Fairbanks superintendent candidates discuss their plans for managing declining budgets

Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 4:49 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The process of selecting a new Superintendent of Schools for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District is nearing its completion as the district moves into a challenging period of budget decline.

The three superintendent finalists provided their positions on how they would assess the needs of the district to improve the quality of education in programs ranging from science to music.

Dr. Corey Weiss stated he believes in supporting a well rounded non-academic education of athletic programs, theater, and art.

“My first approach to this is to take a more sort of proactive approach, in that rather than first asking ‘What are we gonna cut? What are our priorities for cutting the budget? What our our priorities for growth? What are ways that we can potentially attract new revenue?’ Looking at our grants, looking at our relationship with the borough and seeing if there’s some ways that maybe we can get more support there,” said Dr. Weiss.

Dr. Justin Barnes stated that immediate communication with stakeholders is the most important thing he can do, to quickly get a sense of what programs have worked in the district, and what programs haven’t worked.

“If we’re talking about having to cut, whether it’s a music or an art program or anything like that, it’s one of the most important times that students need to have their voices heard. So it might be sending out surveys, constantly communicating with families and making sure that those kids, those students, have a say in what’s going on here - and also that they understand that we can’t always keep everything. With declining budgets, it doesn’t work that way. No superintendent wants to cut programs. We want to offer everything we can to every student, but if the money’s not there we have to start looking at things that have been really successful, where the interests really lie, kind of where the community is headed and stuff like that so you’re making the best decision for everybody possible,” said Dr. Barnes.

Dr. Vickie Cartwright plans to conduct a process she called “resource indexing”, in which the district’s resources are assessed to determine whether or not they are research based, working for students, and being implemented with sustainability and fidelity in mind.

“You’re going to want to put a committee together and involve individuals from a variety of different stakeholders to listen to them and to find out from their perspectives what is working, what is not working, areas where we have opportunity to possibly reduce budget expenditures in order to ensure we align the funds appropriately, and ensure that we keep some of the quality programs such as the arts, music, band, as well as your athletic offerings because those are the things so many times that children are attracted to, that keep them engaged within our schools as well,” said Dr. Cartwright.

The special school board meeting for superintendent selection is scheduled to take place on Saturday April 10th.

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