School Board Seat E candidates have similar passions, different backgrounds

Anchorage voters will cast ballots for three school board seats during next week’s election. All three seats are voted on by the entire community. Incumbent Kathleen Plunkett and challenger Derrick Slaughter are vying for Seat E, and they have a lot in common.

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Kathleen Plunkett and Derrick Slaughter sit across from each other at Alaska Public Media, both with broad smiles.

“I’m a big family guy, 100%,” says Slaughter when Plunkett asks him what he values.

“I think on that, again, we’re pretty similar,” Plunkett responds as Slaughter chuckles slightly.

That’s not all they have in common. Both graduated from Anchorage high schools and have bachelor’s degrees in business. They each have two kids (Slaughter’s second will be born soon), are involved in community organizations, and care about energy conservation. And they both joined the school board race because they’re passionate about the district’s kids.

“I really have a passion for our kids,” said Plunkett. “And I really want them to be successful in their careers and their lives.”

“Because at the end of everything, it’s about how kids progress, how they’re ready for the real world,” said Slaughter.

But each candidate brings different experiences to the table.

Plunkett says she fell in love with accounting in high school then went straight to college. She’s been a financial analyst with ConocoPhillips since 1980. She was a member of the Russian Jack Community Council for 16 years and volunteered to build playgrounds in her neighborhood. Plunkett says one of her favorite things from her two terms on school board is digging in to the budget details.

“I actually love it. It’s a lot of fun, especially when you can find something and go ‘Oh! Well what about doing it this way?’ I also love looking at, with the audits we’ve been working on, looking at best practices.”

Plunkett also enjoys getting into the classroom and helping connect teachers so they can learn from each other’s innovative teaching methods. She says she loves learning from the students, too.

“I think the most fun was when I was at Tyson and I had this kindergartner that, my coat was not quite buttoned correctly, there was one that had fallen loose. She was quite meticulous about buttoning up my coat.”

Slaughter is involved with education through his volunteer work at his son’s school and through his barbershop. He says he wasn’t ready to go to college straight out of high school, so he learned to cut hair instead. For the past ten years he’s co-owned Unique Blends barbershop in Muldoon where he’s trained more than 20 new barbers about hair, and about life.

“The first thing that I teach my barbers is ‘Hey, you have to save your money, you have to prepare for the future.’”

He prepared for his own future by going back to school while he was working. Slaughter says being a barber is about more than just the craft, it’s about being able to listen.

“By having a barber shop I can connect and speak to every person–to the parent, to the educators, to the community leaders.”

Anchorage’s newest community leaders will be elected on April 7.