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Challenges inherent in the Arctic keep federal and state search-and-rescue personnel developing improved tactics. One such method discussed at a recent presentation was the Arctic sustainment package -- kits that can be dropped to stranded individuals.August 16, 2013
Bradshaw turned in his letter to the Sitka School Board at their regular meeting Thursday evening (8-15-13). His resignation will be effective at the end of the coming school year, on June 30, 2014.
Bradshaw has been superintendent in Sitka for 13 years. The average length of a superintendency in Alaska is 2.7 years.
Prior to becoming superintendent, Bradshaw was principal of Sitka High School for three years. He’s also worked many years in both Metlakatla and his home state of Montana.
Bradshaw says the key to his longevity in Sitka has been his bosses. He says he couldn’t have asked for better people on the school boards he’s worked for.
“I’ve seen a lot of boards in my 38 years now that get on there because they’ve got kind of an axe to grind. I haven’t seen that here in Sitka. It’s been about kids. It’s not that there haven’t been some who have gotten on because they think, That needs to change. For the most part, they get on and they stay on for a while.”
During his tenure, Bradshaw’s seen the overall size of the district shrink by around 400 students, but he says he’s also fortunate that state funding has gradually ticked upwards. Nevertheless, he feels there’s some work he’s leaving unfinished in Sitka.
“The dropout rate still bothers me. I don’t like to lose kids. I kind of take it personally sometimes. That’s a big issue.”
And the dropout rate, according to Bradshaw, is not an isolated problem. It’s linked to how prepared for school kids are. And that, he believes, is linked to economics.
“The number one factor is poverty. We see on television, hear on radio, read in the newspapers that the gap is widening. And I don’t think people really understand — last year we had 30 homeless students kids in this school district — in Sitka! 30 homeless children. I believe that in this country we’re losing our middle class. I’m not blaming anybody. I’m saying that’s the reality we’re faced with.”
Bradshaw also says he’s surprised by the diversity in the district, by the number of languages spoken — but immigration, though an overall positive for the community, comes with a downside.
“Parents are working two and three and four jobs just to survive. And so the time spent with children — it’s not like it was when I was a kid where mom stayed home with kids all the time. It’s just not that way anymore.”
Bradshaw has a combined 19 years in education Alaska, and 19 years at teaching or administrative jobs in Montana. He says he’s not retiring, but a new plan has not taken shape. He recently was one of eight semi-finalists for the job of Sitka municipal administrator. He didn’t get that job, but that doesn’t mean he won’t stop thinking about a new direction.
“I’m fascinated by the future. As has been pointed out to me many times, I’m pretty passionate about education, I just may look at it in a different role. I just know that it was time for me to do something different. I really have no plan set forward. I have a grandchild now in Juneau, so that may impact my wife’s and my decision. I think that whatever I do I’m hoping that it has something to do with helping kids in some fashion.”
Bradshaw’s wife Sandy is a teacher at Keet Gooshi Heen elementary school in Sitka. He says she’ll retire when he leaves the district. One thing is for sure, Bradshaw is not going to become a commercial fisherman. He says, “I’m about the worst boatsman out there!”
The number of ships through the Bering Strait grew 118 percent between 2008 and 2012, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
As nations attempt to stake claims for rich Arctic resources, the U.S. currently has little presence there. The Coast Guard has two ice breakers capable of operating in the region. That’s four short of the six required to fulfill the agency’s mission in both the Arctic and Antarctic.
One of those cutters, the Polar Star, is back in service after a major rebuild.
Here’s a look as part of our occasional series on Coast Guard cutters that visit Juneau.
Several staggered metal ladders aft the bridge go straight up to a perch called the Aloft Conning Station.
“We have a 360 degree view. That allows us to pick a good way through the ice.”
Kenneth Boda is Executive Officer aboard the Coast Guard heavy ice breaker Polar Star. It’s his third ice breaker tour.
“Typically when you are an ice breaker, you don’t want to break ice. You want to avoid ice as much as possible. So you look for the open water leads and being up there allows you to pick the path of least resistance.”
The Aloft Con is 110 feet above waterline on the Polar Star, under the command of Capt. George Pellissier.
“Most of the time in the ice you’re driving from there,” he explained during a recent interview when the ship stopped in Juneau after Arctic ice trials.
Pellissier will command the ship to Antarctica this winter.
The ice breaker’s primary mission there is to resupplyMcMurdo Station, the largest U.S. research station at the South Pole and the logistics center for other Antarctic facilities. Pellissier said two-thirds of the job is transit time. Then there’s the ice.
“You have to break a channel through the fast ice, which is ice that’s attached to the land, and then you have to make a channel straight enough and wide enough to get a container ship and a tanker in,” he said.
“I’ve seen it as much as 85 miles of ice and as little as 12.”
The upcoming Antarctic trip – called the Deep Freeze mission — will be the first in recent years for a U.S. ice breaker. The Coast Guard has had to lease Swedish and Russian ice breakers.
