Top Public Priorities for Student Well-Being and School Safety

By Pete Hoepfner, AASB Board President

Greetings School Board members. Congratulations to all the new high school graduates in your districts!!!! Make sure to reach out to the students and congratulate them on a job well done! The support you give to students in your district will be remembered!

This month I will be highlighting the work that has begun with Alaska’s Education Challenge.

Alaska’s Education Challenge was brought forth in Governor Walker’s State of the State address. Commissioner of Education Micheal Johnson has developed a public process to help identify transformative solutions for improving Alaska’s education system. The process is based on five priorities identified by the State Board of Education.

Five committees tasked with developing recommendations for the Alaska Legislature and Governor Walker, have been formed around the State Board of Education’s five strategic objectives for elevating Alaska’s public education system:

  1. Improve student learning
  2. Ensure excellent educators
  3. Modernize the education system
  4. Inspire tribal and community ownership
  5. Promote safety and well-being

Each committee makeup consists of 20 stakeholders and includes diverse representation from educational stakeholders and the education community. Each committee includes parents, students, educators, legislators, tribal representatives, and educational partners. DEED reached out to stakeholder associations (AASB for example) and communities to nominate Alaskans for specific seats on each committee. Additionally, DEED will request presentations to committees from the education community throughout the process.


These five committees will contribute bold thinking and fresh ideas, while considering the current successes and innovative ideas already happening in our school districts. The end result will produce concrete, transformative recommendations to the State Board of Education for forwarding to the Governor and Legislature.

The State Board of Education will approve the final recommendations, which will be submitted to the Governor and the Alaska Legislature in December 2017.

I am a member on the committee for Promoting Safety and Well Being.  At the April 20th face-to-face meeting, the committee started by looking at the results from a public survey that was taken in February. Nearly 1,400 Alaskans in 109 communities submitted over 18,000 ideas for topics to be considered during Alaska’s Education Challenge. Two of the top publicly identified topics for the Safety and Well-Being committee included:

  • Student Support Services (including trauma, mental health, food services, advising and well-being)
  • School Culture, Climate, Safety and Discipline

During our discussion, topics of importance were identified:
Attendance, Discipline, Community and Parent Involvement, Career and Life-skills, Social Emotional Learning, Trauma Informed Practices, School Climate, Student Health, and Safety. After a through discussion, where some topics were sent to other committees, a finalized list of four items were identified:

  • Attendance
  • Trauma Informed Educational Practices
  • School Climate
  • Student Health

These starting topics will be examined in detail in order to achieve a transformational change to Alaska’s educational system.

Individuals within the Safety and Well Being Committee at the end of Thursday’s meeting shared a one word statement of how they felt about the process: inspired, hopeful, optimistic, and focused was the response.

This through examination of the five identified priorities, and the finished report that will be sent to the Governor and the Alaska Legislature, it will help to ensure that ALL of Alaska’s children will have an excellent education, for every student, every day.

Information on the Alaska Education Challenge is available on the Governors website, found at:

Everything you want to know about the Alaska Education Challenge, from introductory videos to individual committee meeting dates and notes from those meetings can be found at this website.