University of Alaska Southeast will keep its School of Education and become the administrative headquarters for teacher education within the University of Alaska system.
This was a change of direction for the Board of Regents after UA President Jim Johnsen amended his recommendation during a special Board of Regents meeting Wednesday morning. His original recommendation was for University of Alaska Fairbanks to be the administrative head of a single college of education.
“In response to that recommendation, we have received a lot of input from all across the state,” Johnsen said during a presentation to the board. “There have been statements of support for the recommendation I made to you in November and there have been statements in opposition. The statements in opposition to that recommendation are overwhelmingly greater than the statements in support.”
The statements in opposition were not to disparage UAF, he said, but to point out that teacher education is “a halo program at the University of Alaska Southeast.”
Johnsen was in Juneau earlier this week where he heard an onslaught of opposition to his recommendation from community members and leaders, including UAS faculty, the Juneau Mayor and Assembly members, Juneau’s legislative delegation and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott.
“What I learned from that input was that this program was really existential to the University of Alaska Southeast, that the loss to the campus would be enormous at Southeast compared to the loss of leadership of teacher preparation at the other two universities,” Johnsen said.
“I would at this time, difficult though as it is for me to do … I’ve decided to recommend to you that UAS serve as the administrative lead for our teacher preparation programs. My sense would be, this would be UAS’s top priority as a university,” Johnsen said, wrapping up his presentation to the board.
Regent Jyotsna Heckman thanked Johnsen for his ability to listen and learn.
“I think that goes to show the caliber of leadership that you have displayed, so my compliments to you for going through this process and coming to a conclusion that best serves our university,” she said.
Regent Dale Anderson, who lives in Juneau, agreed with Heckman and said, “I think we’re taking a right step here to recognize the quality of the education program that we have here.”
Regent Lisa Parker said the board was already moving in that direction, “When we started Strategic Pathways this past January, University of Alaska Southeast was identified as a core for providing quality teachers here in Alaska and that was one of the strengths that was identified, that we were going to place teaching in Southeast and that we were going to build on that.”
Several board members touched on the strength of UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield as a reason to support placing the School of Education’s administrative center at UAS.
“With the incredible commitment to doing the teacher education program, we will get leadership there that will make that a very important part of every day. Specifically, the chancellor there, Rick Caulfield, has experience with working with folks here in Fairbanks and across the state and will be a very effective state-wide leader in this program,” Regent John Davies said.
Regent Deena Paramo said she’d support the motion, but with trepidation.
“I’m going to go out on a limb and say that we don’t have a university, a teaching institution, presently in our state that is currently meeting the needs of kids of the 21st century. And so selecting one place or the other because one is better — I don’t think that exists currently,” Paramo said. “The results are what’s going to speak for whether we’ve made the correct decision, and the results matter.”
While the Board of Regents voted unanimously to place the administrative head of a single College of Education at UAS, its motion stipulated that “leadership will be determined after a full review.”
Currently, each university in the UA system — University of Alaska Anchorage, UAF and UAS — has its own school of education and each school has its own dean. Earlier in the Wednesday meeting, the board voted unanimously in favor of the recommendation to consolidate the three schools of education down to one.
Teacher education programs and faculty will remain at all three universities. A detailed implementation plan will come out in July 2017.