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Southeast Alaska News
A team of two people filming ice and glacier research high above Juneau this summer recently came down off the ice and visited Petersburg. Mira Dutschke, originally from South Africa, and Jeff Barbee, who hails from Colorado, spent seven weeks filming scientists studying the glacial ice above the Capitol City with the Juneau Icefield Research Program. The program trains university and high school students in Earth Sciences and wilderness survival as they spend eight weeks crossing from Juneau to Atlin, British Columbia. Dutschke and Barbee stopped by the studios of KFSK and Joe Viechnicki asked them about how they first got involved in the project.
For iFriendly audio, click here:
Find out more about the research and training program at juneauicefield.com or view a short film done by Barbee and Dutschke on link television.
It sounds like Petersburg’s school board will not be expanding in the near future.
Board president Jean Ellis this summer asked superintendent Rob Thomason to look into expansion from a five person board to a seven person board as a way to assure enough board members are present at each meeting.
Thomason reported back the results of his research on the issue Tuesday with only three of the five board members at the August monthly meeting. Thomason told the board it would take a charter change approved by local voters to expand board membership and he said it could expand the length of meetings. “Even though you may hopefully increase your attendance rate at meetings you also increase, research says you increase the length of meetings because the discussion gets longer because there’s exponential discussion that takes place,” he said. “So there were a lot of reasons to kinda rethink that and if at some point in the future the board would see fit to go from five to seven members the process is there.”
Thomason thought the charter change could take about 18 months. Board president Ellis said she would not pursue the issue. “And after discussing with Rob what he had found and how it worked, I decided OK we’ll stick with this. I think my frustration is that it is hard to get enough people at the meetings. It seems like just three people making some important decisions doesn’t seem like a lot of people.”
The board took no action on the issue Tuesday. Board members did hear from administrators and staff about preparations for the start of the new school year. Teachers go back to work next week and students have their first day the following week, on Tuesday September 3rd. Maintenance director Tye Peterson detailed some of the work that’s been completed in the school buildings over the summer. That includes remodeling of the elementary school library along with painting, new curtains and carpet in the auditorium.
High school and middle school principal Rick Dormer also discussed the leadup to the new year. “People who are listening or people here who have kids, again we register kids next week, so that’s happening,” Dormer said. “So parents are hopefully ready time to go in and pay some of the fees, laptop rollouts begin next week, so a lot of the high school kids will get their laptops next week, middle school kids getting signed up for classes talking about their activities that will start soon. So, we’re in full bore and just remind everybody to, hopefully you got something in the mail and information’s on the website. Parents out there if you need to register, if you’re wondering when to do that.”
In other updates, activities director Jaime Cabral told the board that activity fees have gone up to $100, from $80. There’s also a $340 cap for families with multiple students or students in more than one sport.
Six grade students will be able to take part in school sponsored sports travel this year in cross country, track, basketball, cheer leading, wrestling and volleyball. Cross country and track are new additions to the middle school offerings and six graders, starting this year, are allowed to join seventh and eighth graders on one trip a year for each sport.
The board approved a new bussing contract with local company Stikine Services. The contract includes a two percent increase and is for just under $160,000 dollars. The district receives state funding to cover the costs of pupil transportation.
The board also approved a six-year Capital Improvement Project list that’s submitted to the state for possible funding of future projects or reimbursement for work that’s already been done. Topping the list is a one-point-five million dollar food service renovation project.
ANCHORAGE — Responders and residents are racing against a tight deadline to help rebuild a badly flooded town in Alaska’s interior before the region’s unforgiving winter arrives, but frustrated locals say the work isn’t being done quickly enough.
In response, the town of Galena is working on a backup plan for alternate local housing in case some homes remain inhabitable by winter, as expected. About 80 people from the community of about 500 have not been able to return to their homes yet, city manager Greg Moyer said.
ANCHORAGE — The concerns of indigenous people in the north were discussed at an Inuit Circumpolar Council meeting in Kotzebue.