The latest study prepared for the Coast Guard indicates the need for three medium and three heavy ice breakers to fulfill U.S. statutory duties in the polar regions.
The Arctic poses the most immediate challenge.
The Coast Guard is responsible for law enforcement, search and rescue, security, and environmental protection where many nations want to drill, mine, fish, and tour. The ice breakers are also scientific research platforms. U.S. Homeland Security predicts a million adventure tourists could visit the Arctic this year.
Other nations have government and commercial ice breakers operating in the region year around. Commander Pellissier points to the region on a large map in his Polar Star office.
“As we come up the Bering Strait and then we head off to the west, all along the North coast of Russia, that’s already a viable route,” he said. “And that’s where you find a large number of Russia’s ice breakers plying that route to keep it open.”
The window is narrow now, but as the ice diminishes ships could go through the Chukchi and Beaufort seas to the Northwest Passage, linking the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
“If the ice continues to recede, which most scientists are predicting it will, then that route will also become much more viable in the future, pretty much cutting through all the small islands up in the northern part of Canada, and then down through the Labrador Sea and down the East Coast,” Pellissier said.
The new National Security Cutters are the core of the Coast Guard fleet. Despite their versatility, they can’t cut ice.
“They have a very limited window of time they can operate, particularly up in the North Bering and beyond. The ice breakers, particularly our heavy ice breakers, can stay up there year around,” Pellissier said.
Multiple studies indicate the U.S. needs a year-round presence in the Arctic. Existing ice breaker capacity is not enough, even with additional non-ice cutters and aircraft, more operating locations and improved communication and navigation systems.
A committee has been organized in Anchorage to explore the possibility of the city hosting the Olympics in 2026. Mayor Dan Sullivan will lead the Anchorage Olympic Winter Games Exploratory Committee.
The hot dry weather pattern that’s predominated much of this summer is forecast to end.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has asked bird hunters to hold off for up to two weeks. While the season for upland game birds looks promising, a late spring means chicks are small and family groups are sticking together later than usual.
The Out North Contemporary Art House in Anchorage closed its doors on July 29th after nearly 30 years in operation. Out North’s Board of Directors laid off the six staff members and asked resident art groups to remove their belongings by early September, citing financial concerns. As artists and fans mourn the loss of one of the city’s great art houses, no one seems sure about what will happen next.
Out North was such a beloved place that it’s hard for some artists to talk about it in the past tense.
“A lot of people were talking about OutNorth — it was a buzzy place, it was fun,” says artist Drew Michael. “And now that they’re closed… or… not open, a lot of people are wondering, like, whoa, what happened?”
Drew Michael first developed his show Aggravated Organisms with painter Elizabeth Ellis at Out North. It featured large, Native-style wooden masks representing major diseases affecting Alaskans. The success of that show meant Michael was able to begin touring it around the city and state. Michael says losing the space is a big blow.
“I think it’s really hard for the art community to see a place that was really prominent for artists to express themselves close down,” he says. “Now we have one less space to work with, you know.”
The space housed not only visual art, but all kinds of events and programs, including theater performances, film screenings, workshops for teens, and a radio station, KONR, that just went off the air, too. Teeka Ballas, founder of F Magazine and former Operations Director for Out North, says much of the arts community is pretty shocked.
“I think we’re all reeling in the same way,” says Ballas. “Not only do we suddenly feel homeless, but it is a huge loss. It is the only place that could house so many of the different types of events that we did. It just feels like an emotional blow for all of us. I think I can speak very freely for all of us that we all were just emotionally set back and are still really emotionally set back on this.”
Ballas says F Magazine had to postpone its annual fundraiser, which had been scheduled for August 9th at Out North. She’ll have to find a new venue. And Indra Arriaga, founder of Anchorage’s Day of the Dead celebration, also doesn’t know what will happen. The event has been held at Out North every November for the past six years. She’s sure it will go on, but it may have to take a different shape.
“We’re still a little shell-shocked, and we’re not really sure what we’re going to do,” says Arriaga. “You know, OutNorth closing is just… it’s a huge hit for the arts community.”
Still, this isn’t the first time that closure has loomed for Out North in the years since it was founded in 1985, says Board President Chrissy Bell. It may seem like a sudden move, but Bell says it was necessary; Out North wouldn’t have had enough money to pay staff for their time if the board had waited even another month.
“Like many nonprofits, OutNorth has struggled with sustainability really throughout its history,” Bell says. “It’s been a constant struggle for us.”
Bell says they want to figure out what sustainability would look like, and that could be difficult. Out North’s consistent presentation of risky and challenging work has been a source of discomfort for some, but Teeka Ballas says that is also an important role for an art house to play.
