Two former middle school teachers are vying for Anchorage School Board Seat F. Incumbent Tam Agosti-Gisler and opponent David Nees both spent more than two decades in the classroom and want to use their first-hand knowledge to shape district decisions.
David Nees, a former math teacher, says he sees problems with the current school board.
“It seems to be their focus is on the budget, and they’ve lost focus on their core mission, which is to educate all the children.”
Nees says the district needs to focus on making sure all kids succeed and to intervene for individual students if they aren’t. That includes transporting kids to schools that aren’t in their neighborhoods. He also wants to spend more money on kids with special needs. Nees says he doesn’t think some newer, more expensive models are paying off and improving academic performance.
“First order of business is to take a look at some programs we adopted, socio-emotional learning, middle school, Response to Instruction [testing and monitoring system]. Those are all expensive. You chose to do those. Did anyone do an analysis five years later to show is it having an effect?”
Nees says teachers need to have the flexibility to innovate and not be tied to set teaching curriculum, though he says he thinks old school methods are the most effective.
“The things that work, typically, is drill and practice, especially in mathematics. It’s proven. I mean if you go to Singapore, it’s drill and practice. Korea is drill and practice. It works. It’s old school; it’s not popular; it’s not big idea. But if it gives you the results you want, because for me, computation in math, that’s our alphabet.”
Incumbent Tam Agosti-Gisler, a former social studies and French teacher, says she quickly learned that drill and practice only works for some students. She says it’s important for the school district to have standards that align with other districts because there are so many transient students, but teachers need flexibility and innovation to reach those marks.
“The standards are basically the meat, but how you’re going to cook that meat and serve it are where the choices come in there. And that meets the individual learning styles.”
Agosti-Gisler says she wants to explore more partnerships with businesses so they can mentor students and help them on their career paths. She wants more partnerships with the muni to share services, like the bus system. But she says being on the school board for three years has taught her that the district can’t do everything.
“I have a much better understanding of the broader picture. And how often I’ve been faced with making choices as a school board member that I do not like, but we have to produce a balanced budget.”
She says that includes cutting career counselors in order to preserve small class sizes. To limit those hard choices, Agosti-Gisler says she’s worked to create more efficiencies through the auditing process, and she’s using the communication skills she learned when earning a bachelor’s in international relations to help unite the School Board.
“I’m known on the board for being able to work with anybody and find ways to compromise and collaborate and, again, putting forth those skills I learned in my degree program.”
The municipal election takes place on April 7. All Anchorage voters can vote for all three open school board seats.