Meet the candidate: Alisha Hilde
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alisha Hilde is running for a seat on the school board. Alaska’s News Source asked her to answer some questions about her campaign. Here’s what she said.
What school board seat are you running for?
SCHOOL BOARD SEAT E
Can you give me a short description of yourself?
I am in my first term on the Anchorage School Board and am mom of 3 kids who are all enrolled in ASD in Kindergarten, 2nd, and 4th grade. I have a B.S. in K-12 Music Education, a M.P.P. in law & economics, and a J.D. (law degree). I teach Sunday school, serve on the board of School Business Partnerships, and regularly provide pro bono legal services to families in need. Pre-Covid, I volunteered teaching a middle school band club. My husband and I were foster parents, and I created a free library for children in foster care, distributing almost 4,000 books! I consider research, long-term impacts, and community input while pushing for innovative, cost-effective solutions to help kids learn.
Why are you running for school board?
I’m running for re-election to the Anchorage School Board Seat E because I’m passionate about educating children and preparing them for a lifetime of success. As an attorney and former teacher, I know education is the most powerful tool for building healthy, vibrant communities. Given the challenges of the pandemic and Anchorage’s recession, educating children should be our top priority. I was raised by a single mom who worked three jobs but still struggled to make ends meet. She trusted my district to provide an excellent education. While many kids in our district receive a world-class education, too many aren’t able to access those opportunities. I am committed to making sure all children have the opportunity to succeed.
What will be your focus on the school board?
Improving student achievement continues to be my priority. I support the School Board’s newly adopted goals to improve reading and math skills and to make sure graduates are ready for the next step of life – be it college, career, or vocational training. I successfully sought an aggressive growth goal in K-3 reading skills. Strong foundational reading skills will benefit those students for the rest of their academic career and will allow efforts currently spent on remedial education to be focused on providing new learning opportunities for all students. In visiting with students, they share their enthusiasm for hands-on learning with STEAM and Career and Technical courses as well as opportunities for rigorous academics. We’re educating children for careers that don’t even exist yet. The Board must work with parents, educators, and our community to prepare students to meet the demands of a technology driven world. I am also purposeful in building systems that support long-term success for Board governance, including creating planned and transparent progress monitoring and a Superintendent performance review cycle. And while my focus is on student learning, I successfully advocated for our Municipality’s first ever multi-year bond. Voters generously supported it, and because of the efficiency and extensive cost savings multi-year bonding provides, our district was able to direct those resources toward pandemic mitigation to get schools safely re-opened.
Do you think students should be back in school, learning virtually, or a hybrid?
I have consistently advocated for our students to return safely to in-person instruction. As the only Board member with elementary age children and a strong supporter of hands-on learning, on-line education has not worked for my family. But I have heard excellent reports of virtual school working well for some students. And I have watched some incredible, high-quality instruction happen over Zoom. Our district is a national leader in providing choices for student learning, and I support current virtual learning options and potentially more hybrid methods as families decide what works best for their child.
Should students in school be wearing masks?
ASD is a leader in public health, providing more vaccines than any organization in the state and serving as a model for districts nationwide. I’m proud of the work we’ve done in partnering with our Municipality, but my criticism has been that public school children have borne a disproportionate share of our community’s public health response, particularly when bars or private schools remained open. In my advocacy for returning to in-person instruction, I have supported robust mitigation – including wearing masks – to minimize the risk of harm to children and staff and prevent fewer disruptions to in-person instruction.
Do you think children were left behind this school year? How can they get back to grade level?
Yes. National data is already confirming school closures negatively impacted children in lower-income families. ASD’s own data on grades and attendance shows similar disparities. Anchorage has seen a significant increase in cases of severe child abuse and a decrease in reporting of suspected abuse. The Federal government has provided an influx of funding to help address those needs. The School Board must work with the Superintendent to establish expectations and direct the funding toward student learning – the intended purpose. Some districts have moved toward an optional-year-round model, some are doing robust summer schools, and some are redesigning instruction. The Superintendent will recommend the “how.” As a Board Member, I will review whether that is targeted toward meeting our goals for student learning and provide public accountability on that progress. But it’s also a valuable opportunity to pivot how we deliver education and refocus our efforts on what’s best for students.
How do you plan to address the COVID-19 pandemic in schools?
I will continue to work with our Superintendent, elected officials, and public health officials in partnering for the overall health of our community. I strongly believe children’s needs should be a primary factor in those decisions, and as a School Board member, I will continue to advocate for the academic, social, emotional, and safety needs of all children. Even before the pandemic, the habit of going to school was a lot harder for some kids. Offering summer school options for children who struggled with on-line attendance could help reestablish good habits and catch those students up to their peers. As hard as the past year has been, educators have developed incredible new skills to better target individualized instruction. For example, with the infusion of technology, a teacher might have her students submit assignments on-line for instant feedback. This allows teachers to focus more of their valuable time on high-quality instruction targeted to specific skills. Their creativity and ingenuity will benefit children all across our district.
What’s the largest non-pandemic issue facing the district and what do you intend to do about it?
The most important issue facing ASD is student learning. In a global economy, our students must be able to compete with people from around the world. This requires rigorous academics that incorporate 21st century skills. But we cannot achieve our goals without disciplined focus on the intermittent steps that improve student learning. I support investing in professional development for teachers because they’re the ones doing this critical work, and I am adamant about keeping public dollars going into the classroom. I worked collaboratively with the Board to engage our community in our strategic planning and successfully pushed for an aggressive growth goal in K-3 reading skills to improve from 40% to 80% proficiency. Foundational reading skills will benefit those students for the rest of their academic career and will allow efforts currently spent on remedial education to be focused on providing new learning opportunities for all students. Two main components of student success are recruiting and retaining highly skilled teachers and empowering parents to support their child’s education. We’re at an incredible flex point in education given the upheaval of the pandemic. Parents are directly engaged with their child’s learning, and teachers have created new methods of delivering instruction and connecting with families. Building on those successes, we could see dramatic improvements in student learning. At the School Board level, these improvements come from focused monitoring of student progress and supporting a budget that prioritizes reading and math instruction and preparation for life after graduation, whether college, career, or vocational training.
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