Dems Take Issue With State Assessment Review Board Candidate
Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau
Democrats in the Alaska Senate want Gov. Sean Parnell to withdraw the name of one of his board appointees, because of residency issues.
Bill Arming VPSOs Passes House
Zachariah Hughes, KNOM – Nome
A bill providing funding and support for some Village Public Safety Officers to carry firearms passed unanimously in the house this morning.
King, Zirkle Leave White Mountain
Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks
Iditarod mushers Jeff King and Aliy Zirkle are on the final stretch into Nome. King left the White Mountain checkpoint after eight hours of mandatory rest at 3:02 this afternoon. Zirkle followed just under an hour later. Dallas Seavey will leave about two hours behind Zirkle and his father Mitch will leave about two hours after that.
Officers Shoot, Kill Driver Near Wasilla
The Associated Press
Alaska State Troopers say a man has been shot and killed in an incident in Wasilla.
Shortly past 9 p.m. on Sunday, a Trooper and a Wasilla police officer were involved in a shooting on the Seward Meridian Parkway. Trooper reports indicated that Troopers were alerted to an impaired driver, and that the driver of the vehicle failed to stop at the direction of a police officer. The driver of the vehicle was shot and pronounced dead at the scene. A passenger in the vehicle was also shot and sustained non life-threatening injuries. The Trooper and police officer were not injured in the incident.
There are few details available at this time, according to Trooper spokesperson Beth Ipsen.
Investigators from the Alaska Bureau of Investigations and Wasilla Police Department are investigating the incident. The Alaska Bureau of Investigations has assumed the responsibility of lead investigating agency.
Sarah Palin, Superstar, Rocks Conservative Faithful
Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC
Sarah Palin fired up thousands of conservative activists who came to hear her give the closing speech of the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, D.C. this weekend. Palin hasn’t held elected office since she resigned as Alaska governor in 2009. But,at this gathering of 11,000, she was an A-list star.
Furie Applies For New Cook Inlet Platform
Shaylon Cochran, KDLL – Kenai
Furie Alaska has submitted an operations plan for a new offshore drilling platform in Cook Inlet. If the project is approved, natural gas production could begin as soon as this fall.
Fairbanks Coal Ash Health Impacts Under Scrutiny
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The Alaska Department of Health is looking into possible coal ash health impacts from Aurora Energy’s downtown Fairbanks plant. Coal ash is increasingly coming under scrutiny around the country due to contamination from large scale spills, but the situation in Fairbanks is different.
US Fish & Wildlife Proposes Reintroducing Steller’s Eiders To YK Delta
Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel
A new effort to help a once healthy population of eiders is using unique methods to try to turn sparse numbers around. Stellers eiders used to be common on parts of the YK Delta coast decades ago. Due to some combination of lead poisoning, predators, and changes of habitat they all but disappeared and were listed as threatened under the federal endangered species act in 1997.
Musher Housing At A Premium In Nome
Anna MacArthur, KNOM – Nome
Iditarod teams are expected in Nome tonight, and some mushers still do not have a place to sleep once they get here.
Sarah Palin fired up thousands of conservative activists who came to hear her give the closing speech of the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, D.C. this weekend.
Palin hasn’t held elected office since she resigned as Alaska governor in 2009. But at this gathering of 11,000, she was an A-list star. The wind-up included a video montage of her greatest hits and tributes, and an introduction by NRA Executive Director Chris Cox.
“Does anybody here love Sarah Palin?” Cox asked, getting a loud cheer. “Now, if I walked out there and asked 100 of you why you love Sarah Palin, I’d probably get 100 different answers.”
He suggest a few but barely mentioned her stint as governor of Alaska. Even her run for the vice-presidency, which first put her on the national stage, is not her claim to fame now. Instead, the introduction focused on her superstar clout, her ability to raise the profile of far-right candidates like Ted Cruz of Texas, who says he owes his seat in the U.S. Senate to her. Her celebrity, and how she uses it, is itself celebrated.
