By SUZANNE DOWNING
The teachers gathered in the Bartlett High School auditorium in Anchorage, crowded in together, hardly a mask in sight, while a woman who appeared to be Superintendent Deena Bishop sashayed across the stage to the microphone.
The lyrics to the song, “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” blared, and teachers rose from their seats and clapped, bobbed, and sang along, as they would in church:
“There’s been so many things that’s held us down
But now it looks like things are finally comin’ around
I know we’ve got, a long long way to go
And where we’ll end up, I don’t know”
It was a school leadership conference moment captured for posterity by Assembly member John Weddleton for his Facebook followers, and he was clearly in the groove with enthusiasm when he wrote, “The School Board has way more fun than the Assembly. The ASD leaders summit turned into a dance party. There seems to be a lot of excitement for a year that is not like last year.”
That didn’t age well.
One day after the video went live on Facebook, Bishop sent a letter to parents saying that she will require face masks on all 50,000 children in the district, from K-12, plus on staff and teachers’ faces when school begins this fall.
Her decision was reviewed by the Anchorage School Board on Tuesday and they declined to take any action or advise her to change course.
Bishop, the leader of Anchorage schools and ultimate decider, was taking her cues from the board itself. Word is, school board member Pat Higgins had bullied her and said she would be fired if she didn’t put a mask mandate in place. And so she did. Her job was clearly on the line. The decision was clearly in her wheelhouse, but she bent to the pressure of her employers, the Anchorage School Board. It’s pure cowardice.
The decision not only covers all traditional buildings operated by the school district, but also stretches to charter schools that operate out of their own private buildings, if those schools are under the supervision of the school district.
Anchorage parents wondered what happened to the mayoral order, made on July 1 by Mayor Dave Bronson, that said, “Effective today, mask mandates in all Municipality of Anchorage owned, leased, or used buildings is rescinded. While individuals may make personal choices to wear a mask as a protective health measure, masks will not be required to be worn by anyone entering or while with a municipal facility. In addition, the Municipality of Anchorage will not require any employees, or applicants for city employment, to be vaccinated.”
Aren’t school buildings owned by the Municipality of Anchorage? If not the municipality, then is it the school district? Has the mayor no jurisdiction to override the superintendent?
Such are the questions of reasonable people, the ones who observe with a raised eyebrow the see-saw advice coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But our government is structured in such a way that the Assembly must stay out of the School Board’s realm.
Even child advocate Assemblywoman Jamie Allard, who said that masking children eight hours a day constitutes child abuse, only has her voice to use — she has no authority over the school board or the superintendent. She can only be a verbal champion and critic of the mask policy being laid down as law in Anchorage Schools. At least she stood up and said what many parents think: This mask policy is child abuse.
In the same way, the governor of Alaska cannot hand down edicts to the Anchorage School Board. Gov. Mike Dunleavy has his own jurisdiction and in reality, Alaskans would not want to grant a governor that level of authority.
Friends, we get the local government that we elect. Anchorage voted for this school board, and this school board’s the exception of one, is a radical body. Scores and graduations are dropping, suicides among students are rising, and this board and this superintendent is going to muzzle the young faces all over again — with no end in sight, no set point for when the muzzles can come off.
It was Kelly Lessens who was elected to serve out the term of Starr Marssett, who resigned earlier this year. Lessens said during the most recent school board meeting that Americans don’t live in a fundamentally free society, inferring that putting a mask on children should be an acceptable price to pay for living in America.
She will have to run for reelection in 2022 and those words will, perhaps, come back to haunt the hardcore Democrat.
Margo Bellamy, the racially charged School Board President who supports using critical race theory in schools, has a term that also ends in 2022. Her seat could use some freshening up, as well.
If both of those seats flip to conservative, the Anchorage School Board will be more diverse in its perspective, but it will still vote for a progressive, union agenda at least until the 2023 election. Only Dave Donley is standing for education, not fads, for Anchorage schools.
The adage goes, “The beatings will stop when morale improves.” This is our Anchorage School District today under the current leadership.
The fear-based, NEA-driven, science-free masking of our children will continue until Anchorage voters have had enough and start treating the school board elections with more concern than any other elected body. There are recalls, there are lawsuits, but all of this has to start with the stakeholders — the parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and dare we say, the students themselves.