ASD to honor Denali Award recipients for fall 2015


December 14, 2015



Contact: Heather Roach
ASD Communications Department
Phone: 907-742-4151


Two ASD employees were selected by a panel of judges as recipients of the Denali Award, a biannual recognition program that honors employees who have shown outstanding achievement, service and dedication in ensuring every student has the opportunity to achieve his or her potential. The Anchorage School Board will recognize the winners at its meeting tonight.


The fall 2015 winners are:


Dan Merrigan, Transportation Planner

For 26 years, Dan Merrigan has made it his mission to help ensure all students get to school safely and on time. According to his supervisor, his attitude sets the tone for the Transportation routing team. Merrigan is passionate in his belief that students should have a pleasant and safe ride to and from school and he puts in countless hours ensuring routes are both safe and manageable. He approaches every request as if it’s his top priority and he treats every child and their unique needs as if they were his own.


This year, Merrigan coordinated with the Special Education Department to develop a streamlined system for scheduling special education routes. Because ASD provides door-to-door service even as students move or IEP teams make new placement decisions, there are many moving parts when it comes to Transportation’s role in the students’ school day. In previous years, special education teachers were required to fax bus request forms. Merrigan helped build and refine a new online registration database for use by the Special Education Department, which has tremendously improved the efficiency of this process. He has also provided countless hours of training to ensure the new program would be successful.


Merrigan is committed to the students and families of the Anchorage School District. He is described as a visionary leader and problem solver. When it comes to operational support, he is the gold standard.


Melanie Sutton, Health and PE Curriculum Coordinator

Melanie Sutton is a tireless advocate for health and physical education in the Anchorage School District. As the Health and PE curriculum coordinator, she oversees all of the district’s health teachers and physical education teachers. She supports her teachers with regular, differentiated professional development and ongoing communication. According to one teacher, Sutton’s attention to detail encourages teachers to spend their energy focusing on their classroom. Sutton is quick to respond to questions and offers interesting, creative, and relevant in-services and trainings.


Sutton regularly promotes events and keeps teachers in the loop regarding health-related opportunities. She goes out of her way to meet with teachers if they miss a training and responds swiftly to teachers’ individual needs and requests. Staff members describe her as approachable, understanding, caring and hardworking. She goes the extra mile in all she does, while putting forth heart and energy.


Sutton has brokered many community partnerships which benefit ASD students. Through her leadership, ASD continues to participate in the statewide Healthy Futures program as well as the homegrown movement Start the Conversation for middle school students. Start the Conversation was so successful, it will soon be implemented statewide. Under her leadership, seven ASD high schools now have at least one American Red Cross certified first aid/CPR/AED instructor. Earlier this year, Sutton helped secure a grant for a mobile bike trailer and 35 adjustable bicycles that will allow ASD students the opportunity to learn safe biking and road skills. Sutton’s dedication to ASD and its students is inspirational and her work ethic is nothing short of exceptional.


Supervisors have the opportunity to nominate employees each fall and spring. Nominations often include letters of support from co-workers, members of the community and students detailing why the employees are considered outstanding in their field of work. The awards are judged by a group of their peers.


ASD applauds these employees, and all nominees, for their amazing service to our students and this community.



Anchorage School District website accessibility and nondiscrimination notice. The Anchorage School District is an equal opportunity provider.