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Southeast Alaska News
FAIRBANKS — Alaska’s biggest annual guessing game has begun in earnest, with workers setting up equipment that will note the time the Tanana River ice starts to move.
Crews set up a tripod Sunday on the icy river in the tiny community of Nenana, about 55 miles south of Fairbanks, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Monday. As soon as the ice begins to move, the tripod tips on the shifting ice and stops a clock.
JUNEAU — The Alaska Senate Education Committee on Monday questioned the constitutionality of a bill that would fund the purchase of student equipment and technology services for correspondence schools and home schooling.
The bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, calls for an increase from an 80 percent base student allocation for those involved in correspondence and home schooling to 100 percent.
It would allow correspondence schools and home schooling families to purchase educational programs and materials developed by universities.
JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell has appointed two former oil industry employees to the board that sets the tax value of the trans-Alaska pipeline system, raising concerns about fairness from the Fairbanks North Star Borough.
Municipalities won a huge victory last month, when the Alaska Supreme Court found the pipeline for 2006 should have been valued at nearly $10 billion, not the $850 million claimed by pipeline owners.
JUNEAU — The House Finance Committee on Monday proposed a $9.1 billion state operating budget, about $1.3 billion less than the authorized level of spending at the start of the current fiscal year.
The proposal also is more than $3 billion less than what Gov. Sean Parnell put forth. Parnell’s proposal included shifting $3 billion from savings to help pay down the state’s unfunded pension liability, which the committee didn’t include in its plan. Lawmakers have not yet decided how to address that issue.
The Borough Assembly on Monday introduced an ordinance designed to address problems in the Herrring Cove area during tourist season. Assembly member Agnes Moran gives an update on the meeting. Assembly030414
Parnell declared his support of the project during a visit to Petersburg Monday.
“I actually had the chance to walk through with the police chief and the mayor and city manager through the police station and to see the kind of decrepit state of the building,” Parnell said.
Although the project is not in the capitol budget right now, he says it still could be funded this session. However, he says the community should pony up some local money if they want to see action on it soon.
“Those projects that come forward asking for a hundred percent state funding tend to get a lower priority with legislators than those that have a local match,” Parnell said. “And so if a local government can match either using general fund reserves or using a bond issue or something, that is usually viewed favorably by legislators.”
The state has already put in just over four million dollars into the project leaving six million still needed.
This is the advice that the Governor gave to Petersburg leadership Monday:
“In the budget environment in Juneau, it is far easier to come forward as a community and say, ‘here’s how much we can put into the project, we need you now to step forward with more’,” Parnell said.
Petersburg officials went to the state Capital last month seeking funding.
The structure was built in 1958 and was originally used to house the police and fire departments, the library, and city offices.
The proposed renovations would include a new entry and parking area for borough offices, enclosed garage for the police station and would use pre-manufactured jail cells. The building would be heated and cooled with air source heat pumps.
Attention poetry fans…KRBD once again brings you “One Poem A Day Won’t Kill You” in April. If you are interested in reading a poem you wrote, or one in the public domain, contact us and we will set up a recording time. Poems must be suitable for all audiences, and no longer than 2 minutes. Call Maria at 225-9655 or 1-800-557-5723 for more information.
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Oceanographers Jackie Grebmeier and Lee Cooper, and Sitka Sound Science Center residency director Tory O’Connell, discuss the couple’s research, and their plans for their month-long residency in Sitka. Cooper is a chemical oceanographer; Grebmeier is a biological oceanographer who studies systems. They’ve been working in Alaska for nearly three decades. For more information about the Scientist in Residency Fellowship, visit the Sitka Sound Science Center online.
KFSK has an open airwaves policy. We encourage the public to express opinions, ideas and creative works. The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of KFSK.
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Schmidt to Chamber: Arts can shape Sitka’s economic future. State officials propose removing humpback whales from Endangered list; biologists disagree. Transportation infrastructure fund gains some traction in state house.
Ann Froeschle speaks about the new exhibit “First in Fish,” upcoming classes, an author visit and more. Museum040414
JUNEAU — U.S. Sen. Mark Begich said Monday that Alaskans should never amend the state constitution as a “fix” for education.
Proposed constitutional amendments pending before state lawmakers would allow for public money to be used for private or religious schools. Supporters see this as a way to allow for more choice in where parents send their kids, but critics fear it could siphon needed money from public education. Republican Gov. Sean Parnell has called on state lawmakers to debate the proposal and send it to voters to decide.
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard and took no action on a pair of bills Monday aimed at protecting students in different ways.
The first bill, SB128, cracks down on severe cases of cyber bullying in an attempt to prevent a trend of youth suicides in the lower 48 from impacting Alaska the same way going forward, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, said previously.
“There is reason to justify this,” said Anne Carpeneti, with the state Department of Law. “Electronic communication gets sent to a lot of people.”
Petersburg is a fishing town of 3,000 on an island in South East Alaska.
But inside the middle school, it’s pretty high tech. As these seventh graders enter their computer class, they pull laptops off a shelf, and settle into desks. The class is teaching them how to navigate google programs and it’s mandatory if they are going to get their own laptops when they enter high school.