Members from Russia, Greenland and Canada met with Alaska members last week, the Alaska Public Radio Network reported.
ICC Alaska President Jim Stott said the regional groups have grown and are much more capable of addressing concerns for the people they represent.
FAIRBANKS — A 70-year-old Fairbanks pilot faces a potential $1 million fine and jail time after he was convicted of turning a blind eye to 7 gallons of beer carried in his Cessna 206 on a trip to a dry community in Northwestern Alaska.
A six-member jury returned a guilty verdict for both Ken Jouppi, 70, and his business, KenAir, for misdemeanor alcohol importation Friday, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
Prosecutors said during the trial that Jouppi’s actions amount to willful ignorance of the community alcohol ban. Some of the beer was in a bag.
KENAI — There’s a distinctive “whub, whub, whub” sound that signals the approach of a Bell helicopter. Whether the pilot is speeding at more than 120 miles an hour, or slowed and hovering six feet off the ground, it’s hard to mistake the sound.
“Anybody that was in Vietnam or anybody that was in a war knows that sound and usually it’s somebody coming to help them, so it’s a neat feeling,” said Ken Carlton, contract helicopter pilot for the Division of Forestry in Soldotna.
KODIAK — A Kodiak woman is leading a study to find out why Alaskans love salmon.
The Salmon Project, still in an exploratory phase, aims to find out about the deep connections Alaskans have with wild salmon.
“We wanted to understand how it relates to people’s lives and what values were associated with salmon fishing, salmon viewing or salmon eating,” project organizer Erin Harrington said.
ANCHORAGE — Despite cutting the capital budget by more than 20 percent this fiscal year, the State of Alaska increased spending on large education infrastructure work by 18 percent.
Lawmakers appropriated $98.8 million to such projects for the state’s 2014 fiscal year, which began July 1. The Department of Education and Early Development’s Major Maintenance Grant Fund was allocated nearly $23 million for 13 projects. The department’s School Construction Grant Fund garnered more than $73 million to go towards three renovation and new construction projects.
The Sitka Assembly is scheduled to hold a special meeting at 6 o’clock inside Harrigan Centennial Hall to make its choice. Members will select from four finalists, after having interviewed them at the end of last week.
The list began with 53 people. Then it was 10, with videoconference interviews earlier this month. From there, the Sitka Assembly picked four finalists. Each of them sat Thursday and Friday for separate, hour-long interviews in open session.
They each received similar questions, many drawn from a numbered list in front of each Assembly member. Topics ranged from management style to feelings about the city’s comprehensive plan, to how they would expect to relate to the Assembly itself. We don’t have enough time in this story to share everything that was said, so for the purposes of this newscast, we’re going to focus on one question, asked by Assembly member Thor Christianson:
“You have a community member come in with a complaint, and you can’t help them, or you can’t give them what they want, for various reasons,” he said. “How do you deal with that?”
First up: Pam Caskie, formerly city manager in Alliance, Nebraska. She left that post in 2010 after five years. Since then, she’s run a consulting business in Loveland, Colo.
“If you’re looking to put somebody in this position that says yes to everybody, to keep everybody happy — and there are cities that want that — I’m probably not the person you want to hire,” she said. “I don’t necessarily think that’s my role. My role is to be the stopper. The department head says yes, but if their answer is ‘no,’ they appeal to me. My job might be to say ‘yes,’ occasionally overruling a department head, but by the time the department head has said no, there’s a pretty good reason for it, and my job is to backup the department head unless I see something nobody else sees.”
Caskie says she’ll listen, and at the very least help citizens navigate the system of government.
“The idea is to do that and still have them walk out and be a friend. That’s a challenge,” she said. “Sometimes it’s more of a challenge depending on the amount of emotion attached to it. I try very very hard to say no, explain the reasons for the no, and have them walking out still thinking I heard them and that I cared about their personal situation.”
The next candidate to interview was Mark Gorman. The former SEARHC vice president has called Sitka home since 1978, and has a long resume of foreign relief work. Presently, he’s country director for World Education’s operation in Laos, in southeast Asia.
