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Nome Public Schools Pursues Accreditation; Board Talks Funding Challenges

Student representative Donald Smith gives his report to the Nome Public Schools Board of Education at their November regular meeting (Gabe Colombo, KNOM, 2017)

Nome Public Schools (NPS) is beginning a two-year accreditation process, Superintendent Shawn Arnold announced at the Nome Board of Education’s regular meeting Tuesday night.

The district will be working with AdvancED, a nonprofit that provides international accreditation standards. But Arnold says it’s not just about a single benchmark:

“It’s not just a system to make sure that what we’re teaching is what we’re supposed to teach, but it’s a process of improvement. It’s using a lot of strategic planning — purposeful things. It kind of forces us to take a look, aligning our system there from kindergarten up through 12th grade.”

He says the assessment also extends to other aspects like the district’s interaction with the community.

Nome-Beltz Junior High and High School has previously been accredited, but this process will look at the entire district as a whole. That’s something Arnold says almost no rural Alaska school districts have undertaken.

He says Tim Cline, director of AdvancED for Alaska, will be visiting after the holidays to meet with district leadership. Cline will guide NPS through the clearly outlined steps over the course of the next two years, with opportunity for Board and public feedback.

If the district meets the requirements, the accreditation will then last for three to five years before it needs to be renewed.

In other business, Arnold reported that the Pioneers of Alaska Nome chapter made a $5,000 donation to assist with funding dual-credit programs. These allow Nome high-school students to earn college credit. Arnold says the grant is especially helpful as class prices increase.

Board President Barb Amarok agreed, and asked Arnold about the context:

Amarok: “I’m very grateful to the Pioneers for the $5,000 to use with students’ dual credit. That’s amazing. That’s wonderful. Did you ask for that?”

Arnold: “They approached and said they had some extra money and if we had anything good that we need money for, and that was the first thing that came to mind.”

The board discussed more substantial funding challenges as they approved legislative priorities for the 2018 Fiscal Year. Those include money for a roof replacement at Beltz, restroom renovations at Anvil City Science Academy, and the electrical service generator system, a total of around $4.5 million.

Arnold says the funding will depend on what the legislators do with Governor Walker’s budget request:

“Last year, he asked $30 million in capital improvement/major maintenance projects — he added 30 million dollars for school districts. The legislators reduced it down to $3.5 million. This year, if the governor’s request is honored, then it’s likely that our roofing project may be in that scope there of the initial ones funded.”

Arnold says Kenai representatives he’s talked to told him not to be too optimistic, which was concerning to Board Vice President Jennifer Reader:

Arnold: “Increased funding probably won’t happen. We’ll probably be flat-funded.”

Reader: “Okay, but that’s still a decrease in funding.”

Arnold: “It’s still a decrease in funding.” 

The board also approved a final payment for roof repairs at Nome Elementary School, an amount of around $58,000 pulled from the Capital Improvement Projects fund. The district’s insurance plan covered damage inside the roof but not on the exterior, a fact that Reader poked fun at:

“If you’d like to know before you spend all your piggy-bank money. It’s like taking your car to the repair shop: ‘Oh, don’t worry about it. We’ll do all your repairs. You’re not going to have to pay for a thing.’ Okay…”

Tackling something it could control, the board entered into an executive session at the end of the meeting for a superintendent evaluation.

The Board of Education will meet for a work session Tuesday, November 28th at 5:30 p.m. and for its next regular meeting Tuesday, December 12th at 5:30 p.m.

Image at top: Student representative Donald Smith gives his report to the Nome Public Schools Board of Education at their November regular meeting (photo: Gabe Colombo, KNOM, 2017).