Three school board seats are on Anchorage’s ballot this spring. Elisa Snelling and Starr Marsett are competing for Seat G, which is being vacated by Natasha Von Imhof. The two candidates both bring passion but with very different focuses.
Starr Marsett ran for school board in 2012, and she lost. Her response?
“What it did was let me know that I needed to get more involved, get more ready for being able to do it the next time.”
So Marsett joined committees — the Capital Improvement Advisory Committee, the Special Education Advisory Committee, the Multicultural Educational Concerns Advisory Committee. And through those groups she visited many of Anchorage’s schools and learned about some of the major issues. She also substitute taught for three years.
“And that kind of opened my eyes to what was going on in the classrooms. I saw classrooms — there was one classroom I subbed in, there were 20 students and they gave that teacher all of the behavioral challenged students for that grade. And no support.”
Marsett says these experiences and raising her special needs grandson prompted her to speak up in support of the teachers and the students. She says she sees problems in the schools and problems with the budget, and wants to use her 16 years of experience with finance to help solve them.
The district can’t just cut the most recently added programs, like literacy coaches, Marsett says. “No, let’s look at the programs that aren’t working. Let’s do a strategic plan, let’s do an analysis and not just cut the last thing. Let’s cut the thing that’s not working.”
Marsett’s opponent, Elisa Snelling, also comes to the race with a financial background. She’s been an accountant for 20 years and served as treasurer for the German charter school for three years.
“Somewhere about 20, 25 years ago I decided to give up letters for numbers. I love balancing numbers. It is a passion. I will go home sick to my stomach if something doesn’t work until I find it. So I’ve always watched the budget.”
Snelling says she wants the whole community to participate in the district’s finances by holding more budget meetings at night and making the documents more available online.
Snelling says her children’s success at Rilke Shule inspires her to push for easy access to charter and alternative school programs for all of Anchorage’s students. She says she wants to embed charter and alternative programs into neighborhood schools.
“Parents can decide. They can take a look at their neighborhood school and say ‘My kid might like the Japanese immersion program or the Montessori program.’ They might be okay with the regular program. But I think that parents and students should have options that they don’t have to drive across town for.”
Snelling, who lives in Eagle River, says she’s running to make a difference for the long term. “I’ve got the energy, I’ve got the excitement, I’ve got the drive. I’ve got the kids to push me. I’ve got all of the incentive in the world to make it just go all the way.”
Anchorage voters will make the final decision on April 7 at the ballot box.