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Meet the candidate: Mark Cox

Mark Anthony Cox is running for a seat on the school board in this year's municipal election.
Mark Anthony Cox is running for a seat on the school board in this year's municipal election.(Courtesy Mark Anthony Cox's campaign team)
Published: Mar. 12, 2021 at 2:47 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Mark Anthony Cox is running for a seat on the school board. Alaska’s News Source asked him to answer some questions about his campaign. Here’s what he said.

What school board seat are you running for?

SCHOOL BOARD SEAT B

Can you give me a short description of yourself?

Husband, Father, U.S. Army Soldier, Published Author, Mentor, ASD and UAA Alumni.

Why are you running for school board?

We need leadership that represents the diversity of our great city and gives a voice to a new generation of parents in the Anchorage School District. I come to offer a contemporary perspective as a product of the Anchorage School District and be an advocate for students and parents who need a leader that is transparent, available, and flexible to their various needs and expectations in regard to their education.

What will be your focus on the school board?

Our $571 million dollar budget is not making a sizable impact in the lives of our disadvantaged student population. So as an Anchorage School Board member my focus would be in setting objectives to increase our collective focus and direction on supplementing what those aforementioned students need (mentorship, trauma informed practices, contracted vocational instructors, more challenging curriculum, educational resources, incentivized teachers based on productivity with similar students, and more).

Do you think students should be back in school, learning virtually, or a hybrid?

Alaska has been a state that has utilized distance learning (homeschooling model) long before COVID-19. To compete with the private school sector, we should offer an array of options that best suits the needs of families we serve in the Anchorage School District.

Should students in school be wearing masks?

Using the model being used by the for-profit sector, when in transition proper wear of the mask is most effective in protecting us as a community from COVID-19, when seated at a minimum of 6ft apart with no thru-traffic the mask as an option can be taken off, and lastly with a plexiglass barrier and social distancing precautions the mask as an option can be taken off. Students should be able to utilize this model to ease the discomfort of wearing the mask for extended periods while still following CDC guidelines which protect themselves, others, and their families.

Do you think children were left behind this school year? How can they get back to grade level?

Mental health studies have accumulated evidence to support that children have suffered psychologically since the pandemic, with the most vulnerable being the middle school and elementary aged children. We will need to be intentional and spend more time integrating mental health programs and education to heal our children mentally and restore their educational capabilities. Now with any ideas affecting students, their families, and our teachers/faculty members, we are to discuss at length to an equitable solution by listening and qualifying all comments and suggestions until we come to a consensus.

Due to COVID-19, I would propose that we may choose to reconsider the school year because as we know the history of the school year comes from an agrarian based society where students would essentially be working during the summer months. Our options include requiring summer school for those who have declined in their studies at a standardized rate. Another option is to implement a 45-15 year round school schedule which is 45 weekdays on and 15 weekdays off throughout the year. Lastly, we have the option to shorten summer, spring, and winter breaks to add more instructional periods.

How do you plan to address the COVID-19 pandemic in schools?

As an Anchorage School Board member, I would work to set the vision of giving parents and teachers/staff an educated option of whether or not they wanted to do face to face instruction; while simultaneous preparing our facilities with necessary health equipment and mitigation procedures in place for those who would stay, and approving a virtual curriculum for those who would be home. I would also work together with the other members of the board to set the direction of utilizing our 25 million dollar transportation service to extend routes to serve meals for families who do not have the capabilities for transportation to the schools where the food given to title 1 students are located. We would also make preparations for the students who choose to utilize a hybrid learning model which will require additional collaboration efforts from our transportation services.

What’s the largest non-pandemic issue facing the district and what do you intend to do about it?

Our issue in the Anchorage School district is achievement gaps persisting among economic, racial and ethnic groups of students. What I intend to do about it as an Anchorage School Board member is set the direction of the Anchorage School District providing a continuum of education by providing across economic, racial, and ethnic groups: mentorship, mental health support, and additional transportation to students who qualify for gifted programs across the district without means otherwise.

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