Long time Lower Kuskokwim School District board member William Updegrove is not running for re-election this year. This leaves Seat G open, which represents Bethel, and three candidates want to fill it. KYUK spoke with each candidate on why they’re seeking election to the LKSD Board.
It’ll be a tough choice for voters tomorrow as they choose from Rahnia Boyer, Michael Husa, and Rodney “Mark” Jones; qualified candidates that are equally passionate about career readiness for LKSD students.
Born and raised in the Y-K Delta, Rahnia Boyer is eager to give back to a community that she credits for building her into the leader she is today.
“Despite the challenges that may come with living in rural Alaska,” said Boyer, “there were definitely a lot of really great opportunities that came with it and I feel like it’s really important for me to be able to give back and help provide opportunities to others.”
Boyer is the Vice President of Village Health and Workforce Development for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation. She's been an engaged volunteer, currently serving on the Academic Policy Committee for Ayaprun Elitnaurvik, the Yup’ik immersion school. Boyer also coaches volleyball for the district.
If her last name sounds familiar, that’s because long time educator and Bethel Regional High School Principal Doug Boyer is her husband. She says that should a conflict of interest arise, she would have no trouble recusing herself from a particular Board vote. Boyer is eager to focus on improving teacher recruitment and retention for the district.
“It’s important that we recruit the best teachers that we can for our students, that we recruit the best staff for our students, that we’re growing our own as there are initiatives that are happening,” Boyer said. “And that we make sure we understand what their needs might be so that we can retain them and keep them here to help develop continuity with our kids and help them to be successful in those ways.”
Michael Husa taught for the Lower Kuskokwim School District for 25 years. Despite being retired for three years, he couldn't quite give up teaching just yet. Husa currently works as an Adult Basic Education Instructor at Yuut Elitnaurviat; this is his third time running for the LKSD board.
“I truly believe that we have a workforce out here that we need to fully develop. I believe in our students,” said Husa.
An immediate issue Husa wants to look at is what the plan is for rebuilding Ayaprun Elitnaurvik.
“It’s still significantly short of funds, from what I understand, to actually build that replacement building, and it’s time to get going on it. Whether we rebuild at the Kilbuck site or we build a new structure, it’s time to put the children in a permanent school,” Husa said.
Improved access to job training resources is also high on his list.
“We need to not just focus on college prep,” said Husa. “The job opportunities are vast out here and whether you’re providing for your family by working as a store clerk, or other high school educated positions, or you choose to go to college, I want people to see those job opportunities and feel like they’re valued.”
To YKHC Information Technologies Securities Specialist Rodney “Mark” Jones, a computer coder for the past 40 years, seeing the district develop a coding curriculum is important.
“I’d like to see that go a lot further. I think that we can introduce a wonderful curriculum starting as early as kindergarten,” said Jones. “And raise our kids not just to be savvy on the iPads and all this technology, but actually be able to make the devices work for them and hopefully gain skills that will provide them with opportunities for employment where they don’t necessarily have to leave the region. They can stay here and work remotely.”
To Jones, that also means that curriculum taught in the classroom should be understood at home as well.
“We need to reach out more to the parents and have more parents involved,” Jones said.
With the Bethel Advisory School Board, Jones has been working to encourage more parent participation.
“We started putting together some programs where we could invite parents to come and talk about topics that are important to them,” said Jones.
Boyer, Husa, and Jones will face off for Seat G in the LKSD board elections on Tuesday.
Also running for the board is incumbent Felix Albert, who is unopposed for Seat A, which represents Newtok, Nightmute, Toksook Bay, and Tununak. Running unopposed for Seat C is Richard Long. Seat C represents Atmautluak, Kasigluk, Kwethluk, Napakiak, Napaskiak, Oscarville, and Tuntutuliak.
Running for Seat F are Catherine Cedars and incumbent Deanna Latham. KYUK reached out to both Cedars and Latham for interviews, but they could not be contacted in time for this broadcast.
Voting for LKSD School Board candidates will take place at both designated precincts on Tuesday October 2.