Then Palin took the stage, and for 45 minutes, she slammed President Obama and all he stands for, as well as mainstream Republican members of Congress who she says ran from the fight. The crowd rose to its feet over and over. Some fans, too far away to see the stage clearly, took pictures of the room’s video monitors when her face came on the live feed.
Way in the back, one hand waved a tri-corner hat in approval. William Temple, of Brunswick, Georgia, came dressed head to toe as a solder from the Revolutionary War.
“I LOVE Sarah Palin,” he gushed. Temple admitted he had an ulterior motive for coming to the gathering. He wants Palin to sign the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag he carried into the convention center on an 8-foot flag pole. He’s been trying for years.
“They spirit her out of the room every time I get close. They secrete her out of the room. And I understand that. But yes I desperately need her signature on my Tea Party flag,” he said.
Chelsey Riehl, a student from Grand Rapids, Michigan, says she appreciates Palin’s frankness, her lack of filter.
“I think she definitely has more passion than other people and doesn’t really hold back on her opinion. And I think that’s part of the reason why some people do look down on her, but why so many other people really enjoy her as well,” Riehl said.
But Palin’s speech left Anna Chapman of Columbia, South Carolina, skeptical. Chapman says it was funny, in a late-night comedy kind of way.
“I don’t think she made a whole lot of sense, though. I’m going to be honest. I love her. I think she’s a good role model, a good face for the Republican Party. But I just think she sounded a little too kooky,” Chapman said.
Judging by the crowd reaction, it seems hers was minority view.
Former Gov. Sarah Palin whipped up thousands of the faithful this weekend, as the closing speaker of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, near Washington, D.C.
Palin’s 45-minute speech was part rallying cry, part stand-up comedy as she landed one zinger after another.
“I love coming back here because there are always so many young people, or, as you’re know by the folks across the river, ‘ObamaCare suckers,’” she said.
She scoffed at Democrats and President Obama, but she also lobbed harsh words at the mainstream Republicans in Congress. She says they betrayed the Tea Party voters who won them seats in 2010. She also says she’s optimistic about the election this fall.
“In this awakening, eyes are open, we’re stronger now, we’re wiser now, and God knows, we are hungry and there aren’t enough low-information voters in the country to save the other side this time, if we don’t retreat,” she said.
Palin isn’t just a political figure these days but also a reality show celebrity. To the audience at this conference, her star never fell. When she referred to the 2016 presidential race, the crowd started chanting.
“I should have, I didn’t get to run this morning, I was so busy man. I did some hot yoga,” Palin said as the crowd shouted, “Run, Sarah, run.”
Her new show starts next month on the Sportsman Channel. It’s called “Amazing America,” a name she teased into her speech.
After taking the lead from Aliy Zirkle early Monday morning, Jeff King has extended his Iditarod lead to nearly an hour, rolling into White Mountain at 7:02 a.m.
Zirkle checked into White Mountain at 7:59 a.m. with 11 dogs to King’s 12.
2012 champion Dallas Seavey round out the top-3, arriving in White Mountain at 9:48 a.m.
Martin Buser, Mitch Seavey, Sonny Lindner, and Joar Leifseth Ulsom are all approaching White Mountain.
Mushers were met with an unforgiving trail as they pushed up the coast from Unalakleet to Koyuk, Sunday. They battled wind, miles of glare ice and more snow free trail.
They’re also battling extreme fatigue and grappling with how best to cut rest and maintain speed as they close in on Nome.
The blinding sun was no match for a biting wind as Aliy Zirkle‘s team did it’s best to navigate a road into Koyuk that is completely covered in smooth, thick ice.
Zirkle says she and her dog team slid and stumbled all the way from Unalakleet.
“There were a lot of holes they could have stepped in and they stepped in so I don’t know if we were a little off our game or something,” Zirkle said.
She says her sled tipped over multiple times.
“And your wheel dogs get it worse because your sled goes all the way over and hits a snow berm and flips,” she said.
There’s very little loose snow on the trail north along the coast, so dogs are having a hard time with hydration. Zirkle says their noses are rubbed raw.