“We did a lot of work that pushed the envelope,” Ballas says. “Stuff that was cutting edge, maybe, but also stuff that made people uncomfortable. And I think that’s a really big responsibility of the arts and arts administrators in any city: to allow a forum for art that pushes the envelope, makes people uncomfortable, makes people think, makes people be introspective.”
Ballas is confident that artists will continue to find avenues for challenging expression in Anchorage, with or without Out North.
“I have faith that at least through this contingency that we will somehow band together one way or another,” she says, “and continue what we’re doing through the community.”
Still, Ballas is frustrated that Out North’s audience had no chance to weigh in before the board made its decision. But Chrissy Bell says it wasn’t easy for the board, either. And taking this time to figure things out is critical to give Out North a chance at all.
“It was a very difficult and emotional decision for us to do this,” Bell says, “but it was really we felt like our only choice and our best chance to address what sustainability means for us once and for all.”
There will be one more show this fall: UNmanly, a mixed media exhibit curated by Michael Walsh. It opens on August 16th and will have limited gallery hours on Saturdays from noon to 4pm until September 14th. Bell says that’s due to a contractual agreement with the artists.
But that’ll be the last one, for now. Bell says the board’s hope is that OutNorth will be able to reopen, in some form. But it’s still impossible to predict what that form will be.
The Chilkat Valley near Haines in Southeast is known as the Valley of the Eagles. But some residents are trying to bring the valley back to its roots, literally. Agriculture is making a comeback in the where longtime resident George Campbell believes he has the largest crop of garlic in the state this year.
George Campbell and Ed Byarski are farming partners. From their potato and garlic fields you can see towering peaks on both sides, with a grand river just a few hundred yards away, winding its way to the ocean.
This is the Chilkat Valley. And it’s harvest day for 2,700 head of garlic at 18 Meadows Farm.
“This is our second year of garlic harvest on 18 Meadows Farm,” Byarski said. “We’ve been digging, washing, sorting garlic all day with the help of a bunch of friends; and enjoying the smell of fresh garlic.”
Each bulb of aromatic garlic gets washed twice by hand, then put on drying racks.
Some motorists heeded the plywood sign on the road announcing a garlic festival and stopped by to purchase some.
Campbell: “How much are we selling garlic for?”
Ed: “What’s he got? He wants $10 worth. That’s a lot of garlic. But garlic is good for you. You can mix it in with mosse, salmon, halibut. It goes good with all that stuff.”
Eighteen meadows farm is just one of at least two dozen small farming operations popping up near Haines. Some families are growing more of their own food, some are growing for the weekly Haines Farmer’s Market and some like Campbell and Byarski are thinking bigger. They hope to sell at farmers markets in Juneau and, to local restaurants.
In Haines, fresh produce mostly comes by barge once a week. But stores are starting to stock locally grown produce. Christy Wright is the produce manager for the local Oleruds Marketplace on Main Street. She stocks local chard, carrots, lettuce, kale, garlic and snap peas.
“The produce we get here sits on a barge for a week before it even gets to the store,” Wright said. “So, if you can buy locally, it’s just picked yesterday and it’s much better quality.”
This isn’t the first time the Chilkat Valley has produced food for its inhabitants beyond the usual salmon, moose, and berries. The local army installation, Fort Seward, relied on locally grown hay and foods during the early and mid-1900s. And the Anway Strawberry was first bred here the early 1900s by pioneering geneticist, Charlie Anway.
Before that, local Natives grew crops, like the Tlingit potato. Perhaps some of those spuds grew on a plot of land now belonging to a Chilkoot Indian Association tribal member who is sharing her land with the tribe’s new agricultural program. Heading up that program is Scott Hanson. He recently went to check on the first crop of potatoes at the property, a swath of two acres that looks out over the Chilkat River and Cathedral Peaks.
As he walks across the clearing on this warm and windy day, Hanson says the tribe’s program is working to extend the values of subsistence
“Subsistence is working with the land,” Hanson said. “Yes, the land provides almost exclusively the salmon and the berries and yet how we manage that has a great effect on whether that will be here again.”
“So this is an extension of land management.”
Local farmers say the climate here is ripe for growing. Haines gets less rain than other parts of southeast, but less heat than northern regions. Cabbages aren’t going to grow to Fairbanks size. But they are going to get more sun than Petersburg. Even Hanson says he was surprised when he discovered Haines has a favorable growing climate.
“And it’s been document in the Alaska Crop Production Handbook from the state of Alaska it their little chart of growing seasons days, and we’re the top,” Hanson said. “It was remarkable to me as I looked through it, I thought, ‘Hey, we’ve got some potential.’”
And back at 18 Meadows Farm, Campbell and Byarski are hoping that climate brings them even more garlic and potatoes next year.
“For me, being able to grow my own food, you know, the price of food is going up as the price of freight is going up and it’s something to give a try,” Campbell said. “And what else am I going to do with this much property right now?”
Reporting from The burgeoning breadbasket of northern Southeast – near Haines, that is, I’m Margaret Friedenauer