Anchorage School District principals to administrators: ‘We’re fed up.’

An empty conference room
The Anchorage School District board room when it is empty, taken March 13, 2020. (Mayowa Aina/Alaska Public Media)

Anchorage School District principals expressed frustration and dissatisfaction about the way the school year has started at the ASD School Board meeting Tuesday night.

Their testimonies to the school board came as principals are negotiating a new contract with the school district. Their current contract expired June 30. 

Patrick Freeman is the principal at Bowman Elementary School and president of the Anchorage Principals Association. Freeman told the board that the district has not been taking into account the expertise of school principals.

“The Anchorage School, and ASD leadership, has minimalized what principals do to the point that the trust that we have had with administration is null and void,” Freeman said. “When I have personally asked fellow school board members and ASD leadership on separate important district decisions if they spoke with principals, the common answer is ‘No’, or ‘Maybe we should have done that.'” 

More than two dozen school principals provided written or spoken testimony. Several of them shared comments from a survey administered by the Anchorage Principals Association. 

By and large principal complaints included feeling left out of the decision-making process and overwhelmed by the amount of work and programs the district is implementing.  

Bartlett High School Principal Sean Prince called the lack of communication between participants in the district’s virtual options “deplorable.” 

“As we try to support teachers and students and parents, I am afraid that we are not creating a family of lifelong learners, but rather creating a group of people that have a bad taste in their mouth for education, learning and our district.”

School board policy does not allow board members or district officials to respond directly to public testimony as it is being given. 

Later in the meeting, District superintendent Deena Bishop provided clarification regarding a statement she made to media last week, suggesting that students in Kindergarten through third grade would be back in ASD classrooms by the end of the month as normal. 

Bishop said she mistakenly made the statement in response to a question about school sports starting and if school would restart during the second semester. 

“Certainly I responded with ‘No, I hope it’s sooner than that,’” Bishop said. 

Bishop said as coronavirus case counts in Anchorage trend downward, students would be able to return to classrooms. 

“If I could move mountains, I would certainly start school in September, if I could,” Bishop said. “The statements made were in general.”

Bishop said she will continue to follow the decision-making process in place.

Enrollment in the district continues to be lower than expected, about a 9 percent decrease. While the district expects enrollment numbers to fluctuate, if numbers stay at the current level the district faces a $26 million shortfall.