“They’re having a hard time dipping snow. That’s what they do to stay hydrated,” she said. “The snow is so hard a crusty that they’re dipping and they’re cutting their noses so you have to stop periodically to let them eat snow in spots where the snow is good.”
Zirkle pulled at her chin as she looked over her team. Her main leader, Quito is a little sore.
“Oh we’re good, our speed is just going to go down,” she said. “I just have to rub her down. I don’t think she’s out I just think she’s sore.”
As she repacked her sled and cook a hot meal for her team, Zirkle taunted Jeff King who was parked about 10 feet away.
Zirkle: “Jeff you speedy demon!”
King: “What demon…. I thought you said did you see the demon?”
King came in to the checkpoint right on Zirkle’s heels. He very well may have seen a demon as he tried to steer his team across the uneven, icy, snow free trail.
“There were moments it was reminiscent of the gorge and riding my brake and my leg was tired from pushing my brake so hard,” King said. “It’s not my idea of fun mushing at all. It’s hard, hard, hard, hard surface and it’s not that smooth. It’s uneven and hard.”
A lead dog named Barnum was having a tough time finding his footing, so King switched him out for a dog named Skeeter. She’s a go-to leader King says he’s been saving for days.
“You have to let the dogs make some of the decisions and they made a decisions that encouraged me to switch Barnum and Skeeter and she was just dead on perfect find scratch marks where we needed to go and maneuvering,” King said.
King believes his team has the kind of speed all mushers are looking for right now, but he will have to fend off fast teams coming from behind. Late in the afternoon, Dallas Seavey’s dogs trotted across the ice into Koyuk. He made a big move back in Unalakleet. His is the only team that didn’t rest in that checkpoint.
“You don’t always exactly have it planned,” Seavey said. “You just have to be a little bit of an opportunist, keep your eyes open and set those things up. You have to put yourself into position, so I was working on that one from Takotna.”
But, as a stiff, cold wind blew through the dog yard, Seavey told the race judge he made a big mistake in Shaktoolik.
“I made a huge mistake when I left there,” he said. “I planned to stay four, and daylight savings time … I laid down, got up bootied and left on three… oh well, they did great. These dogs handle even my mistakes. That’s pretty impressive.”
An extra hour of rest may not have been necessary. Sonny Lindner’s team came in just after Seavey with wagging tails and perky ears. The musher himself looked a little bleary-eyed.
“I always like when Dallas goes by though,” Lindner said. “Running, ski poling, full blast. I needed to see something moving.”
Teams were warned in Koyuk about some logistical changes in Elim. An elder in that village passed away last week, so the checkpoint has been moved and there are few volunteers to help.
Once they reach White Mountain, teams will rest for a mandatory eight hours before they push on for Safety and the burled arch in Nome.
Jeff King overtook Aliy Zirkle early Monday morning in the 2014 Iditarod. King took off from Elim about 1 a.m. and Zirkle, who had battled King and Martin Buser for the lead, left less than 10 minutes later.
Dallas Seavey, who won two years ago, jumped into third place and was out of Elim about 2:52 this morning. While Zirkle, and King had spent more than an hour in Elim, Seavey was in and out of the checkpoint in minutes.
As of early Monday morning, the leaders looked liked this:
King. Zirkle. Dallas Seavey.
Mitch Seavey had passed Buser. Sonny Lindner was racing right behind Buser.
All were out of Elim.
Aliy Zirkle maintained her lead in the 2014 Iditarod Sunday, leaving Shaktoolik about 7:12 a.m. She was fighting off challenges from former champions Jeff King and Martin Buser who followed her out of Shaktoolik on Sunday morning.
Behind King and Buser are Sonny Lindner, Aaron Burmeister and the 2012 champion, Dallas Seavey. That trio is also out of Shaktoolik.
Zirkle was racing with 11 dogs. King and Buser had 12 in their teams. Lindner had 13 dogs in his team. Burmeister had 10 and Dallas Seavey had nine.
