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Southeast Alaska News
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly recently asked the state Department of Transportation to reduce the speed limit on South Tongass Highway in the Herring Cove area, but only during the summer.
That request stemmed from a borough study of Herring Cove, a busy destination for summer tourists hoping to see some Alaska wildlife. The Assembly will discuss that study in detail during a work session Monday, part of the regular Borough Assembly meeting.
Some other recommendations the Planning Department drafted include pedestrian bridges and viewing platforms, walkways next to the highway, and a public parking lot with restrooms and trash cans. All that would be funded through the borough’s share of the state cruise passenger head tax.
The Planning Department also recommends working with the state to make sure there is enforcement of parking and traffic regulations, working with the visitor industry to educate visitors about wildlife safety, and an annual review to make sure the area’s needs are met.
Also Monday, the Assembly will consider a resolution to move forward with a wood-fired boiler project at Point Higgins Elementary School. That’s a cooperative project with the Ketchikan School District.
The Assembly meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. Monday in Borough Assembly chambers. Public comment will be heard at the start of the meeting.
Bob Fultz of Ketchikan Youth Initiatives, and designers Jason Shomaker and Lori Linville of Liquid Stone Designs provide details about the new skate park layout and its progress. SkatePark
Gov. Sean Parnell has ordered state flags to be lowered to half-staff on Tuesday to honor former Alaska Senator Bill Ray, who died September 9th.
The 91-year-old Ray served in the U.S. Navy, and then returned to Juneau to work in his family’s business and fish commercially. He was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives in 1964 and served six years before successfully running for the Alaska Senate, where he remained until 1986.
Ray held positions on the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and the Federal Fish and Game Advisory Board.
He is survived by his wife and two children.
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Rachel Thompson, with Maine’s Island Institute, is holding a two-part workshop on climate change science. “Communicating Local Impacts of Climate Change” (9AM-5PM Sat Sep 14, Keet Gooshi Heen Room 26, free) will help hone the communication skills of teachers, fishermen, and others interested in communicating climate change research. The “WeatherBlur Orientation” (9AM-4PM Sun Sep 15, Keet Gooshi Heen Room 26, free) will introduce participants to an online learning community. To register, email Rachel Thompson at the address given in this link. With ALFA’s Linda Behnken, and Ashley Bolwerk from the Sitka Sound Science Center.
CREAMER’S FIELD, FAIRBANKS — “As this bird takes off, think about how they have to fly thousands and thousands of miles,” Tricia Blake said to 21 first-graders sitting on wooden benches surrounded by birch and balsam poplar trees.
The biologist and educator then placed a ruby-crowned kinglet in the flat palm of a six-year old boy. The thumb-size songbird was probably born in northern Alaska this spring. During the past hour of its brief life (which will last about 4 years), it had a tiny metal band clamped around its ankle.
ANCHORAGE — The Republican field for U.S. Senate grew by one, or possibly two, on Thursday. Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell officially launched his campaign at a rally with supporters at his headquarters in Anchorage.
The launch came as the governor’s office announced the resignation of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan; there has been speculation that Sullivan, too, will seek the Republican nomination for Senate. Sullivan was traveling Thursday and unavailable for comment.
ANCHORAGE — A state court judge has been asked to overturn a 2011 initiative that developers of the proposed Pebble Mine say is an attempt to kill the project.
The Save our Salmon initiative, passed by Lake and Peninsula Borough voters, bans large-scale resource extraction, including mining, that would destroy or degrade salmon habitat.
Nearly 63 percent of voters polled are in favor of a likely 2014 ballot initiative that would prohibit mining in Bristol Bay, according to an opinion poll released by Anchorage-based Hays Research Group. Almost 24 percent said they would oppose the ballot initiative.
The two candidates for Sitka’s school board this year agree on much, but also have one key difference: How they view the role of the superintendent.
Incumbent Lon Garrison and challenger Stephen Courtright answered questions for about an hour at the Sitka Chamber of Commerce this week (9-11-13), in the first candidate forum of the municipal election season.
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Courtright, a music teacher at Mt. Edgecumbe, said the district superintendent should leave education to the educators.
