Superintendent answers questions online, live

Thumbs up, smiles and comments scrolled across the bottom of the screen as Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Sean Dusek fielded questions from the public through a Facebook live event on Tuesday night.

In the past, the district has gone live through the social media page to show different activities students were performing in, but this was the first time that the district utilized the tool for a question and answer session, which covered topics from classroom innovation to lice while also looking closely at the district’s budget.

“Over the last few years, we’ve actually reduced our budget by a little over $7 million in a variety of ways,” Dusek said. “Our philosophy is to make any reductions as far away from the classroom as possible. We’ve done that qute a bit through the areas of curriculum, supplies and travel.”

Dusek highlighted some staffing cuts made including 10 positions at a district level and cuts to support staff, but said there hasn’t been staffing adjustment in relation to teachers in the past two years.

“I want to make a big deal about that because last year, we made a big deal about potentially losing six to eight teachers at the high school level,” Dusek said. “Fortunately, the borough came through with some additional funding so we were able to put those teachers back into place.”

Dusek also focused on funding, saying that the legislator’s delayed timeline in deciding the state funding last year caused delays in hiring and general worry throughout the district.

“What it really boils down to is knowing what we’re going to have early in the process,” he said. “Last year, that was a really big problem. The state wasn’t able to get a resolution until June.”

The legislature did approve flat funding, though Dusek said this also causes concern.

“I’m not sure we should really celebrate that,” he said. “Every year we have that thing called inflation, we have contractual obligations. Flat funding really is a cut to us.”

In regards to lice, Dusek said that the question comes up every year, and although they reevaluate their processes and procedures every year, the district follows all U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards.

“Our nurses are on top of it and are very upfront with kids and working with parents,” Dusek said. “We work very hard not to stigmatize a child when this happens.”

Dusek also fielded questions about last year’s state test scores, which he said were lower than they had hoped.

“The reason why we do have tests like that is to get a general sense of where a student stands in relation to state standards,” Dusek said. “With the latest PEAKS test, the scores weren’t where we wanted to be, but we’re going to use those assessments to see where the students are weak and help them move forward.”

Throughout the presentation, viewership held steady at about 50 participants at a time. The video is still available to view online, and as of Wednesday evening it has been viewed approximately 1,400 times, received 53 comments and about 80 “likes.”

“Thank you to everyone for joining us live on Tuesday night, and caring about our schools,” the district posted on the video after the question and answer session ended. “This was the first of a series of Facebook Live Q & A sessions in KPBSD. Watch for annoucements and the opportunity to meet and hear from other members of the KPBSD leadership team.”

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com.

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