Last year’s winner, Mitch Seavey, was in Shaktoolik on Sunday morning and in 7th place.
Abbie West continued to lead the rookie field. She was racing towards Unalakleet on Sunday morning.
Teams running at the front of the pack have reached the Bering Sea Coast at Unalakleet. Despite a rough trail, teams are still on record pace as they continue to make their way for Nome.
Once they reach the coast, mushers have to decide how best to cut rest and maintain speed. Jeff King says it’s a mix of offense and defense.
King took his mandatory 24-hour rest later than most other teams. He followed that shortly after with a mandatory eight hour layover along the Yukon River, so he says his team has plenty in the tank.
“I can tell when my dogs are not tired,” he said.
Kings team jumped in harness as they pulled into the checkpoint. Martin Buser’s team however was less excitable. Buser says the way his team is running is definitely defensive.
“Yeah that’s a good way to put it alright,” Buser said. “I was not in offensive position coming over here, that’s for sure. The dogs were playing a little bit of their own team not on our team.”
He says his team is sore and tired.
“They couldn’t reach deep into the tank to give more,” Buser said.
But Aliy Zirkle doesn’t care what’s going on in front or behind her.
“I’m just going to keep going with my schedule I guess,” she said.
The trail from Kaltag was virtually snow free and the trail report is calling for more of the same ahead. That also doesn’t seem to bother Zirkle.
“Three-hundred miles is going to be really freaking far if there’s no snow for 300 miles,” she said. “There’s no snow and then there’s a trail laced with ice. I was kind of hoping for laced, because no snow is… doesn’t matter. I can do it.”
Once teams leave Unalakleet, they head for Shaktoolik where the wind is reportedly howling.
From there, the trail would normally cross the sea ice into Koyuk, but a lack of ice this year will put teams on an overland trail.
Aliy Zirkle continued her lead over Martin Buser and Sonny Lindner Saturday night in the 2014 Iditarod. She arrived in Unalakleet first and left first.
Buser, Lindner, Jeff King and Aaron Burmeister were still in Unalakleet at 10:00 p.m. Zirkle and Buser were battling for the lead much of Saturday.
The race continued to take its toll on mushers and their teams. Nicolas Petit, who was racing near the front, scratched Saturday night just outside of Unalakleet. He told his officials he was concerned for the welfare of his dogs. Earlier in the day, Ramey Smyth scratched in Ruby saying that some of his dogs were sick.
Mitch Seavey, the 2013 champion, was on the outskirts of Unalakleet Saturday night about 10:15.
Abbie West continued to lead the rookie field. She was out of Kaltag Saturday night.
Iditarod mushers kept volunteers in the Nulato checkpoint busy overnight. Some teams that weren’t expected to stay grabbed a few hours rest in the sleepy Yukon River village, while others who could have used the rest decided to blow through.
Martin Buser says his dog team didn’t have much of a challenge travelling down the Yukon River this year.
“They were bored getting down that trail slow and steady and kind of a punchy, drifted trail,” he said.
Buser’s quiet team curled up for a nap almost immediately after they arrived in Nulato. Sonny Lindner arrived shortly after. His dogs wolfed down the food he offered. He says his dog team is showing signs of fatigue from the early rough trail.
“That trail was really rough at the start and once you get on the good going, and everybody starts trotting right along then all those places that got sore earlier start showing up,” he said.
Lindner spent his eight hour mandatory rest massaging sore shoulders and wrapping sore wrists. He could have waited to rest long in Kaltag, but he says Nulato is much quieter.
Checkpoint volunteers were surprised when Aliy Zirkle announced she planned to stay for a few hours in. Her team came in alert, tails wagging. She stopped to make what she calls a “significant force reduction.”
“I had to reduce my squad by two dogs: Joe Schmoe and Scruggs, so we made a significant equipment reduction. I just lost about 40 pounds off the back of my sled,” she said.