It’s this dedication to technology that caught the attention of the statewide group, Alaska Society for Technology in Education. Dr. Mark Standley is President of the organization and a professor at the University of Alaska South East. He says no one at ASTE can remember one school winning so many annual awards.
“We’re calling it the Petersburg sweep,” Standley said.
The district’s three awards were presented at ASTE’s statewide conference in Anchorage February 25. Standley says the sweep reflects on the district’s strong team of educators.
“What Petersburg has done through leadership through the fine work of teachers like Don Holmes who has been there for many years and now more currently with the work Jon Kludt-Painter and your Superintendent Rob Thomason you are seeing the effect of, the results of, Petersburg’s investment over the years in the smart integration of technology in student work,” Standley said.
The district’s technology support teacher, John Kludt-Painter, won an award as did student PK Bunyi for building a quad-copter from scratch and then using it to create an aerial movie called, “A Simple Walk to School”. Superintendent Thomason won the Alaska Technology Administrator of the year. He’s been an educator for over four decades.
“And in all those years, 43 years, five states, two foreign countries, this district with this staff and this technology director, the top of the top,” Thomason said.
The school district follows the belief that technology is a good tool for educators to use and an important skill base for students to learn. And classes use it A LOT. Kids have access to computer devices from Kindergarten on. All high school students have their own laptops 24-7.
Kludt-Painter along with an assistant makes sure they’re all running smoothly.
“Just checked this morning and we had about 500 devices connected to our wi-fi network all doing multiple things,” Kludt-Painter said.
But technology only works if people know how to use it. Kludt-Painter says it’s “mission critical” to what the Petersburg schools do. The district prioritizes real time needs first, addressing students and staff immediately. Say there’s a website that’s not accessible because the school’s content filter has prevented a class from using it.
“Maybe the teacher’s lesson is hinging on that and you have twenty students waiting to access something and it’s blocked and so those sorts of things you have to react quickly,” Kludt-Painter said.
“When Jon talks about opening up a site, it used to be a three week process,” Thomason said. “You had to go through a whole bunch of justifications, and now it’s more ‘here’s what I want to do here’s where I need to do it, I’m in the middle of a lesson, it happens right now.”
It’s basically helping the users use the equipment.
“They call it three click stupid,” Kludt-Painter said, “in the sense that you just need it to work and if it doesn’t work in a number of clicks, then people won’t use it and we’ve invested way too much just to have things collect dust.”
The district’s relationship with technology began about ten years ago when it was awarded a grant for high school laptops called One to One. The students are prepped for it in middle school with classes such as “digital citizenship”.
There have been growing pains over the years. For one, the parents in the community needed to get on board with the idea that computers would help their kids learn. That wasn’t always easy when they saw them surfing the Internet late at night. Kludt-Painter says it has taken a lot of listening and responding to concerns, including working with parents on how to empower themselves.
“Whether it’s timed access so the laptop just happens to turn off at 7 at night so you still retain your family time and then turns back on at 6 in the morning ready to go, those sorts of tools for parents so they don’t feel that the technology is driving it,” Kludt-Painter said. “It’s just a tool that disappears in the background and is just used for education.”
Angela: “IT people, you know, computer experts, etc. are just in high demand, I think, everywhere. . .so why choose working in a school?”
Kludt-Painter: “Oh, boy. . . .(laughs) . . .that’s uh, it’s just um. . .I’m so passionate about watching what the endless possibilities of where students can go.”
Well, they have gone to Australia. . .at least by teleconference when fourth and fifth graders worked with a chemistry teacher there.
It’s this kind of forward thinking that has made this small town an example for how technology can enhance learning with the right dedication.
Participants in Sitka’s 6th annual Wearable Arts show flaunted their homemade haute couture before before a sold-out crowd at Harrigan Centennial Hall on Saturday night (3-1-2014). The show was put on by the Greater Sitka Arts Council, as part of the Arti-Gras Arts and Music Festival.
Featured in the slideshow above: Emily Reilly modeled “Queen of the Galaxy,” made by Jean Bartos of Ketchikan. “The Journey Home,” designed by Angela McGraw, was inspired by a meeting with Roma women on a subway in Rome. Fiona Digeatano, age 3, wore a dress created by Casey Orona from used plastic bags. Melody Kingsley modeled “Air-able Art,” designed by Jeff Budd, Liz Schababerle, and Cheryl Vastola. Christi Henthorn, Paula Langdorf, Blossom Twitchell, Renae Hill, Kate Petraborg, Lois Denherder, Ember Livingston and Karlie Smith created and modeled “The Denim Dolls.” Woods Hill bounced down the runway to the tune of “I’m A Gummy Bear” in an outfit that his mother, Angie Hill, constructed from his preschool art projects. Emmie Fish made her chain mail, in “The Metal Soldier,” from more than 4,000 soda can pull-tabs. Sonya Linden modeled a quilted denim outfit made by Sabra Jenkins. And Kate Frederic modeled the aptly named “Dancing in Fire” by artist Tori Carl.