Here’s his answer to the question, which, remember, is how do you deal with it when you can’t give a member of the public what they want?
“I would like to believe compassionately,” he said.
Gorman says he’s encountered the situation a lot in his career.
“The best you can hope for in those situations is that the person may leave disappointed, but if they feel that they’ve been heard and respected, then you’re ahead,” Gorman said.
He told the Assembly about being adopted into the Eagle Wolf clan in Klukwan, and words of advice from an elder.
“’Always speak the truth and you never need to remember what you told people.’ That wisdom — I often come back to it — is when you’re faced with a difficult situation, look the person in the eye and tell them the truth,” Gorman said. “They may not like it but they tend to walk away feeling respected.”
Cynna Gubatayo, the current deputy borough manager in Ketchikan, says she’s also had a lot of experience being unable to give a resident something they’re asking for. Gubatayo says everyone who comes into her office gets a fair hearing.
“Often times I find their complaint or their issue isn’t resolved, because their case has been handled properly,” Gubatayo said. “We can’t waive fees unless that authority is specifically given to us. We can’t waive deadlines unless the authority is specifically given to us. There are these immutable things that just can’t be changed. When people run up against them it does make them upset.”
She says she takes the issue back to the department heads, and gets multiple sides of the story. And she says sometimes people leave happier, even if they didn’t get what they were hoping from the city.
“And sometimes it’s good,” Gubatayo said. “They’re happy that you listened, they’re happy they had a say. Sometimes they’re not. But everyone deserves their opportunity to speak and to be heard.”
Jim Pascale was the final interview before the Assembly last week. He was administrator of Princeton Township, New Jersey, for about 30 years. Pascale was never directly asked how he’d deal with being unable to satisfy the request of a member of the public. But he did address the topic when Mayor Mim McConnell asked him about his management style.
“The general public is always right,” he said. “The customer is always right.”
Pascale said it’s his job to resolve issues, especially between the public and city department heads.
“Usually I find when they come to me they’ve calmed down a little bit,” he said. “They’re actually a lot more respectful, and we talk. If the department head couldn’t do something, when they hear it again from the administrator, they usually accept that. They’ve had their day in court. Or conversely, if the department head didn’t handle it right, I’ll make sure it gets handled right.”
Four finalists, and four answers on how they relate to the public, especially in uncomfortable situations. Assembly members concluded the interviews Friday night, and had the weekend to deliberate individually. They’re expected to come out of tonight’s meeting with an offer for one of the candidates.
Assembly members hope to have the new administrator on the job by the beginning of October. The job has been open since then-Municipal Administrator Jim Dinley resigned in April. City Finance Director Jay Sweeney has served as interim municipal administrator since then. Sweeney did not apply for the permanent position.
The salary for the municipal administrator is advertised at around $125,000.
KENT, Conn. — His tribe once controlled huge swaths of what is now New York and Connecticut, but the shrunken reservation presided over by Alan Russell today hosts little more than four mostly dilapidated homes and a pair of rattlesnake dens.
JUNEAU — Shopping guides aboard cruise ships that come to Alaska have new rules to abide by, following complaints that they were misleading passengers and smearing local stores.
FAIRBANKS — Student mentors in Lathrop High School’s Ignition program this year have an advantage over all the mentors who have gone before them — they’ve been there before.
Every high school senior knows what it’s like to be a freshman, but this year’s senior class of mentors is the first to have had mentors of their own.
Lathrop High School began its Ignition program three years ago as a way to give incoming freshmen a short adjustment period to acclimate to the pace of the high school experience.
FAIRBANKS — When Head Start programs start this fall, 139 children in Alaska — 30 of those in Fairbanks — will lose access to the early education assistance.
The statewide drop is part of a larger loss of positions for 57,000 Head Start students nationwide because of the across-the-board federal budget cuts known as the sequester.
ANCHORAGE — Implementation of Alaska’s new oil tax law is getting complaints from the people it was designed to help.
