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February 20 School Board Recap

February 20, 2024: The Anchorage School Board held both a work session and Board meeting. As normal, work sessions are held at 4 p.m. on Tuesdays prior to regular Board meetings, which usually take place the first and third Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. Work sessions, committee meetings, and Board meetings are open to the public and can be watched live on the Anchorage School District’s YouTube channel. 

Work Session Review - Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Rollout

The focus of the Board’s work session yesterday centered primarily on resolving Board Requests for Information (RIF) that are questions from Board members to the Administration about various topics, and a deep dive into the FY25 financial plan and budget. The whole work session can be watched here.

Prior to the budget deep dive, Superintendent Bryantt communicated to the community that the Administration was no longer recommending the restructuring of health and art instruction classes into a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) model. To be clear, the instruction of art and health in elementary schools will continue as it currently stands. After much community feedback, the Administration determined that more time was needed to properly evaluate this model of instruction. 

The majority of the work session consisted of a roundtable discussion between the Board and Administration. Board member questions were largely concentrated on issues such as impacts to the District regarding varying levels of a BSA increase; how cutting the IGNITE program impacts students; what the STEAM model could look like in the future; and how to prepare for the likely reality of a large structural deficit next fiscal year. 

For reference, the FY 25 preliminary budget can be viewed here. 

Board Meeting Review

During the regular School Board meeting, the Board heard passionate testimony from members of the public, specifically about the proposed cut to the IGNITE program and proposal to combine art and health instruction into a STEAM model. The Board room was packed with members of the public, including kids, teachers, education supporters, and many other members of the community. You can find a full breakdown of the agenda here. The entire Board session can be watched here. 

Multicultural Education Concerns Advisory Committee (MECAC) Update

This committee, led by Toni Riley, Senior Director for Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement, has been meeting with members of the community throughout the year to garner better feedback and understanding of how ASD can be more responsive to the diverse needs of Anchorage residents. You can watch that update here

Superintendent Update

As he did during the work session, Dr. Bryantt clarified to the community that the Administration decided not to pursue the proposed plan to restructure art and health instruction into a unified STEAM model in elementary schools. Meaning, art and health instruction will continue next school year as it currently does today. 

Additionally, during the Superintendent update, Chief Finance Officer Andy Ratliff provided a brief overview of the FY25 budget to give members of the public a better understanding of the fiscal crisis ASD faces. 

An intriguing slide from Mr. Ratliff’s presentation showed the change in funding to various State of Alaska departments since 2017, including funding to public education through the Department of Education and Early Development (DEED). You’ll notice the substantial increase to departments dealing with public safety, in contrast to the decreased level of funding provided by DEED to school districts across Alaska. 

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You can watch the full update from the Superintendent and Mr. Ratliff here

Public Comment Period

After the Superintendent update, the Board moved into the public comment period. You can begin watching that portion of the meeting here. This was the most robust period of public comment to date on the FY25 budget. The Board took an extended amount of public comment, lasting nearly three hours, to ensure all voices and testimony were heard. Written public comment submitted to the Board can be viewed here

Consent Agenda Highlights 

On the consent agenda, the Board reviewed and approved a variety of items such as goal monitoring and personnel reports. 

  • The Board approved two new memorandums relating to how the public accesses ASD records and policies for how ASD retains District records. 
  • Two contracts were awarded: the first dealing with Goldenview Middle School’s fire alarm system, and the second dealing with ASD’s network and internet capabilities. 
  • The Board also accepted a $100,000 grant from the Municipality of Anchorage’s alcohol tax proceeds that will help expand the Pop-Up Play To Learn project for 3 to 5 year-olds, currently offered at Denali Montessori School. The grant will provide ASD the ability to expand this early learning program up to six days per week, instead of the two days currently provided. 

Key Action Items

  • The Board delayed accepting a number of meeting minutes due to a disagreement between members over how Robert’s Rules of Order have been interpreted. 
  • The Board authorized acceptance of a grant from DEED to help develop career and technical education programs of study (CTEPS) to aid in the development of two new biotechnology CTE programs. 

Key Non-Action Items

  • The most significant non-action item reviewed by the Board was the preliminary budget for FY2025. The Board will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, February 27 to deliberate and finalize the budget for next school year. That meeting will be broadcast live on the District’s YouTube page. 
  • The remaining non-action items deal with things such as school fire alarm system upgrades; sale of surplus property; contract modifications; and the District’s 6-year capital improvement plan (CIP) which provides recommendations on how ASD should address remodeling or replace various school facilities in the coming years. 

We hope that you find these updates valuable. As always, we welcome your feedback and thoughts at TeamASD@asdk12.org. Have a great day.