Photos by Rachel Waldholz, KCAW.
UPDATED 3/4/14: An earlier version of this post misstated the artist who made the dress worn by Fiona Digeatano. The artist is Casey Orona, not Elsa Hernandez.
Director Roger Schmidt told the Sitka Chamber of Commerce last week that business at the camp had grown by a factor of 32, since he was named to the post in 2000.
The budget that year, Schmidt said, was $70,000.
Schmidt compared the growth of the arts in Sitka to places like Chautauqua, New York, Banff, Alberta, and Aspen, Colorado. Banff is a town only a little bit larger than Sitka, but has an arts program that generates tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue.
In Aspen, Schmidt said, the arts produce more income than skiing.
Schmidt suggested that it was time Sitka began to see itself the way others do.
“We’re a long way from being an Aspen or a Banff, and we may never be an Aspen or a Banff or Chautauqua. But I guess I’d really like to present that to Sitka — it’s a powerful resource that can be leveraged over and over and over again, if we take that route to make Sitka the most attractive place for talent to be raised, for talent to be retained, for talent to be attracted to. The most attractive town for visitors to come and spend more time, and for their families to figure out a way to make Sitka more of a destination.”
Schmidt said the camp achieved an unprecedented level of stability when it received the core Sheldon Jackson Campus in 2011 from the defunct college’s board of trustees. Not having a reliable home inhibited growth.
But the campus also came with some major liabilities. It had been boarded up for nearly four years. Schmidt said he took pains to avoid the campus.
“I didn’t go up Jeff Davis Street anymore, unless I had to. It just depressed me at a very deep level.”
Now, Schmidt said, 46-percent of his budget is spent on capital improvements. He said the work would literally never end.
“I think that we’re in the worst moment of historical battle that one can be at. But any large, 100-plus-year-old campus is just a constant capital project. Three years ago when we started it was in so many ways impossible to use. One of the things we’ve worked is to make more of the spaces non-seasonal. You know, the first year of camp we literally had no heat anywhere on campus.”
Having a heated permanent home has allowed the camp to expand programs. Schmidt said the camp now enrolls 1,000 students from 38 Alaskan communities, 27 states, and 5 countries. But tuition accounts for only 23-percent of the camp’s revenue. He stressed that contributions remain a major factor in the camp’s success — contributions which can be leveraged time and time again into matching grant funding.
“And we have so many multi-generational families that come to the camp, whether they’re teachers, or children, or grandchildren. People getting married at camp… uh, not married at camp… married because they met at camp. They do the preliminary work here!”
And the work — the work of restoring the campus, that is — goes on. Schmidt said over 700 community members have logged 30,000 volunteer hours helping prepare the campus for the arrival of students each summer.
And all those sheets of plywood over that boarded over campus windows?
“We’ve used them for theater sets, to drive our tractors on the lawn, to replace rotten subfloors. So, all that plywood’s gone to good use.”
Jeannie Blackmore and Maura O’Dell share insights into prepping and maintaining your garden soil during a call-in show on KRBD’s Morning Edition. Soil
Jan Lovett and Annette Blankenship of Ocean Wave Quilters’ Guild preview their 16th annual scholarship auction. The auction started in 1999, with two scholarships of $500 each. Last year, the auction raised about $2,000. The guild will give two scholarships this year to graduating seniors from Sitka High School and Mount Edgecumbe High School, and will also donate money to the Sitka Fine Arts Camp scholarship fund. The auction will be held at 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 4, in the Exhibit Room at Centennial Hall. A word of advice from the organizers: get there on time — the quilts go fast!
White House nominates Pacific Area Commander Paul Zukunft to be next Coast Guard commandant. Sitka golf course groundskeeper will serve jail time for attempting to poison brown bears. City administrators past and present debate Sitka’s future at public town hall meeting. The unlikely path traveled by Alaska’s new Orthodox bishop.
A group concerned about the City of Ketchikan’s plan to start treating water with monochloramine has successfully submitted the paperwork to start collecting signatures for a ballot proposition. City Clerk Katy Suiter accepted the petition paperwork from United Citizens for Better Water on Monday morning.
If enough signatures are collected, an ordinance will be placed before voters to prohibit the city from using chloramine for public water disinfection.
The petitioners have 30 days to collect a little more than 350 valid signatures and submit the paperwork to the city clerk for review. If the petition has met all the requirements, the question should go before voters within two months, which means a special election is possible.
While not specifying a date, the city has planned to switch from chlorine to chloramine starting this spring – possibly as soon as this month. The issue isn’t on the meeting agenda, but the Ketchikan City Council likely will hear some public testimony on the topic when it meets this week.
United Citizens for Better Water has invited Bob Bowcock, who is associated with national consumer advocate Erin Brockovich, to conduct a public meeting on Wednesday, and then give a presentation to the City Council on Thursday.
Wednesday’s public meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the Ted Ferry Civic Center. Click the link below to read an earlier story on this topic.
For more information about United Citizens for Better Water, go to: