Meet the candidates: Patti Truesdell, District 1 school board

Truesdell is running for the Kalifornsky seat.

Meet the candidates: Patti Truesdell, District 1 school board

Patti Truesdell is running for the Kalifornsky seat on the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education. According to her candidate file, she’s a retired teacher. Her file says she’s taught for 17 years in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. Before that, Truesdell worked at Central Peninsula Hospital for 22 years.

Why are you running?

I didn’t actually get in the classroom until I was 50. I was retiring in May and I kept telling the kids I would stay involved. The reason I’m running is I promised the students I would stay involved. I worked for 10 years at Hope School. Most of my career was spent in small schools. I worked in Tyonek for two years and in Ninilchik. I have been concerned about the way this community talks about public schools. I told the kids I would continue to advocate for schools. I’ve been concerned listening to board meetings from Hope, listening to how people talk about public schools, how they refer to public schools. In the last year and a half when we were talking about me retiring, we were talking about how senior citizens can have a voice. Just because I was retiring, I wasn’t going to take to my rocking chair and start knitting. I thought senior citizens have a remarkable voice in this country. We can go to meetings. We have time.

What do you hope to accomplish should you be elected to the school board?

I hope to be a very strong vocal proponent for our schools in a positive way. I hope to be a creative out-of-the-box thinker for solutions. I think we are in a bad way financially, but I hope I would be the kid with her hand up asking questions. I’m hoping I can bring to the board my experience as an educator, my age and I hope I can bring some new direction — that I can bring some of my experience from the classroom and life and ask hard questions about why we’re not trying some new things. We can’t just keep working the same old way we’ve dealt with problems. Let’s try some new things. We also go to the same solution, ‘lets cut, cut, cut.’ ‘Let’s consolidate.’ It seems like we hear the same things all the time. We get in a crisis, hear the same thing and go to the same place to solve it. I’m going to try and be the person who asks new questions.

What sort of challenges does the school district face in the next three years, and how do you hope you can address those issues?

I would like to try something new and set a commission aside to look at small and off-the-road schools, and just to look at those schools and their uniqueness. We have 42 schools. Instead of doing the same thing we always do. Let’s look at schools for their uniquenesses, not just gather them up say ‘we’re going to close you all or combine you all,’ but maybe put a commission together. Maybe we have to meet by Skype, but get shareholders together with the board. I’d volunteer. Start with what makes them unique, what makes them special and find ways to work with them so they are part of our district, and find ways to bring them out of the hole so they’re not always on the chopping block. I just want to look at different ways to solve our problems.

With limited funding coming from the state and borough, how should the school board work to create a balanced budget?

I do think we need to keep looking into some grants and there are grants coming in for mental health. I support the ballot initiative of raising the tax cap. I think asking tough questions of school administration. I think the school board — trying to say this in a nice way — we need to not buy every little pretty thing that comes along. I think as school board members we need to be careful of what we’re buying and purchasing, ask those tough questions and make sure we’re being careful. I think we need to ask hard questions and be sensitive to our community. When they ask us what we’re spending our money on, I think that is a fair thing. I think we have to ask tough questions when looking at our budget.

The district lost a record number of teachers and staff last year. What can the district do to attract and retain the best educators?

I’ve really seen that. Four of my children graduated from this school district and they had excellent teachers and coaches. If you ask them, they would name the teachers that came through this district in the days and say how they impacted their lives. I was told there used to be 80 or even a hundred teachers for a job. One of the reasons I’m running and am so sad, if we don’t improve things here in the district, we’re not going to get good applicants for every job. They say you can’t throw money on it, but you certainly can. We need to offer competitive retirement. There are a couple things we can do better. How to retain teachers? We’re kind of pathetic in that area right now. As a school board member, I want to look closely at what our package is. When we get a new teacher, we need to work a lot harder about supporting that new teacher. We haven’t been doing a good job of that in my opinion. That new teacher needs a lot of support in the classroom the first year or two. I think we get them in, we recruit them, we sing their praises and then we leave them alone. They need to feel valued. If I were a new teacher, I wouldn’t feel very valued. I want to be the cheerleader. I want the best educators and not only get them, but retain them. We retain them by letting them know we support them. We want them here. We need to do better. We need to learn from our mistakes.

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