Elections 2021: Education Council
School boards across the country have been in the spotlight throughout the pandemic, amid heated conversations about COVID-19 and mitigation protocols in schools.
This was true in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. And that’s part of what inspired some candidates to run for school boards this election cycle.
There are three seats up for grabs on the school board this year, including two on the Central Peninsula. Municipal elections in the district are October 5.
District 2 – Kenai
Matthew Morse ran unopposed to represent Kenai for the District 2 board seat.
Morse has been on the board since 2018. He said during his first candidacy that his biggest concern was where and how the district was spending his money, amid the state’s financial difficulties.
“In the event that funding becomes more of a problem than it has been and we have to make cuts,” he said. âWe want data to inform these decisions, don’t we? “
Morse went to Kenai Central High School and has three grown children. He works in his family business, a recruitment and staffing company in Soldotna.
Over the past year, he has openly said he wants the district to relax COVID-19 mitigation protocols like masking.
âI don’t think people are happy with the [mitigation] plan that we still have this year, âhe said. âI think they started to be happy with it, when we said we weren’t going to need masks and things like that. But obviously, this was not true.
Although there is no district-wide mask mandate, several schools in the district have adopted temporary mask mandates due to high case rates in the community and high rates of absenteeism in schools. schools.
District 5 – Sterling / Funny River
Benjamin Miller, from Soldotna, works at the Marathon Refinery in Kenai. He grew up in Homer and now has two children in the neighborhood.
âI’m just a worried father in the area,â he said. âI am a blue collar worker, I work here, I live here. And I’m not a politician at all. I have no experience in politics. And I think we need more of that. I think we’ve had too much politics lately in the school board and not enough school management.
Miller said he was inspired to run after hearing district-wide conversations about COVID-19 last year.
Even though jurisdiction over COVID-19 mitigation protocols rests with the school administration, he said he believes he can have an influence as a board member.
âI’m against all the over-testing that we do, the mask warrants, the potential vaccine warrants that we look at,â Miller said.
There is no plan for a district vaccination mandate. But Miller said he was wary of federal-level mandates impacting schools.
Miller also said he believes the district is well funded and that he is against raising taxes.
Jennifer Waller, from Sterling, is also running for District 5 headquarters.
Waller has three children, two of whom are currently in the district. She grew up in Sterling and said she had a large network of friends and family.
âSo I feel like I could bring a collaborative voice from the community to the table,â she said.
Waller is the founder and director of Freedom House, a denominational healing house in Soldotna.
She said she struggled with drug addiction herself from high school. She said she would like to focus on mental and behavioral health within the school board.
“And sure, looking at the staffing and seeing if we can bring in more counselors if needed, and maybe even bring a curriculum to the table where we’re teaching the kids:” Hey, c ‘It’s okay not to be good, and here’s what to do if you don’t agree, âWaller said.
Waller said she is studying budget issues. And like Miller, she said she believes decisions about COVID-19 protocols should be up to every family.
You can listen to KBBI’s interviews with the District 8 board candidates, representing the southern Kenai Peninsula, here.