Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Great Northern Road Trip!

Wow! 977.2 miles in three days on a whirlwind trip to visit members in Glenallen, Kenny Lake, Tok, Delta, Fairbanks, Nenana, Healy and Cantwell! I am so impressed with the committment and compassion of our members as they work to make sure that Alaska's children are fully educated. Watch for photos coming soon!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

New View of Alaska

A couple of months ago I received an intriguing invitation. It was from the Institute of the North, a forward thinking group founded by former Governor Wally Hickel. The invitation was to attend the 2009 Dialogue to discuss issues of importance to our state and our citizens. I accepted the invitation and attended the dialogue in Talkeetna this weekend. It was a powerful experience. There were presentations by an array of speakers from a communications multinational corporation, to someone who works with a small village in Africa, to current and former legislators and public policymakers. The Dialogue began on Thursday night and ended today at noon. My mind is filled with ideas and plans on how we can work to impact the future of Alaska. I'm so happy I attended. It was a great opportunity to share vision and become more aware of the plans and activities of other groups. Of great interest was my extended conversation with the director of the Cold Climate Housing Research group. We have excellent plans to discuss rural teacher housing.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Secretary of Education Comes to Alaska

Last week was a real opportunity to share the Alaskan perspective on NCLB and education. Secretary Arne Duncan was in our state to listen and collect information on the needs of public educators and Alaska's schools. During his visit to Bethel on Wednesday I was able to share the need to correct the requirement that a letter be sent to parents explaining that teachers are not highly qualified in every subject they teach. This puts undue doubt into the minds of community members that educators may not be able to do the job. Further, it is demoralizing to teachers when they are working hard and don't have control over which courses they are assigned to teach. I also stated concern about a lack of role models for rural students and encouragement for them to become teachers. It is tough to share a love of learning with students when they see educators doing non-stop test prep instead of providing creativity opportunities for growth. The good news is that I think the Secretary was really listening and has plans to do a thorough remodel of NCLB. He even wants a new name for it!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Best Spot in Our Capital City

Wow! Our new building in Juneau is finally finished and it is wonderful! For those who remember our space at the corner of Second and Main, we're in the same spot. To make a long process short, we bought the old building we had used for a very long time, tore it down, and built a completely new office building at the same location. I'm waiting for all the signs and final details to be completed before posting photos, but I know we will make good use of the space and enjoy the convenience of the location only two blocks from the capital. Please stop in to say hello if you're in Juneau! We will be holding an Open House in January.

Friday, July 31, 2009

New Board/New Direction

At the end of May 2009, we held a unique board retreat in Talkeetna. After riding the train together and getting settled in at the McKinley Princess Lodge, we went to work. Our work focused on setting priorities for how we will work together as a board of directors to provide leadership to our members. It was a wonderful start, and I anticipate having even more discussion in the upcoming year. Look for new ideas, new intensity, and new energy as we move the agenda of NEA-Alaska forward!

A friend has stated recently that blogs with photos are much more fun and interesting, so I'm posting some pics from the retreat. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

NEA Representative Assembly 2009

I am just back from San Diego, California where this year's annual meeting was held. Fifty NEA-Alaska members represented our state during discussion and debate on a number of topics. Several items that we brought forward from our own in-state annual meeting were approved! Overall it was a productive week and I am so proud to be involved with such wonderful NEA-Alaska delegates. I hope everyone enjoys the rest of the summer and that the great weather holds.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


It's not always possible to be as clear as we hope we can be when asked about our opinions. This became crystal clear to me this morning. Yesterday a reporter from the Anchorage Daily News contacted me. She wanted to know what NEA-Alaska's opinion was regarding standards. I thought I made it clear that we support standards but that sometimes implementation in areas of our state is difficult. It came out that we support the Governor's decision to stay out of the discussion regarding standards in reading in math that are taking place. We support the idea of moving slowly to implement standards to be sure they can be implemented in Alaska. It was not my intent to say we like the idea of letting others decide without our voices in the room.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Ah, the Sun

It's the time of year when we see more of the sun and anticipate spending time outdoors. Days are warmer, ice is melting, and the end of the school year approaches. This is the time for us to stay focused and take advantage of learning opportunities with our students. The standardized tests are behind us and there is still time to incorporate our most creative ideas for learning. We've got to push right to the very end of the year.