Zirkle left behind all kinds of gear she doesn’t think she’ll need. She says 12 dogs is actually the perfect number, plus it’s eight fewer feet to booty, two personalities less to deal with and a little less food to carry. As for the river travel, Zirkle says what’s normally a monotonous run seemed to go by quickly.
“Yeah, I don’t feel like the river’s been that long for me this time,” Zirkle said.
As teams come off the Yukon in Kaltag, they’ll tackle what is a reportedly snow free trail in place all the way to Unalakleet, but that’s nothing new for mushers this year.
Aliy Zirkle, hoping to end her streak of second-place finishes, was the first out of Kaltag early Saturday morning. She left about 3:18 with 11 dogs in her team. She spent just a few minutes at the checkpoint before darting off for Unalakleet.
Martin Buser left Kaltag about 5:34 Saturday morning with 14 dogs. Nicolas Petit was in third place on Saturday morning. He left Kaltag about 7:14 with 14 dogs.
Dallas Seavey, who won two years ago, jumped into fourth place. He was in Kaltag Saturday morning.
Martin Buser, racing with 14 dogs, kept up his bid to win the 2014 Iditarod, leaving Nulato about 9:34 Friday night. Still in Nulato were Sonny Lindner, Aliy Zirkle and Jeff King.
Buser is attempting to win his 5th Iditarod. He won in 1992, 1994, 1997 and 2002.
Prior to reaching Nulato, both Buser and Zirkle had taken their mandatory 8-hour and 24-hour layovers. Lindner and King had not taken their 8-hour stops.
Last year’s winner – Mitch Seavey – was in 13th place and out of Galena.
Abbie West was leading the rookies and in Galena Friday night. She was in 18th place.
After sitting in limbo for nearly a year, a controversial permitting bill is on the move again. House Bill 77 has been sent back to the Senate Resources Committee, and it’s scheduled for hearings next week.
Gov. Sean Parnell introduced the bill last session, and he pitched it as a way of reducing the permitting backlog. But tribal organizations, fishing groups, and environmental outfits came out strongly against it. They argued it would limit public involvement in land management decisions and give the natural resources commissioner blanket authority to issue general permits.
Natural Resources Commissioner Joe Balash says a new version of the bill will be released on Monday and public testimony will be taken Wednesday. He says some of the more contentious provisions have been removed.
“What we did was sit down and figure out how it is we could still achieve our objectives and be responsive to those criticisms,” Balash said.
Balash says DNR will still be allowed to issue general permits for a wide variety of human activity, but those permits will get public notice and there will be an opportunity to appeal the initial permit. Language allowing DNR to override other state laws has been stripped. The commissioner will also have to consider “significant” or “irreparable” harm to habitat when issuing a permit. The previous version of the bill required environmental damage to hit both of those thresholds before it was sufficient to block a permit.
Balash says the new draft also allows individuals to apply for water reservations, which are usually used to protect fish habitat.
“We sat down and we really mapped out, ‘Okay, what’s our problem?’ Our problem isn’t that individuals are applying for reservations,” he said. “That’s not the problem. The real problem is those applications are being turned around and used a reason to stop all other permitting.”
Balash says that the process surrounding water reservations will be changed. He says if the bill passes, water right applications would no longer block other permits and temporary uses of water.
The bill has already passed the House, and but was unable to get enough votes in the Senate in its current form.
Last year, HB77 stalled in part because its opponents were vocal. People packed town hall meetings to tell their legislators to fight it, and tribes across the state passed resolutions asking for a “no” vote. But how widespread was that opposition?
The Hays Group released a poll this week the gauges public sentiment on the bill. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez joins us to walk us through the numbers.
- Trout Unlimited: 2014 General Election Poll (PDF)
- Alaska Conservation Voters: 2014 General Election Poll (PDF)
So, what did the poll determine?
That people mostly don’t even know what it does! I’ve got the poll in front of me, and it says only 15 percent of people they called had heard of the bill – let alone know what’s in it.
