In their own words: School Board Seat B Incumbent Brandy Arrington
NN: What are your qualifications and why do you want to re-run for School Board?
Brandy Arrington: I have many qualifications that forge together to make me a strong candidate to serve the schools of Nome. Along with a strong sense of leadership and management skills gained in my role as Front End Manager at Alaska Commercial Company, I have developed skills of problem-solving. These qualities transfer to working on the board well as we often find ourselves in difficult situations where we must think outside of the box to best serve our schools. Another quality I maintain is the ability to understand a complex budget, which allows me to be a supportive member of an effective team to balance the financial aspects of the district. In addition, I possess the ability to consolidate large amounts of information and drill down to the most important parts. As the president of Nome Preschool Association, I have lead my board through the licensing process, revamping policy, as well as increased the retention of our staff. This forward-thinking is crucial the success of a board.
Due to my passion for the children of Nome’s education, I have chosen to re-run for school board.
My knowledge of Nome’s districts history and where we are now as well as how an effective board operates is instrumental in maintaining a thriving School Board. I am open-minded, dedicated, and I am not afraid to fight for our community’s needs. I enjoy giving back to our wonderful city of Nome that has given so much to me. It is important that we grow our incredible children into successful adults, for they are our future council members, mayors, and educators. I would like to assure that our teachers, administrators, and other NPS staff continue to have the support needed. We have such hard working NPS employees who are dedicated to educating our children. They need to know that they are appreciated for all that they do. It truly is an honor to serve my community in this capacity. The board has strengthened with the conferences and retreats of which I have been a part. The knowledge would be lost with a different candidate. I take my position very seriously and am proud to answer to our great community while acting as our voice in advocating for quality education for our kids.
NN: Describe your experience with education in Nome and highlight the changes you’d like to see in the Nome School District.
Brandy Arrington: I have served on the Nome Preschool Association board since 2010 where I currently serve, for the third year, as board president. Also, I act as a member of the Nome PTA and serve as Vice President for the last four years. As a parent of two children in the Nome Public Schools system, I am connected both as an involved parent and long-standing community member. Most importantly, I am a committed current board member of three years. During my term, I have seen many positive changes in our school system, some examples: a long-term, strong, state recognized superintendent; Kagan Cooperative Learning in the classroom; Culturally Responsive and Embedded Social Emotional Learning; effective use of teacher in-service time; data-driven instruction; helping to better prepare our students for success.
In the future, I look forward to building trust with community members to further engage families in supporting students as they grow to be responsible people that represent Nome’s rich diversities. This includes looking for positive changes to support teacher retention. It takes consistency, rigor, and stability to be able to make positive changes. I feel that we are heading in the right direction to improve education in Nome Public Schools.
NN: The recent release of PEAKS (Performance Evaluation for Alaska’s Schools) test scores showed a low level of Nome students’ proficiency in language and math. How do you propose to improve this performance?
Brandy Arrington: The state has decided to use this rigorous standardized test to determine how our students in the state are performing. Kinks and an adjustment period should be expected with any new assessment tool. Nome is not the only district facing this challenge of low-level test scores from this assessment. More than 60 percent of students statewide did not meet grade-level academic standards. This year’s PEAKS showed results of one snap shot of data which makes it hard to determine how exactly our students are performing. Until we have several years of the same type of data to compare it to, these results are simply a baseline. Currently our district uses MAP and DIBLES testing which gives three snap shots throughout the year and provides data to drive instruction and has proven reliable. With continuous professional development for staff, on line practice for our students with PEAKS to gain familiarity, as well as the district continuing to implement the current adopted state standards in the classroom, we will see improvement in PEAKS scores.
NN: Budget constraints are to be expected as the state budget contracts annually. How do you propose the school district prepares for decreasing budget realities as costs rise?
Brandy Arrington: The reality is, every year we face cuts to funding in education. I would love to say that we do not need to worry or depend on state funding, but we do. I lose the most sleep when the legislature is in session. One day there is the threat of our student base allocation funding being cut, the next day it is not. We never know what cuts we will face for sure until the legislature adjourns. We have to prepare for the worst, but hope for the best. It is such a huge challenge we face every year. This is why it is so important that our community rally together and lobby to our legislatures for protecting education funding. Each student present during the October Attendance Counts for the state brings in $5,930 into our district. Having students present and focusing on attendance can help as well. Continuing to develop partnerships with various stakeholders in our community, collaborating with other districts, and innovative “outside of the box” thinking to bring quality education to our district will be key to help minimize the blow of state funding cuts. It will take a strong combination to succeed. One cannot stand alone.
NN: What are your thoughts for improving recruitment efforts to find and keep new teachers?
Brandy Arrington: It is a difficult time to find quality educators and the numbers are continuing to dwindle as they move out of state in search of stability while our state is facing its financial crisis. I am a huge fan of “growing your own teachers.” We currently have really great educators in our district who are lifetime or longtime residents of Nome and I see the incredible impact it has on our kids. Having locally grown teachers is a great example for our children to follow and inspires
children to be an educator in our district one day. Unfortunately, this is a plan for the future. For the present we need a plan.
Our district can’t compete with salaries such as those in the North Slope Borough or even the Bering Straits School district. Housing can be a challenge to find at an affordable rate for teachers, but we have a brand in Nome that is attractive that we need to continue to promote our welcoming community. Nome hosts several community activities throughout the year and a great backyard for outdoor recreation. It is important that teachers hired outside of Nome, or even state, are given the big picture of what to expect when they move to Nome. Informing potential teachers of the realities of living in bush Alaska in all aspects including the weather, cost of living, isolation, and dark winters is vital to teacher retention. If teachers know what to expect when they come to Nome they are more likely to stay rather than leave with in two years.
Another idea I would like to see happen is families adopting a teacher. This not only allows the teacher to feel welcome and have people excited to teach them about the community, but also provides immediate support for the many questions that arise, from where is the post office annex to what kind of coat does one really need. This support and familiarity will encourage becoming a part of the community instead of leaving.