Interim Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendant Sean Dusek had mostly positive news about the current state of the school district during a speech on Wednesday.
Speaking at a joint Kenai and Soldotna Chambers of Commerce luncheon held at the Kenai Visitor Center, Dusek focused on district enrollment, student performance and budgets.
Dusek recently took over from former superintendent Steve Atwater, who had left the district to for a position with the University of Alaska.
After introducing himself to members of the community, Dusek spoke of the district’s student enrollment.
While district-wide enrollment had been decreasing since before the 2010 fiscal year, that trend has reversed as enrollment started to increase in the 2014 fiscal year. Dusek said that he expects more growth in the future.
“I would expect that this would continue to change to the positive as we keep moving forward,” Dusek said.
Dusek said that the Skyview High School transition to Soldotna High School has been smoother than anticipated.
“With all indications, a lot of positives have been happening,” Dusek said. “The discipline problems that some people thought would happen haven’t happened. It’s been a pretty good transition academically, as well.”
Dusek went on to discuss student performance. According to statistics provided by Dusek, KPBSD students had higher proficiency levels in reading, writing, math and science compared to students from other areas of the state.
“(The reading scores are) outstanding and it certainly leads the way for the state,” Dusek said.
He said the state of Alaska is developing the Alaska Measures of Progress, a new way to assess student development.
“How do we compare to Anchorage, Kodiak or Mat-Su? We beat them,” Dusek said. We have beaten them every year.”
While Dusek was proud of the test scores, he said schools should also focus on teaching students how to think, communicate and be good employees.
“One bubble test should not define how good or bad (students) are,” Dusek said.
While the talk of student enrollment and student progress was positive, Dusek did have some concerns, particularly about the district’s budget.
“We’ve been running a deficit for a while, and we continue to dip into our savings, which is concerning.” Dusek said. “I’d like to see a long-term fix from the state level.”
The cost of health care has been increasing every year, leading the KPBSD to spend more than 80 percent of its budget on personnel and benefits.
“What we want to do when we budget is maintain at least the same level of service, but where that becomes problematic, you know, is our costs never go down,” Dusek said. “Our costs are going up, and I believe our state’s most valuable resource (is our students). So, that’s where I believe we should put our money.”
Reach Ian Foley at Ian.email@example.com.