But the people who have been tracking it don’t like it. Nearly half of those people who are familiar with the legislation “strongly” oppose it, while another 10% just sort of oppose it. Less than a quarter of people surveyed said they’re in favor of the bill, which is about the same amount of people who said they had no opinion.
Alaska is notoriously difficult to poll. Can you tell us a little bit about how it was conducted?
The survey was commissioned by Trout Unlimited, a conservation group focused on fish habitat, and they project a 4 percent margin of error. The poll was done over the phone – and this includes cell phones — in February, and about 500 likely voters were surveyed.
The Hays Group asked people for their party affiliations, and about a third were Republicans and another third were independents. Just 15 percent were Democrats. The rest identified as other or refused to say.
As far as the language of the survey goes, it’s pretty straight forward when dealing with people who already know what the bill does. But if you’re a respondent who has never heard of HB77, you get the bill described to you in really simple terms. Remember, it’s a super complicated bill. The poll sums it up this way:
“House Bill 77 is designed to allow government officials to issue development permits more quickly by taking away some public participation opportunities from Alaskans.” After hearing that phrasing, nearly 70 percent of respondents say they oppose the bill. Now, if HB77 had been described as something that “streamlines the permitting process,” to borrow the Parnell administration’s terminology, the results might be different.
Does the poll get into whether voters will punish or support lawmakers who come out in favor of HB77?
That’s actually one of the things I think is interesting about this poll.
Even though this is an issue state lawmakers are going to have to vote on, the Hays Group didn’t ask people if a vote for or against HB77 would affect their opinions of their own legislators. They asked if it would make them more or less likely to support Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Dan Sullivan. He was the commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources up until this September, and he was one of the authors of HB77.
At 32 percent, the most popular answer was it makes “no difference.” A quarter of respondents said it made them “much less likely” to support Sullivan, and about 15 percent said it only hurt their opinion of Sullivan a little. A total of 10 percent of respondents said HB77 made them more likely to support him.
Now, we’ve already talked about how Alaska is really, really difficult to poll, and that language in these polls matters. But whether these numbers mean anything or not, that the poll even asks about this shows that some people are thinking about using the permitting bill as a line of attack.
So far, ads targeting Dan Sullivan have tried to cast him as a stranger to Alaska. They talk about the home he maintained in Maryland, and the fact that he’s from Ohio. Instead, this question focuses on Sullivan’s record, and it looks like people are wondering if this would be a weak spot for him. I guess the proof will be if we see attack ads on this subject.
DEC Commissioner Says Future Sulfolane Spill Liability Shouldn’t Preclude Sale Of Flint Hills’ Refinery
The Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation says the issue of liability for future sulfolane spills should not preclude Flint Hills from selling its North Pole refinery.
Big Lake musher Martin Buser is leading the Iditarod. After choosing an unconventional checkpoint for his 24 hour layover early in the race, he charged to the front of the race today. He’s now nearing the Nulato checkpoint with Sonny Lindner, Aliy Zirkle and Jeff King in pursuit.
Iditarod Mushers and their dog teams passed in and out of the Yukon River community of Galena on various schedules throughout the afternoon.
Forty-eight communities in rural Alaska, including 26 in the YK Delta will receive 3G or 4G data service, thanks to an FCC grant of $41 million that GCI secured.
GCI’s David Morris says the money come from tribal mobility funds. It’s a a one-time opportunity for underserved populations.
“It’s one of the things that happened at the FCC level you would not expect to happen we’re just happy to take advantage of it and bring better technology out in your direction,” Morris said.
GCI doesn’t have the specifics of when the communities will see the upgrade, but it will take a few years.
“We still have to go through a few admin steps to say with certainty when the build schedule starts,” Morris said.
They are expected to take two years to build out 3G, and three years for 4G services.
It will expand off of the Terra-Southwest fiber optic and microwave towers and satellite where it’s still in use.
“But if you’re terrestrial, terra, it’s going to go a lot faster than it will over satellite, but in any event going from 2G data platform which is in rural Alaska today to 3G or 4G will be a significant advancement,” Morris said.
