Juneau Board of Education meets

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) Lower graduation rates and two large school renovations were discussed by the Board of Education at their regular meeting.

    Preliminary graduation rates show the four year rate was 85.1%.  This compares to the 2017 graduation rate of 86.2%.  Juneau Douglas graduated 90.4% of its students in four years in 2018, down from 92.9% in 2017.  Thunder Mountain High School graduated 94.3% of its students in four years in 2018.  They graduated 95.3% in 2017.  YDHS graduated 46.5% of its students in four ears in 2018 and 57.4% in 2017.  The preliminary numbers also known that a slightly lower percentage of males, Alaska Native, low income and homeless students graduated in 2018.

    The overall graduation rate for females was 89.4%, males 81.6%, white 89.6%, hispanic 89.7%, Asian 88.4%, Alaska Native 67.3%, low income 65%, special education students 68.4%, and homeless 48.5%.

    Student enrollment numbers as of August 9th was 4,509.  The 12th grade had the most students, 389, while kindergarten had the fewest 216.  The most populated school was Thunder Mountain High School with 701 students.  Juneau Douglas High School has 616 students.  Yaakoosge' Daakahidi Alternative High School had 98 students.  Dzantik'i Heeni Middle had 512, Floyd Dryden Middle School 441, Sayeik: Gastineau Elementary 276, Glacier View Elementary, 328, Harborview Elementary 323, Riverbend Elementary 266, Mendenhall River Elementary 295, Montessori Borealis 177, and Juneau Community Charter School had 64 students. Superintendent Dr. Mark Miller said there were 32 more K-2 students that expected this year.

    Ted Wilson, Director of Teaching and Learning Support, thanked the people involved in the Sealaska Heritage Institute Culturally Responsive Education Conference held August 1-3.  The conference was aimed at giving teachers more tools to help kids be successful academically.

    The Board approved a six year capital improvement plan.  Projects include roof replacements at Gastineau Elementary $1.5 million, Dzantik'i Heeni Middle school $1.75 million, Riverbend Elementary School $2 million, a roof repair project at Juneau-Douglas High School, $500,000, and school renovations at Mendenhall River and Marie Drake that will each cost an estimated $20 million.

    Board member Emil Mackey said these projects are needed.  "I don't think the district has purposely put off the needed renovations but the time has come.  When you have problems with foundations or roofs it will rot the whole structure of the building.  We can't afford to ignore these problems."

    He called the capital project list very rational and well thought out.  He said the effort was worth the time. 

    School Board member Andi Storey said there were very few projects approved by the state last year and it was unlikely these projects would be funded.  "It is a lot of staff time to do this and they typically don't happen.  I know how hard our staff and committee works to look at these things."

    School Board member Dan DeBartolo said these projects are five to six years down the line.  "There is potential for available matching money again.  That prohibition from the legislature that is in place, could be in play.  We can't say we can count on future elected officials being able to do that but we shouldn't completely discount it as well."

    Human Resources Director Darryl Smith said it is worth the time to put in these grants.  He said the plan is a living document and will be revised probably before any roof projects happen.  Maintenance crews did find some water entering the roof at Riverbend Elementary and took steps to stop the problem.

    Board member Steve Whitney was the lone dissenting vote on the capital projects plan.

    The board tabled for one month a proposed school calendar for 2019-2020.  One proposal would begin school on August 21, 2019, and ends the first semester on January 17, 2020.  Graduation would be May 24, and the last day of school May 28, 2020.  The two student representatives to the board said they supported ending the first semester before the Winter Break.  They noted many students do not spend time on academics during the holiday break and it is difficult to gear up and take semester exams in January.  

    Mr. Smith said most teachers supported the later start time to the school year.  He said if they require administrative staff to return in July that could be a change in working conditions and lead to an unfair labor practice complaint. 

    Another issue concerns paraprofessionals who have summer jobs and the possible impacts of having to go back to work at school earlier in August.

    School Board member Josh Keaton suggested starting the school year on August 19th instead.

    The Board wants the calendar committee to make a recommendation for a calendar that would end the first semester before the winter break and starts school later than August 14.

    The board also hired eight new teachers for subjects like music, English, drama, and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. 

    There are 45 kids involved in football.  The first home game is scheduled for August 25 against East High from Anchorage at Adair-Kennedy Field.  There are 45 kids in volleyball and 37 in cross country at Thunder Mountain and 36 in volleyball and 70 in cross country at Juneau Douglas High.

    The board also recognized the Juneau Radio Center for the Stuff the Bus Campaign which help collect school supplies for students.  Another event is scheduled for August 16th from 3-6 pm in front of the Office Max store.  The donations are distributed through the Juneau Teacher Store.

    The meeting was the last for Superintendent Dr. Mark Miller who leaves the district August 15th for a job in California.  He called the opportunity to live and work in Alaska a dream come true.  Some of the highlights were his time on the Rotary Club, making friends in Juneau, catching king salmon and seeing in person the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.  After his final address he received a standing ovation.

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