Juneau school board to look different after October election

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Juneau Board of Education will have at least one new member this fall, as three candidates are set to campaign for two spots.

Board member Sean O’Brien is not running for re-election, guaranteeing a newcomer will take a spot on the board. Board President Brian Holst is running for re-election, while Kevin Allen and Jeff Short have registered as challengers.

Holst said turnover on the board has been common as of late. He’s finishing his first term now, and said he is quickly becoming one of the seasoned veterans.

“When I came on the board, I was the first new board member in a few years and we’ve had almost a complete transition to a new board,” Holst said. “When Sean leaves, if I were to be re-elected, in my first year of my second term, I’d be the second-longest tenured board member.”

Allen, who finished fourth last year, registered with the City and Borough of Juneau a few hours before the deadline this past Monday, the Juneau Empire reports (http://bit.ly/2x5V8zl).

Short said he is looking forward to having some competition.

“I’ve not met Mr. Allen but I was glad to see him enter the race to be honest,” Short said, “because I think it’s really great that someone who’s young and energetic is taking some engagement.”

Juneau School District Superintendent Mark Miller said setting the budget is probably the most important role the board has. As millions of dollars in personnel costs get cut at the state level, making sound fiscal decisions locally is vital, Miller said.

Both Holst and Short are thinking economically as they enter this election. Holst, who serves as the executive director of the Juneau Economic Development Council, said the school district is one of the biggest factors in a successful local economy.

“A strong economy needs great schools,” Holst said. “I think we have very good schools. I think we all want them to be better, and having that economy that works for all of us is hand in hand with great education.”

Short has also talked about the importance of the school system in having a strong economy. He said the two biggest effects the school system has are the way it prepares children and the way it affects the local economy when those children enter the workforce.