Ask the Candidate: Pete Hoepfner

Pete Hoepfner with students and Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Alaska.

Candidate for Cordova School Board

Job: Commercial fisherman; chocolatier, owner of Pete’s Treats; parent

Public service: Cordova Family Resource Center Board of Directors president, “Pathways to Prevention: working to prevent violence” statewide steering committee member, Cordova School Board member prior president, Alaska Association of School Boards Board of Directors president-elect, Alaska Association of Student Activities Board of Directors member, Pacific Region of the National School Board Association past president, National School Board Association Board of Directors member, Mt. Eccles Elementary School Site Council member, Cordova Jr./Sr. High School Site Council member, facilitated community partnerships between Cordova schools and community groups including the Copper River Watershed Project, U.S. Forest Service and Prince William Sound Science Center, volunteer for Mt. Eccles Elementary School, volunteer for Cordova Jr./Sr. High School, volunteer for the Alaska Association of School Boards Youth Leadership Institute, volunteer for the Cordova Parent Teacher Association, Cordova Iceworm Swim Team board member

Education: Graduate PhD studies in Auditory Neurophysiology at the University of Wisconsin; Graduate research in hearing at Boys Town National Institute in Omaha, Neb.; studied at the Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Neb.; Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Creighton University


How would you like to see the school district adjust its coronavirus response?
I believe the current practices, following medical experts and adapting to new data, are working well. The ability to keep students and staff safe, and maintain a consistent schedule, are imperative to me. By focusing on quality versus quantity, the Cordova School District is working to meet student needs, and continue student achievement during a time when there is no one solution.

Other than dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, what is the school district’s biggest task for the coming year?
The biggest issue facing the Cordova School District is funding. We are having to fight for our constitutionally allotted funds. Locally, due to reduced revenues, there are concerns again this year with funding education to the “cap.” At the state level, education funding has not kept up with ever-increasing inflation, and increased health insurance costs.

This year, with funding based on the student enrollment numbers, and parents wanting to keep their students safe, some have moved to different platforms of education. This loss of student numbers will affect future education funding. Currently, AASB is working with the legislature to hold schools “harmless,” and receive funding based on last year’s student enrollment.

What sets you apart from your opponents in this race?
I bring 15 years of training, leadership, experience, advocacy and relationships.

I am thoroughly engaged in the work of increasing student achievement and want to continue in this role. I am constantly attending the many state trainings held each year to be aware of my role as a school board member and learn the developing trends of education. I am up to date on the ever-changing policies affecting public schools, as I sit in policy committees at the local, state and national levels.

I have held all the leadership positions at the local, state and regional level of school board associations, and president of AASB multiple times. I sit at the table as one of 15 members of the board of directors of NSBA, as a representative to the 50 million public school students and the 90,000 school board members across the US, where I elevate Cordova’s, Alaskans’ and the Pacific Region’s voice. I am honored to represent this position, as I am only the third Alaskan to achieve this level.

What can schools do to promote good mental health among students?
AASB has been engaged in the work of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) for approximately eight years. School board trainings have promoted SEL work, where we can move beyond just knowing our students on an academic level and develop a better understanding of their diverse mindsets, backgrounds and cultures. Equipped with these insights, schools can more effectively teach life skills and other non-academic lessons into the day-to-day learning. Additionally, Trauma Engaged practices have been incorporated. New understandings of the impact childhood trauma has on learning and behavior can empower schools to provide affected students what they need to succeed and to help break, rather than inadvertently perpetuate the cycles of trauma. Adverse Childhood Experiences, have shown what creates barriers to learning, and by using SEL and Trauma Engaged practices, one can increase student achievement, it’s all about relationships. By building student-teacher relationships, and helping to create a safe learning environment, student achievement can be elevated.

Identify one previous decision by the school board that you disagree with, and explain why.
Being a school board member, all decisions made at the board table are thoroughly discussed and debated, with all decisions made answering the question: “Is this good for children.” The board hears from experts, administration, community members, and students, and makes a group decision, where each member is but one of five people. Once decisions are reached, all board members back the decision, even if they initially were against the issue being voted on.

Thus, any prior decision made by the Cordova School Board, I am in agreement with.