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Nome School Board Approves Equity Framework, ACSA Charter Renewal

Nome Public Schools Board of Education President Barb Amarok, Treasurer Brandy Arrington, and members Nancy Mendenhall and Sandy Martinson (Photo: Gabe Colombo, KNOM, 2017)

On Tuesday evening, the Nome Public Schools Board of Education approved two big items: the district’s Equity Framework, as well as Anvil City Science Academy’s charter renewal application. First, though, it had a new member to swear in.

Sandy Martinson won last week’s election for seat D against incumbent Panganga Pungowiyi. Pungowiyi was elected this spring after Keith Conger vacated his seat. Superintendent Shawn Arnold administered the oath:

Arnold: “And that I will honestly, faithfully, and impartially discharge my duties as a school board member to the best of my ability.”

Martinson: “And that I will honestly, faithfully, and impartially discharge my duties as a school board member to the best of my ability.”

Arnold: “You’re now a school board member. Thank you.” [Applause]

Returning members Brandy Arrington and Jennifer Reader were sworn in as well. The board re-elected Barb Amarok as president, Reader as vice president, and Arrington as secretary and treasurer.

The major approvals began with the Anvil City Science Academy’s application to renew its charter. The Academy is applying to the state for a 10-year charter after previously being required to renew every five years.

The board gave positive general comments to Principal Lisa Leeper. Board Member Nancy Mendenhall praised the school’s philosophy:

“I like especially the organization of the learning through thematic and cross-disciplinary activities and projects, because that’s the way kids learn best. My goal would be for all of the elementary and the junior high to use that same model.”

Leeper says depending on how soon the application is submitted to the state, the Alaska Board of Education could approve it before the year is out.

The board also unanimously approved the district’s Equity Framework, which Mendenhall says has been a long time coming:

“My husband was one of the people that was concerned about this and worked on this back in the ‘80s. It’s taken all this time to have the kind of leadership at the top that we needed in order to make it a reality.”

She’s referring to the leadership of Superintendent Arnold, who was appointed in 2014. He’s made it a priority to combat what he calls “predictability of disparity” among cohorts of students. Nome Public Schools began work on the formal equity framework last year.

Tension over funding from the City of Nome was also a topic of discussion. Earlier in the year, the city had asked for clarification on the use of certain “surplus funds” left over from its contribution to the fiscal year ‘18 budget. Board members expressed concern about Councilman Stan Andersen’s apparent continued dissatisfaction with the information the district provided.

Board Member Arrington was particularly blunt:

“Looking through here, we have definitely given him plenty of information that he needs. And if he is going to continue this, let’s continue to push to meet with him face-to-face.”

The Nome school board will meet for a work session next Tuesday, October 24th at 5:30 p.m., and for its next regular meeting on November 14th at 5:30 p.m.

Image at top: Nome Public Schools Board of Education President Barb Amarok, Treasurer Brandy Arrington, and members Nancy Mendenhall and Sandy Martinson at a regular meeting. (Photo: Gabe Colombo, KNOM, Oct. 2017)