Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Sean Dusek gives a district update at Wednesday’s joint chamber luncheon, on Oct. 17, 2018, in Kenai, AK. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Sean Dusek gives a district update at Wednesday’s joint chamber luncheon, on Oct. 17, 2018, in Kenai, AK. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

School superintendent talks budget cuts, curriculum at joint chamber luncheon

Superintendent Sean Dusek gave the community a Kenai Peninsula Borough School District update at Wednesday’s joint chamber luncheon.

Dec. 1 will mark Dusek’s fifth year as superintendent.

Dusek started his presentation by saying he hopes the district can offer a high enough quality education that current students choose to stay in the borough and raise their own families in the school district.

“I’m very passionate and proud of our school district,” Dusek said. “You’ve heard me talk about the great things happening, and you may have heard that we need your support as much, or more, every year than in previous years.”

Dusek said the district is focused on allowing students to reflect more on their learning. Dusek said the No Child Left Behind Act set the district back.

“It really narrowed our curriculums,” Dusek said. “It really focused on a single test on a single day to judge not only our students but our schools and our districts. I think that set us back a long way because it really focused our kids to be great test takers, instead of thinkers and problem solvers investing in their own education.

During the election season, Alaskans have heard many politicians speak about Alaska’s failing education system and their plans to fix it, Dusek said, noting that he disagrees with those sentiments.

“There are some test scores that are out there that certainly not where we want to be,” Dusek said. “In this district, when you look just at us, I would say we’re above average. We are moving on up and doing right by our kids.”

Dusek said there has been a gradual increase in graduation rates, with 85 percent of students graduating high school. The national high school graduation rate is 84 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The district has seen a decline in enrollment, which Dusek said could be related to the economy Outside, with families moving away for other jobs, and a demographic shift in age on the peninsula. Dusek said he’s optimistic about future industry projects that could bring more jobs and families to the peninsula.

The district serves about 8,700 students.

Dusek also brought awareness to homeless issues the district and community is experiencing. He said the district typically sees 200 students enroll in the Students in Transition program by the end of the school year. This year, he said the district is projecting more than 300 students will be enrolled.

When it comes to this year’s finances, Dusek said the district is using $1.43 million of their savings. He said the district has been using a combination of reductions and savings to not fall off the cliff, but warned that if the economy doesn’t turn around, the district might have to make difficult cuts.

“We’re hoping that the economy will turn around so that we don’t have to continually cut,” he said.

“In the next two years if funding revenues don’t change across the state and in this borough, we will be back to only being able to provide minimum graduation requirements,” Dusek said. “We don’t want to lose the flavor of all of our schools.”

Dusek ended his presentation by saying the district is going to continue to do better, with a good attitude.

He said he hoped to present to the chamber again in February.

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