“The superintendent is not the person who should be the educational leader, should not be the disciplinary leader, should not be the one doing the nitty-gritty of human resources issues — there are people whose job it is to do all of those things. But the superintendent is the one who sets the tone from the top down, is the face of the entire district, and needs to be absolutely unimpeachable as such.”
Courtright stressed that this was not a personal reflection on current superintendent Steve Bradshaw, who is still dealing with the repercussions of last year’s crisis, when his middle school principal was indicted for sexual assault.
Bradshaw has submitted his resignation effective June 30, 2014. The board will begin a hiring process to replace him, following the municipal election.
The two candidates did not dispute each other much during the chamber forum, but incumbent school board president Lon Garrison disagreed on this point: does the superintendent lead on education, or leave that responsibility to the principals?
“I think they are going to be the educational leader. They are going to be the one setting the tone. There’s no doubt about it. There are going to be others that are going to working for them to help implement that leadership, but it is the superintendent who takes on that responsibility of conveying to the rest of the district what the school board has come up with in policy and in vision, and making sure it’s implemented.”
In most other respects, challenger and incumbent were fairly well-aligned: the importance of early childhood education, closing the achievement gap for low-income students, and the need to educate the whole child through extra-curricular programs beyond the three R’s.
Once in a while, the candidates would reveal a subtle difference in perspective. An audience member asked if the Sitka School District adequately prepared students to enter the workforce.
“I would say for most students, Yes, we are effective in educating our students to enter the workforce, to go to college, or to continue with additional career technical education. But I would say there’s still a considerable percentage of students that don’t get there.”
“My big takeaway from this question is that preparing workers is not the point of schools. The point of schools is to prepare citizens and to prepare thinkers. If we teach them to think, and to be able to ask the right questions, anybody can teach them how to do a job.”
This type of educator’s perspective is what Courtright said Sitka’s current board lacks. He said he felt that this race was not about removing anyone from the board, but about adding something that’s missing.
“It looks different when you’re there every day. The students do things differently, the teachers do things differently. I truly believe that’s a perspective that cannot be gotten by just walking through every now and again.”
Courtright has been a teacher for nine years; Garrison has been on the Sitka School Board for six of those years. He now runs the hatchery program at the Sitka Sound Science Center.
Garrison stressed his history as an advocate for education at the state and federal levels.
“I’ve developed a passion for public education and being a good school board member, and have spent the time and effort it takes to continually improve — and I continue to do that. To bring new ideas to the table and to champion Sitka’s values to both the outside and others outside our state and community.”
Garrison and Courtright are running for one seat on Sitka’s five-member school board. It is a three-year term. The municipal election is Tuesday, October 1.
KCAW News will have detailed profiles of all the municipal candidates during local news beginning next week. You can ask the candidates your questions during our on-air forums, 6:30 PM Wednesday and Thursday, September 25 & 26.
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Mollie Kabler and Kitty LaBounty, hosts (for over 20 years!) of KCAW’s Garden Show, discuss how to prepare our gardens for winter.
New preschool aims to close achievement gap. Stanford’s SoCo comes to Sitka. Pink fishing closes after record-breaking year.
Our One Day Drive is Friday, October 4th. Not long ago we spent up to a week in “marathon mode” every fall. If you like our time and effort going into news and music shows instead, please help erase the need for extended on air drives by taking a moment right now to contribute towards our $55,000 Fall Drive goal. We need everyone, including you, to make it. Thank You!
Sitka sends funding to nonprofit orgs. Electric rate increase moves forward. SE residents testify on ferry schedule. Alaskans oppose military strike on Syria.
Raven Radio News Reporter Ed Ronco is moving to Seattle to become Morning Edition producer at KPLU in Seattle. He starts in October.
Ed came to KCAW in September, 2009, from Indiana, where he covered business, politics and government at the South Bend Tribune prior to joining Raven Radio. He’s a 2004 graduate of Michigan State University.
He’s on the job here through the end of the month, but he plans to remain a proud member of Raven Radio for the rest of his life. Please join us in congratulating Ed on a job well done here in Sitka as well as his exciting new opportunity at KPLU! Ed, we’ll miss you!
There are more empty desks in Juneau classrooms than the Juneau School District expected, and the shortfall means major budget cuts are likely.
Enrollment projections for the 2013-2014 school year had 4,936 students in Juneau schools, but the preliminary tally on Sept. 6 revealed that only 4,848 students were enrolled.