Oil industry officials say proposed new rules are confusing and may not be practical to implement.
The Anchorage Daily News reports some of the difficulty is deciding what will be considered “new oil” that gives petroleum companies the biggest tax breaks.
A new 4,500 square foot facility will soon make treatment a little bit easier for Southeast residents who’ve been diagnosed with cancer.
Dr. John Halligan came to Alaska about six years ago after serving in the Army. He’s currently the medical director for radiation oncology at the Providence Cancer Center in Anchorage. While completing medical school at the University of Washington, Halligan said he’d occasionally see patients from places like Sitka or Petersburg.
When a new cruise ship arrives in port, there are some traditional formalities. Local officials and media are invited onboard, there are snacks and speeches, plaques are exchanged, hands are shook, and then there’s a tour.
Usually, most of these things happen in a near-empty lounge while a ship’s thousands of cruise passengers are busy with their own tours of Ketchikan. But, when the small “Uncruise Adventures” ship, SS Legacy, tied up at the dock, its approximately 90 passengers were included in the ceremony.
Also attending the event was the company’s owner, Dan Blanchard.
“We are really glad to be bringing the SS Legacy back to Ketchikan,” he said when welcoming the visitors on board.
That’s right, it’s not actually the first time the Legacy has visited Ketchikan, but it is the first time in several years, and the first visit since the ship was refurbished.
In honor of that, the ship’s captain, Daniel Quinn, and Ketchikan Gateway Borough Mayor Dave Kiffer did the plaque-exchange, speeches and hand-shaking.
Saxman Mayor Joe Williams also was on board for the event, and explains that his Killer
Whale Clan recently adopted Blanchard. It turned into a learning moment for audience members, who repeated after Williams as he demonstrated some Tlingit words.
Williams, who was about to take a group of passengers on one of his popular walking tours, then sang a couple songs. The first was a Tlingit welcome song.
Traditionally, the song would continue for a couple of hours, he explains, because the singer is wearing a feather headdress, and dances as he sings. The intent is for the singer to continue until a feather has landed on everyone in the room. The second song is meant to stir up all those feathers once again.
The audience then listened to a different kind of singing, when an acapella group that had been traveling with the cruise — called Letters From Home –presented “America.”
The Legacy starts its seven-day cruises in Ketchikan, and runs to Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka, Fredrick Sound, Glacier Bay, Haines, Skagway and Juneau. It has a Gold Rush theme, and many of the crew dress in period costumes.
One of them is Arika Gloud. She led visitors on a tour through lounges, the outdoor deck and the “owner’s suite,” which is a special large cabin on the top deck.
Two Uncruise Adventures vessels are based out of Ketchikan now, and the Legacy will join them in 2014.
“It’s not just people coming on a boat and leaving, but there’s actually income – money that gets expended at the hotels and such,” Blanchard said. “That’s a really big thing for us as a company, and I know it’s important for Ketchikan.”
Uncruise Adventures, formerly called InnerSea Discoveries, operates seven small vessels in Southeast this season. They range in capacity from 22 guests on the Safari Quest to 152 on the Wilderness Discoverer.
The Legacy’s first stop in Ketchikan was the launch of its only cruise this season, but Southeast Alaska will see the ship weekly for three months starting next June.
A candidate has thrown his name into the hat for a seat on the Ketchikan School Board and … it’s a high school senior.
Eighteen-year-old Trevor Shaw is home-schooled through the district’s Fast Track correspondence program. He also is the president of both the Ketchikan Youth Court and the United Youth Courts of Alaska.
“I keep up with current affairs. I’m very involved in local government, I attend a lot of the Borough Assembly meetings, keep up with what’s going on and education is definitely a big issue,” he said. “I just want to be involved in the decision making process for the school district.”
Shaw said he has a unique perspective to offer the School Board, which would help the board make better decisions. He said he’s looking forward to the experience.
