Tanaina Supporters Appeal To UA Board of Regents

Tanaina supporters voiced their concerns to the University of Alaska Board of Regents. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN - Anchorage)
Tanaina supporters voiced their concerns to the University of Alaska Board of Regents. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

Supporters of the Tanaina Child Development Center appealed to the University of Alaska Board of Regents on Thursday, urging the board to help save Tanaina.

The center was informed it would need to find a new home late last month, when UAA opted to end an agreement which allowed the childcare facility space on campus.

Download Audio

Max Kullberg is an assistant professor with the WWAMI program at UAA, and one of several Tanaina parents to testify. Aside from being a faculty member and parent, though – Kullberg is also a graduate of the program.

“All my earliest memories come from Tanaina,” Kullberg said. “I believe my very first memory is sticking my tongue to a yellow metal duck out on the playground, and being stuck to that duck – howling as the teachers ran to get warm water and pry my mouth from it.”

“I remember nap time; I remember my best friends; I remember my teachers; and I remember trying cottage cheese for the first time.”

Kullberg’s three-year-old daughter attends Tanaina, and he hopes his son will be able to go next year.

Kullberg’s desire to keep Tanaina open and on campus echoed that of the other supporters at the meeting.

Jo Heckman is the chair of the Board of Regents. She says the board understands it’s a sensitive and emotional issue for those affected by the decision.

“I, myself, am a mom,” Heckman said. “So I understand what displacement does to people, their work lives and their ability to function in a work environment.”

And Heckman says she also sees it from the university’s point of view, with the bleak outlook on state funding. Heckman says public testimony is a good opportunity to listen, but ultimately, the Tanaina decision isn’t one the board will be involved in.

“Board of Regents will allow the chancellors to run their universities,” Heckman said. “Otherwise, we would be doing their job, and really I don’t think that’s the right thing for us to do as a governance body.”

Heckman says the scope of the board is to provide oversight and policy to the university system…not to make decisions at the campus level.

UAA has created a task force, involving university students, staff and faculty, Tanaina board members along with non-profit and early childhood development experts to help figure out a future for the center.

Megan Olson is UAA’s vice chancellor for University Advancement and a member of the task force. Much of the discussion over the last few weeks has surrounded the issue of space, but she says the group’s first task is to define and lay out Tanaina’s goals.

“Once we define that dream, I think we need to start planning toward that, and then the space will come,” Olson said.

Olson says the task force hopes to meet weekly. She says the university has also committed $10,000 dollars to help cover Tanaina’s rent expenses over the summer.

The center has to vacate it’s space on the UAA campus by May 8th.

Public testimony will continue Friday morning at the Board of Regents meeting in Anchorage.