is the other tangibles that go with it.

  • ASD administrators are paid very nice 6 digit salaries…this is the best they can do? What a rip ASD has been for so many years for taxpayers. Is the superintendent to any comments related to her article or is this just a pacifier with the hope parent’s concerns fade away…?

  • Glad to see the Commissioner of Administration stepping back into her lane. Kelly, you never shed your title. I hope you learn from this.

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