The full list of communities includes:
- Brevig Mission
- Goodnews Bay
- Hooper Bay
- Mountain Village
- Nunam Iqua
- Pilot Station
- Pitkas Point
- Russian Mission
- Scammon Bay
- St. Marys
- St. Michael
- Tooksook Bay
Petersburg School District won three statewide awards for technology in education. The district- and the community -have made computer learning a priority.
Petersburg is a fishing town of 3,000 on an island in South East Alaska.
But inside the middle school, it’s pretty high tech. As these seventh graders enter their computer class, they pull laptops off a shelf, and settle into desks. The class is teaching them how to navigate google programs and it’s mandatory if they are going to get their own laptops when they enter high school.
It’s this dedication to technology that caught the attention of the statewide group, Alaska Society for Technology in Education. Dr. Mark Standley is President of the organization and a professor at the University of Alaska South East. He says no one at ASTE can remember one school winning so many annual awards.
“We’re calling it the Petersburg sweep,” Standley said.
The district’s three awards were presented at ASTE’s statewide conference in Anchorage February 25. Standley says the sweep reflects on the district’s strong team of educators.
“What Petersburg has done through leadership through the fine work of teachers like Don Holmes who has been there for many years and now more currently with the work Jon Kludt-Painter and your Superintendent Rob Thomason you are seeing the effect of, the results of, Petersburg’s investment over the years in the smart integration of technology in student work,” Standley said.
The district’s technology support teacher, John Kludt-Painter, won an award as did student PK Bunyi for building a quad-copter from scratch and then using it to create an aerial movie called, “A Simple Walk to School”. Superintendent Thomason won the Alaska Technology Administrator of the year. He’s been an educator for over four decades.
“And in all those years, 43 years, five states, two foreign countries, this district with this staff and this technology director, the top of the top,” Thomason said.
The school district follows the belief that technology is a good tool for educators to use and an important skill base for students to learn. And classes use it A LOT. Kids have access to computer devices from Kindergarten on. All high school students have their own laptops 24-7.
Kludt-Painter along with an assistant makes sure they’re all running smoothly.
“Just checked this morning and we had about 500 devices connected to our wi-fi network all doing multiple things,” Kludt-Painter said.
But technology only works if people know how to use it. Kludt-Painter says it’s “mission critical” to what the Petersburg schools do. The district prioritizes real time needs first, addressing students and staff immediately. Say there’s a website that’s not accessible because the school’s content filter has prevented a class from using it.
“Maybe the teacher’s lesson is hinging on that and you have twenty students waiting to access something and it’s blocked and so those sorts of things you have to react quickly,” Kludt-Painter said.
“When Jon talks about opening up a site, it used to be a three week process,” Thomason said. “You had to go through a whole bunch of justifications, and now it’s more ‘here’s what I want to do here’s where I need to do it, I’m in the middle of a lesson, it happens right now.”
It’s basically helping the users use the equipment.
“They call it three click stupid,” Kludt-Painter said, “in the sense that you just need it to work and if it doesn’t work in a number of clicks, then people won’t use it and we’ve invested way too much just to have things collect dust.”
The district’s relationship with technology began about ten years ago when it was awarded a grant for high school laptops called One to One. The students are prepped for it in middle school with classes such as “digital citizenship”.
There have been growing pains over the years. For one, the parents in the community needed to get on board with the idea that computers would help their kids learn. That wasn’t always easy when they saw them surfing the Internet late at night. Kludt-Painter says it has taken a lot of listening and responding to concerns, including working with parents on how to empower themselves.
“Whether it’s timed access so the laptop just happens to turn off at 7 at night so you still retain your family time and then turns back on at 6 in the morning ready to go, those sorts of tools for parents so they don’t feel that the technology is driving it,” Kludt-Painter said. “It’s just a tool that disappears in the background and is just used for education.”
Angela: “IT people, you know, computer experts, etc. are just in high demand, I think, everywhere. . .so why choose working in a school?”
