HB 256 seeks to empower Yupiit School District

by Angela Denning-Barnes on February 8, 2012

Educators from Yupiit School District are telling state lawmakers that their relationship with state regulators is not helpful.

Howard Diamond and Diane George, Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent of the Yupiit School District went to Juneau to speak before the House Education Committee. Yupiit School District includes three villages-Akiachak, Akiak, and Tuluksak and it is one of five districts in which the state has intervened.

Yupiit School District was appointed a trustee that can change instructional efforts without approval of the school board.

But according to Representative Bob Herron of Bethel, who sits on the Education Committee, the State has gone overboard.

“They’ve been the big bully and they have not collaborated with the school district in trying to help them,” he said. “It’s been a top down approach.”

Herron has co-sponsored House Bill 256 with Representative Alan Dick of Lime Village. The legislation seeks to change laws that were established a few years ago that gave the state tools to help school districts with low scores. Herron says the way it worked out though, hasn’t been productive.

“What has happened was they have a set of tools in the tool box, but the only tool they’re using is a hammer,” Herron said.

Southwest Alaska’s long-time Senator Lyman Hoffman agrees.

“The Department of Education, the Commissioner says they want to help, but they don’t have the specific steps or guidelines to get out of oversight,” said Hoffman. “I think that’s the biggest problem.”

Hoffman says the state department has been unwilling so far to give school districts specifics on how to make improvements. He says more work needs to be done between the school districts, the department, and the legislature to come up with specifics on how school districts can come out of oversight.

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