John “Zen” Kelly is running for the South Peninsula Kenai Peninsula School District Board of Education Seat he currently holds. According to his candidate file, Kelly is an IT and accounting business consultant in Homer and has served on the School Board since 2016. He is running unopposed.
What have you been able to accomplish during your time on the school board so far?
I think my main accomplishment is the continued advocacy for funding for our educational system, and just kind of continuing to beat the drum for adequate funding from the state level and the borough level so that we can do what we need to do to fulfill our mission of educating children on the peninsula.
Why are you running?
Seeing that I’m running uncontested, it’s hard to say if people believe that I’m doing a good job or if truly no one wants this job. So saying all that, my commitment is to move forward and do the best job that I can representing all the stakeholders within my district, and try to provide a level of support for everybody that moves us forward in the direction that we need to go.
What do you hope to accomplish should you be reelected to the school board?
I’ll just continue to be dedicated in speaking with the Legislature and the assembly on the need for adequate funding. I chair the finance committee for the school district, so I have pretty intimate knowledge of the costs and expenditures and the need for revenue that meets those expenditures.
What sort of challenges does the school district face in the next three years, and how do you hope you can address those issues?
Well, I think, especially in the next three years, we have a governor who is intent on reducing the expenditures that he allows for K-12 education, and I think at this time it’s important to not only maintain the status quo but to fit increases into the revenue side for our budget to keep up with the rising costs that we see, both in health care and general inflation.
With limited funding coming from the state and borough, how should the school board work to create a balanced budget?
I think we need to engage our stakeholders. Our parents, the public, and even our staff to continue to find efficiencies and be able to still provide the level of service that is expected in educating children on the peninsula. So it’s gonna be basically outreach and telling our story of what we’re able to do and how we’re able to do it, and what it takes from a financial standpoint to make that happen.
The district lost a record number of teachers and staff last year. Teacher retention is a growing issue in Alaska, so what can the district do to attract and retain the best educators?
I think valuing our staff is a big part of that. But also, we just reached a resolution on our contract negotiations that hopefully will settle the dispute that we can be competitive both in salary and benefits, and offer an environment to attract the best talent in the state.
How do you think recent contact negotiations will impact the district’s ability to attract and retain teachers?
I think that though the negotiation process was very strained. I believe the endpoint that we reached solved the question of whether we’re going to provide a compensation package that competes with other school districts in the state. I think that the peninsula is a wonderful place to teach and to live, and those two things will allow us to attract great talent.