Matthew Morse is running unopposed for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Kenai seat. He was first elected to the board in 2018 and has stated that this is the last time he will run for reelection. He’s a business owner with a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences and has three adult children.
Morse has described himself as a fiscal conservative and said during an interview at the Clarion’s office on Friday that his interest in the school district’s finances contributed to his decision to run for a seat on the board in 2018. Among the issues he’s championed over the years are the phase out of district health insurance for school board members and for there to be fewer school board members who have conflicts of interest with the district.
Among KPBSD’s recent successes, he said, is the approval of contracts between the district and the district’s teaching and support staff unions. There’s still work to be done, however, on the issue of school maintenance, he said. The district prepared a list of 19 maintenance projects earlier this year that it has proposed putting out to bond. The biggest project on the list is the construction of a new school in the community of Kachemak-Selo, which Morse said needs to be addressed.
Morse said he’d like to see the $5 million borough match be split between the school district and the Kenai Peninsula Borough; the state would chip in $10 million. As long as the school isn’t being built, Morse said, the state is less likely to prioritize borough projects in the future.
“Every time it’s listed as an emergency and you don’t do anything about it, you get a downgrade for priority for future projects,” Morse said. “So not only are we not getting the school done, we’re hurting ourselves for other things that might come up like earthquake damage.”
More recently, he’s been a vocal critic of the school district’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Morse said Friday that while he appreciates the difficult position former KPBSD Superintendent John O’Brien was in during the 2020-2021 school year, there were things he would have done differently.
“School board members said we wanted more kids in school and that was the exact opposite of what happened,” Morse said, referring to when most KPBSD schools operated remotely at the end of 2020.
In reflecting on how current KPBSD Superintendent Clayton Holland is doing since he took over, Morse said he “had high hopes,” but that he’s been disappointed at the number of schools where universal indoor masking, which he said he believes is not effective, has been implemented. Though everyone has a common goal of wanting to make sure staff and students are safe, Morse said he doesn’t think the district needs to consult with a medical advisory team and would like to see the district’s close contact policy revised.
“Every time a kid’s identified as a close contact, they’re out of school for a whole week and that obviously defeats the goal of having kids in school,” Morse said.
Ultimately, Morse said he thinks he has done a good job of representing the wishes of Kenai residents and that it’s reflected in the fact that he is running unopposed.
“I think people know my stances,” he said.
The municipal election is on Oct. 5.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.