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Southeast Alaska News
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
Next year is the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, and to mark the occasion, the Sitka Conservation Society is putting together a film project on the wilderness. Filmmaker Ben Hamilton and Adam Andis, of SCS, explain what they’re working on.
Friends seek help for service dog’s medical bills. Pink catch rapidly nearing record. Disagreements over Parnell’s vision for Tongass. Rope jumper tries to break three records in Juneau.
Austin-based filmmaker Ben Hamilton has a knack for capturing the appeal of visiting — and living in — Southeast Alaska. The films he’s made for the Sitka Convention and Visitor’s Bureau are stunning to be sure, but often contain small, subtle portraits — of us. He made this short film for the Sitka Conservation Society. His next project: A feature-length documentary commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the 1964 Wilderness Act.