“It’s time to flip the script”

By Michael Swain, AASB Board President

Address to the AASB membership at the 66th Annual Conference, November 10, 2019

I would like to take a moment to personally thank those who have helped me achieve this position.   First, to my wife, Mary, whose love and support have allowed me to do what I do.  You are amazing and I love you!  Second, my sons, Trey and Dawson, who have endured me being away from home as I advocate for ALL the children of this State.  The board members of my local school board, Rebecca, Sarah, Olaf, and Sheri, for their understanding and willingness to adjust meeting dates and work sessions around my often hectic schedule.  To my fellow members, both past and present, of the Board of Directors thank you for mentoring me, your leadership, your confidence and, most of all, your friendship. 

This is a critical time for public education in Alaska.  We are under attack.  It is my fear that we will see a proposed cut to education funding far worse than we have ever seen before.  We must be willing and able to fight for the right of ALL of our children across the state to receive a quality public education as laid out in our Constitution. 

Too often only our faults are published, shown on the nightly news and talked about!   We need to promote our successes, and tell OUR stories.  It’s time to flip the script.  All of us need to be prepared to advocate for the needs of our students and not sit back and hope someone else will do it for us.   We all must be part of the process, talk with our legislators, testify before committees, and explain our childrens’ needs.  When parents and community members reach out to us on the local level disappointed about loses to programs, or lack of something in our district, we MUST redirect them to speak to the legislators, the more voices they hear from, the stronger the message.  As an Association, there is no denying the power we have when we are all carrying the same message and when that message affects every child of the State of Alaska.

Finally, as I looked back at my talk from two years ago when I stood in this exact position, I felt I wanted to reiterate a couple of points.  Districts need to break down barriers between them and pool their resources when and where appropriate.  Districts need to continue to pursue cost-saving measures by partnering with other districts to share services and positions.  This sharing of services between multiple districts will leave more money for the direct education of our youth. This could also allow for the reintroduction of art and music in many districts.  Districts need to Increase the utilization of distance delivery, where students from two or more districts could be taught by a teacher who may not be at either site.  This practice, if developed across the state, would allow all districts to increase their course offerings to students.  Imagine being able to offer your students four or five different language courses, when in many districts we can’t currently even offer one.  The major challenge in this will be setting aside our pride and egos as Board members and administrators.  Too often the problems of adults become the hindrance of students.  We will all need to relinquish some control and trust that our colleagues have the best education of Alaska’s children in mind.

At this time we could easily become a divided association and have an urban vs. rural mentality.  I say again, I will do everything I can to prevent this from happening.  As president I will represent ALL students of Alaska in EVERY district and EVERY culture.  It’s vitally important that we come together as an Association, and move forward as one unified voice, united in educating all students of this state.  I am excited to see where we, together, can take public education in Alaska. 

This is my vision for my term as President of the Association of Alaska School Board and I appreciate your time and attention.  Thank you for your ongoing support!

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