The Board of Education is looking for a new member after District 9 representative Sunni Hilts stepped down after more than 12 years of service.
During her final board meeting Monday, presents and words were passed from her fellow members, all of whom she has served with for more than three years. Many referenced her years of advocating for education and acting as a constant voice for students.
“You have made a special difference in the lives of many children through your dedication, through your insight and your understanding of the needs of kids,” said board member Penny Vadla.
Hilts has addressed issues specific to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District as well as state-wide including more support for Alaska Native students, increasing state funding for education, and individualized learning in smaller schools.
“…truth is, there is a hole in my heart and a lump in my throat, so I can’t talk about how much this position has meant to me, how much you all mean to me,” Hilts said in the last minutes of the meeting. “I mean I have worked with just some of the best people ever. The administrators of my schools are amazing, the students are amazing, the graduates, the parents, the support.”
On several occasions, Hilts has said her reasons for leaving include spending more time with her husband, who has been flexible and supportive in her consistent travel away from their Seldovia home for more than one decade. And in general, she wants to spend more time with family.
She has made the flight to Homer and driven 75 miles to Soldotna every month for meetings for the past nearly 13 years, only missing 13 meetings ever due to bad weather, according to the Homer News.
She has also made trips to Juneau and Anchorage and around the state to advocate for and discuss education.
Hilts directed a few final words to the board Monday.
“I think that I don’t need to tell you this I think I am preaching to the choir — children should be Alaska’s top priority,” Hilts said. “We can’t stop asking for that, reminding legislators about that, encouraging parents to speak up about children … they should be declared Alaska’s top priority. And the other thing is, board members, please remember that the boards of education of this country are the foundation of the democracy of this country, so never let it slip away.”
The school district announced the vacant position Tuesday.
The seat would serve some schools in Homer, off East End Road and across Kachemak Bay in Nanwalek, Port Graham and Seldovia, according to the press release.
Applicants must apply by Dec. 27, and be at least 18 years old, and qualified parties will be interviewed Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, and sworn in during that evening’s meeting.
Applications are available through the school district’s website or in the main school district office.
Hilts’ fellow board members agreed the seat is a big one to fill.
“I am not going to try and one-up anyone,” said Board President Joe Arness. “I am going to be very simple and straightforward — you should always know that you are loved, respected and appreciated here by each and every one of us and we all as (board member) Mr. (Dan) Castimore said, wish you they very best, at your choice here.”
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