That 88-student difference may end up costing the district more than $650,000 from the state and city because funding is based on enrollment.
JUNEAU — State Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan plans to resign amid speculation that he will run for an Alaska U.S. Senate seat next year.
The news came as another Republican, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, officially launched his campaign for Senate on Thursday.
Sullivan plans to resign effective Sept. 24. In his resignation letter to Gov. Sean Parnell, Sullivan said he intends to seek ways to serve his fellow Alaskans as he explores “new opportunities and challenges” in the next phase of his life.
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough School Board met in regular session Wednesday. Along with a vote on activities funding, the future of the library consortium came up during public comment.
The School Board voted after some discussion to approve a transfer of more than $40,000 from the district’s reserves to the activities program.
The decision comes after changes in the Alaska Marine Highway System schedule last year. Because new ferry times result in lengthy absences for students who travel for competitions, they have been opting to travel by air. The budget transfer approved by the Board would help ease those increased costs.
Board Member Colleen Scanlon proposed that the board double the amount to $84,000 to account for a larger share of the travel fees. While the rest of the board generally agreed with her in principle, nobody seconded her motion, so it died.
Board Member Michelle O’Brien, who works for Ketchikan Public Utilities, notes that the potential for larger energy costs this year should give the board pause when considering taking more out of the district’s reserve fund.
“It’s no secret to all of us that it’s been very warm and very sunny this year,” O’Brien said. “So I have considerable concern dipping into that reserve knowing that there is a large possibility that KPU will have to run an extensive amount of diesels this winter.”
The School Board voted unanimously to approve the budget transfer while tentatively agreeing to approach the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly at a later date for more activities funding.
The topic of the library consortium came up during the board meeting. Kathleen Wiechelman, head librarian at the University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan Campus Library, gave an impassioned plea in favor of the consortium. That agreement allows libraries to share services and books between district schools, the university and the public library. Its future is in question though, after Superintendent Robert Boyle hinted that the school district might exit the consortium due to rising costs.
Wiechelman told the board that the biggest losers if the consortium dissolved would be Ketchikan’s children.
“Frankly, the financial fallout to the public library and the campus library if the school district pulls out of the consortium wouldn’t be catastrophic,” she said at the meeting. “What would be a big deal would be the impact on the schoolchildren of Ketchikan.”
Superintendent Boyle reiterated his opinion that, while the consortium is valuable to the community, the district will have to take a hard look at the cost.
“We value the consortium, it’s been a very successful program for a number of years. But we think at this time that it needs to be analyzed,” Boyle said in response.
Any decision on the consortium will not come soon – the School Board recently signed its yearly contract to remain in the agreement.
The Board also agreed to draft a letter to the federal government over the fate of the Secure Rural Schools program. After a number of years of that program, which compensates communities for a loss of timber sales due to federal regulations, it appears funding for it may have finally dried up. Superintendent Boyle agreed to draft a letter to the national government on behalf of the board, requesting that the program continue.
A 34-year-old Ketchikan man was arrested Wednesday and charged with possession and distribution of child pornography.
According to the Ketchikan Police Department, local police were contacted by Alaska Bureau of Investigation officers, who along with the Anchorage Police Department were monitoring someone in Ketchikan who allegedly was downloading child pornography.
A team made up of Ketchikan police officers, Alaska State Troopers, the U.S. Marshal Service and Homeland Security served a search warrant at a North Yorktown home, and arrested Ryan Michael Thomas Brown.
Through live video feed, police allegedly obtained and preserved video evidence. Several pieces of computer equipment also were seized.
Brown faces at least three counts of distributing and one count of possessing child pornography. He had his first court appearance Thursday, and Judge Kevin Miller set bail at $25,000 plus a third-party custodian. The public defender agency was appointed to represent Brown.
The Ketchikan School Board on Wednesday night voted to tap reserves and add about $42,000 to the activities budget to help with travel costs. Stephen Bradford give details of the meeting. SB091213
ANCHORAGE — A coalition of Anchorage libertarian and tea party groups has launched a campaign to put a measure on the ballot that would bar the city from deducting union dues from employee paychecks.
The coalition has filed an application with the city, the Anchorage Daily News reported. City workers in unions currently have compulsory dues automatically deducted from their paychecks.