Shaw said that if elected, he will commit to the full three-year term. After he graduates in 2014, he plans to take classes through the local University of Alaska Southeast campus.
Some issues Shaw mentioned include providing creativity, variety and opportunity to students, and securing the resources needed to fund those opportunities. He adds that he and other students are the future.
“In running, I hope to encourage other young adults, people my age, to get involved in the government process,” he said. “I am currently the youngest candidate for elected office in the state, and I think more of us need to be involved.”
As of deadline Friday, Shaw is the only candidate to file for one of the two open School Board seats. Those seats now are held by Dave Timmerman and Ginny Clay. Shaw said that Clay, who has announced she will not seek re-election, will be his campaign manager.
The deadline to file for local office is noon on Monday.
Area schools are doing… OK. Most of them fall somewhere in the middle or better-than-average range of the state’s new school evaluation system. Some schools received the top rating for this year, but a few are at the bottom.
“Those schools aren’t being crushed by some state-imposed consequences,” says Eric Fry, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Early Education and Development. “But we couldn’t, we weren’t allowed, to create a new system for them.”
Fry says that some alternative schools, like the Ketchikan Regional Youth Facility or the Craig Alternative School that received one out of a possible five stars under the new system, were bound to receive the ratings they did because of the nature of their school population.
The spokesman told KRBD that ASPI is still constrained by federal regulations under the No Child Left Behind act, despite the state’s effort to build a different system. DEED would like to have a separate evaluation program for alternative schools, which take in students who don’t fit in with traditional institutions, but the federal government allows only one rating system for all schools.
Despite that, Fry says local populations should understand that an alternative school receiving one star doesn’t necessarily reflect on the quality of the institution.
“If the public is educated about the nature of the school, the local public should not look down on those schools, which deal with some of the most struggling students,” he says.
ASPI differs from No Child Left Behind in that it uses a variety of factors to grade schools on a scale, rather than on a simple pass/fail basis. Taking into account graduation and attendance rates, test scores and the rate of improvement, schools are given a rating from 0 – 100. That number can then be translated into one to five stars, with five as the best.
Those with three stars or fewer are required to devise an improvement plan. A number of schools in the area fall into that category, for example: Metlakatla High School, Ketchikan Charter School and Klawock City School.
Craig School District Superintendent Jack Walsh says a system that rates schools in this way is unwise. In the instance of the Craig Alternative School, which received one star, he believes it will unfairly stigmatize the institution.
“Many of these kids might have been dropouts, and now we’re asking them to go to a school with a one-star rating,” Walsh says. “And it’s just like hotels or anything else, rarely do people want to go search out places that have one star and think it’s the best place to be.”
Schools with three or fewer stars under the new system will be assigned a liaison from the state to monitor improvement. In some cases, a “coach” hired as a contractor by the state will be sent to schools with lower ratings. Those coaches work with school administrators and teachers for a week, devising strategies to improve performance.
DEED Deputy Commissioner Les Morse notes that the new system isn’t devised to punish schools with lower ratings. The objective is to locate and diagnose problems, and then devise a specific plan for individual schools that need support.
“Rather than having a blanket set of consequences that may or may not work, the consequences actually apply to where the weaknesses are after the problem is truly diagnosed,” Morse says. “It’s not that we’ve let go of consequences, we just realized that there isn’t a one-sized fits all approach.”
The new ratings system was devised because Alaska’s application for exemption from the No Child Left Behind Act was approved.
Former Mayor and namesake of Sitka’s airport, Rocky Gutierrez discusses his approach to life and politics in this 1984 interview conducted one week after he left the position of City Administrator. If you missed the Sunday broadcast, the half-hour interview is posted here, as is “Dr. White E” and an original radio play written by Sitka Soupster Will Swagel. Download here: Rocky Gutierrez Interview 1984
The second annual WardStock music festival is from noon to 9:30 pm Saturday, August 24th, at Ward Lake. Eleven local bands are scheduled to play, and bus and shuttle service will be available. WardStock organizer Bill Meck gives the details. WardStock