As Susan Murphy steps down as Chair of the Lower Kuskokwim School District Board this October, two candidates have stepped up to fill her seat. KYUK spoke with Raymond "Thor" Williams and Mark Jones about why they’re running for Seat E on the LKSD Board.
Raymond Williams, known as “Thor,” is running for a seat on the School Board this Tuesday as well as for a seat on Bethel’s City Council.
“I have the time to give to make good decisions for both the City Council and the LKSD big board,” said Williams.
As far as qualifications for being on the School Board, Thor points to his service on the Academic Policy Committee as President for Ayaprun Elitnaurvik, and two years on the LKSD Advisory School Board for Bethel.
“I understand those roles, so I’m not coming into it blind. I’m coming into it with some knowledge to make Bethel a better place for their children and the community as a whole,” said Thor.
Thor hopes to strengthen communication between the community and the LKSD Board, and vice versa, and also between LKSD and the Bethel Advisory School Board. He says that with state funding dwindling he sees many challenges ahead in the coming years.
“We have to come up with the money to have schools that are open, that have schools with good qualified teachers to teach our children, and we have to give our students activities,” said Thor. “We have to give them shop, music, dance. We have to keep them culturally relevant within their own culture. I think if we don’t do that we’re gonna lose a lot within our schools, and we just have to find the resources to do that. I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge.”
The Lower Kuskokwim School district is a Regional Educational Attendance Area, and funding comes directly from the state. Williams says that board members have a responsibility to tell Juneau what is needed to provide quality education to students here.
Mark Jones, IT Security Officer at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, is also running for the seat left open by Susan Murphy’s departure.
“I’m running for the school board because I believe parents, such as myself, have to be involved in the education of our children: helping to set policies and standards that our children will be guided by to graduation, and helping our kids learn the life skills they need in the job market after graduation,” says Jones.
Jones’ wife Patty is the Registrar for LKSD and with two young kids, Jones has been involved with the District over the years as a volunteer.
“Speech judging, robotics, and other areas,” said Jones. “I’ve got two young kids, one 10-year-old, one four-year-old, who are both going to Bethel schools.”
He says that one of the challenges facing the school district is parental involvement, and an obstacle to that involvment is the fact that parents and grandparents don’t understand the way math is currently being taught in schools. It differs from the way that previous generations were taught.
“The school district needs to work with parents to find a curriculum that is understood both in the classroom and at home,” said Jones.
So Mark Jones says that one of his big goals, if elected, is to build better ties between families in Bethel and district administration.
“The board has four key measures that drive our success: four-year graduation rate, standard test results, Yup’ík proficiency, and attendance. The key to doing well with all four of those key measures is family involvement. None of these four key measures can be met by simply adding more funding or throwing money at the problem,” says Jones.
Tomorrow, voters will decide between Mark Jones and Raymond "Thor Williams" for Seat E on the LKSD Board.