I stopped on my way to Washington, D.C. for NEA Superweek to watch my daughter race in Providence, Rhode Island on April 25. The Brown women's crew team battled Ivy League competitors from Cornell and Columbia. It was exciting to be there and thrilling to see Bruno win all of the races. =)

Monday, April 6, 2009

This is a Test

At this time of the year it's a toss-up as to who will pass their tests. Will it be legislators in completing their work? Will it be Anchorage voters in their quest to pick the best candidate from a dozen on the ballot? Will it be Alaska's children struggling to survive the seemingly endless series of mandated assessments, instead of being allowed to focus on real learning related to the real world? Will it be school boards passing budgets that are reasonable?

The answers to these questions, and more, will likely be revealed in the next couple of weeks.

Stay tuned!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Juneau On The Move!

Wow are things moving in Juneau right now! As you have seen on our webpage, we are responding to the Governor's statement that she has reservations about accepting all of the stimulus package money bound for Alaska. Additionally, House Bill 30 was heard in the House Labor & Commerce Committee today. This bill would return public employees to Tier 2 TRS and Tier 3 PERS. Fantastic testimony was given by Holly Abel, Shawn Arnold and Lee Butterfield in person. Jill Showman and Ladawn Druce were both online at the LIO offices to give their testimony also. Be sure to watch for the LCS message coming out this week!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Working on Our Priorities

NEA-Alaska's top three priorities for 2009 are school funding, rural teacher housing and a return to a Defined Benefit pension plan. All three have been the focus of our work this month. If you didn't catch it, take a look at the February 22 Anchorage Daily News editorial on the Defined Benefit issue. The momentum is building to fix the problems associated with the change in our retirement systems. Public testimony was taken on Thursday on the senate side for SB 23. We anticipate it moving out of the Labor and Commerce committee in the coming week.

I had a very productive meeting on Friday with Senator Lisa Murkowski and representatives from a number of other groups on housing for public employees in rural communities. This was a preliminary meeting and the group agreed to meet monthly to address this huge need. The Denali Commission, AHFC, RuralCap, PSEA, AFL-CIO and NEA-Alaska were all in the room. We identified other groups we hope to include in future meetings. Several others were invited, but it didn't work out for them to join us. I will be setting up a schedule for upcoming meeting dates this week.

School funding is uncertain at this time. I should know more soon as I will be in Juneau all week.

Are you enjoying the sunshine coming back? This is my favorite time of year!


Sunday, February 1, 2009

The New Year- Lots Happening

January 2009 has come and gone. We've seen a new President inaugurated, the opening of the 26th Legislature in Juneau, and just finished our annual NEA-Alaska Delegate Assembly. My mind is so full with all the things I've learned in the last week! This year's DA had many highlights for me. I've been at DA since the mid- 1980's and this was certainly the most unique for me yet. You get a totally different perspective when chairing the meeting instead of being a delegate. I am so thankful for the response from so many members and leaders who helped me throughout the weekend. I met new friends, greeted and visited with long-time friends, enjoyed the debate thoroughly, and learned volumes from our OUTSTANDING parliamentarian extraordinaire, Jon Ericson!

I hope those who read this and attended DA 2009 will post their opinions of this year's meeting.

I'm off to Washington, D.C. this week for meetings.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Day of History

January 20, 2009 is a day that will live in the minds and memories of Alaskans for many years. We watched and listened today as the 44th President of the United States of America took the oath of office. President Obama shared his concerns and his hope for our country. I certainly wish him all the best as he takes on a job of unbelievable proportions.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

2009 A Year for Action and Progress

Happy New Year to All!

2009 promises to be filled with exciting activity. I already met with the special assistant to our governor yesterday. My intent was to outline NEA-Alaska's priorities of returning to a Defined Benefit Pension System, Increasing School Funding, and Rural Teacher Housing. Anna Kim is now responsible for issues related to education in the governor's office. Ms. Kim was very responsive and understood the examples and explanations I gave to her. I am hopeful, still, to meet with Governor Palin soon. The governor has a real opportunity to help us recover our formerly great retirement and I am asking her to do so.

We are gearing up for this year's Delegate Assembly and Legislative Session. There is a Health Trust meeting on January 16th. Many locals are sending members to the Pacific Region Leadership Conference in Seattle during February in addition to the NEA funded members we send each year. Watch for more updates soon!

I hope you had a safe, restful and rejuvenating Holiday.