Kludt-Painter: “Oh, boy. . . .(laughs) . . .that’s uh, it’s just um. . .I’m so passionate about watching what the endless possibilities of where students can go.”
Well, they have gone to Australia. . .at least by teleconference when fourth and fifth graders worked with a chemistry teacher there.
It’s this kind of forward thinking that has made this small town an example for how technology can enhance learning with the right dedication.
Representative Bill Stoltze, a Republican from Chugiak, announced a new political path at the Mat Su Senior Center in downtown Palmer on Friday.
Stoltze told the audience that his heart has always been in Palmer, and now he’d like to represent that city in a new state Senate district. He said he’d done “a lot of soul-searching” before making the announcement.
The northern Southeast city of Yakutat is gearing up for a wave-energy experiment. If it’s a success, the community of about 650 residents could lower its high, diesel-fueled power costs. The system could also be a model for some other isolated Alaska cities.
Scott Newlun opens the door to Yakutat’s new power plant, and it’s really loud.
It’s not so bad outside the sound-absorbing walls. And that’s good news for Newlun, who’s headed up Yakutat’s power system for 15 years.
“That new plant just changed the whole atmosphere, especially where I’m living, next door to it,” he says.
Its generators are more efficient, and Newlun’s proud of that. But power costs remain high.
“Since I’ve been involved here, that’s always been a goal, to find a different source of energy other than diesel fuel,” he says.
These days, he’s thinking about a power source with a different sound.
“Wave energy is about the most exciting thing we’ve got going,” he says.
Yakutat’s geography doesn’t work for hydro. Weather limits what you can get out of solar and wind. Wood-fueled biomass got serious consideration. But with only 450 electrical customers, it’s too small a market.
That’s why the town is looking toward the ocean.
A number of emerging technologies are available. Some use anchored buoys, others long lines of floats.
Yakutat’s trying out a smaller device called the Surge Wave Converter, made by Boston-based Resolute Marine Energy.
It’s sort of like a paddle, hinged to a base on the ocean floor.
“It reminds me of a kelp frond in the water, as waves go by. And it sways back and forth like that. It’s that slow and that mild,” he says.
The back-and-forth movement powers a pump, which pushes water through pipes to the shore. That pressure is the carbon-free energy that runs an electrical generator.
Resolute Marine has tested the Surge at a North Carolina research facility.
Yakutat Planner Bill Lucey says it’s time to try it out in the Gulf of Alaska.
“We know it makes electricity. It’s survived an East Coast storm. So now what we need to know is how much it is going to cost to anchor them to the bottom so they don’t bounce around in a West Coast storm,” he says.
Yakutat hoped to put a test unit in the water this year and add about a dozen more later on. But permitting and other delays pushed that back to 2015.
So the job now, for Lucey and others, is to research possible impacts to the community – and the environment.
“Your sharks and your rays can become attracted to underwater cables. But this project will simply pump pressurized sea water to a shore-based plant and the electricity will be generated on land,” he says.
Lucy says seabirds aren’t expected to be an issue, since the system’s underwater. Acoustic tests will look for impacts on whales and seals.
Commercial fisheries are being taken into account. And then there’s the surfers, attracted by the same ocean power that makes this project a possibility.
“There’s a lot of beach break all along that area. And if we put 14 of these panels out it’s not going to take out all the wave areas for surfing and it might not be an issue where they are,” he says.
Funding and technical help for this testing phase is coming from federal, state and local governments. Early estimates put the cost at about $3 million, but it could be higher.
Borough Manager Skip Ryman hopes it pencil out. But he’s trying to be realistic.
“The big question for us is, is wave energy feasible? Is it going to be something that will actually aid the consumer?” he says. “If wave energy proves to be more expensive than diesel, then certainly, that’s something that will throw it under bus for us.”
It’ll take a couple years ‘til that’s known. But Newlun remains optimistic.
“This might be huge. That’s what I’m hoping, you know. If we can harness some of the kinetic energy out of the ocean, it could change the face of power generation for the world,” he says.
Or at least, for some other coastal Alaska communities.