School District Employees Elect New Union Leaders

     The two unions that represent the teachers and support staff in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District have elected new presidents. The two previous presidents who recently stepped down were in the middle of contract negotiations that took 14 months and help from an arbitrator to finally iron out. The new union leaders addressed the school board during its meeting this month with plans to move forward.

     Neil Denny is the new head of the Kenai Peninsula Education Association. He’s a teacher at Ninilchik School. During his comments to the school board, he mentioned his passion for education as well as the well-being of both staff and students throughout the district.

     “My own personal goal is to work with the district to see if we can come up with ideas and new creative solutions for the problem of truancy,” he said.

     Denny said students must be present to succeed. He said one way to do that could be creating incentives like the program at Ninilchik.

     “Two years ago we started a program at Ninilchik School called ‘Power Hour.’ Students were rewarded at the end of each month if they had good, positive attendance,” he said.

     Attendance rates are just one of the many factors that will be used in the new school evaluation system created by the state. It’s a “star” system with each school receiving a one to five star rating. The state designed the system after applying for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind requirements. 

     KPBSD Superintendent Dr. Steve Atwater said a preliminary evaluation for the district showed about 75 percent of schools on the Kenai Peninsula had a four or five star rating. Atwater said more details about the evaluation will be available at the school board meeting next month.

     The new Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association president is Patty Sirois. She’s been with the district for more than 20 years. 

     “As school starts, I remember, as a parent, there were certain people in the schools that I wanted my children to be sure to know who they were. The secretary, the nurse, the lunch lady and the custodian, all support staff,” she said.

     Sirois said having more training opportunities for support staff is a goal of hers while union president.

     “We are often handed our jobs and they say ‘here, go to work.’ That’s a bit of a problem for us,” she said.

     Sirois said she and the other members of the support association are ready to move forward on a positive note for the next year… especially after the issues from this past year. There will be a brief break from contract negotiations as well. The next round of talks won’t begin for another two years. Next month’s school board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 9 at Homer High School.