Meet the candidates: Cordova School Board

Cordova School District Board candidates running for election March 1, 2022.

Candidates for the two Cordova School Board seats are incumbents Barb Jewell, and Theresa (Terri) Stavig, Chris Bolin and Stephanie Rusinski Bernard. Election Day is March 1.


Chris Bolin

Chris Bolin

What is Cordova’s biggest educational challenge?

As for the educational challenge I would say that creating an environment where there is unity. Where all people, staff and students, feel welcome, safe and wanting to come back. This is very challenging I believe because it is very hard to find a middle ground where all sides feel heard, with the times that we are in.

Describe your own educational background?

LIFE! I’ve done so many different things in such a short time! Mainly all work experience. I’ve worked in construction, welding and fabricating, cedar shake and shingle mills, logging, equipment operator, seining, king crabbing in the Bering Sea, carpentry, Planning and zoning board & Cordova little league board for six or seven years each, CCMC board for one year, little league coach and umpire for many years, city mechanic for 10 years, I’ve had a couple businesses here in Cordova and currently have a Property Management Company with commercial and residential rentals. I guess this life and high school would be considered my educational experience.

What are your thoughts on the mask mandate and when it should be in use?

I believe masks should be optional per the student/parents or staff members wishes. I’ve never been against wearing or not wearing a mask but against taking away the freedom of choice. If you want to wear one please do, if you don’t then you shouldn’t be forced to.


Stephanie Rusinski Bernard

Stephanie Rusinski Bernard

What is Cordova’s biggest educational challenge?

There is no right or wrong way of gaining education. Lots of people attend school buildings, listen to teachers, read books to gain their knowledge through the teachers and authors.

Describe your own educational background

Others choose to go into the world and experience it firsthand. This is the route I took and feel it has made me a very strong individual. I had already been on a path as a child forced to trust myself and my own instincts. Learning how to make the right decisions to keep myself and others afloat. At the time Focusing on textbooks was not in my cards. Forced to mature in other aspects of life. I kept going with it, that is where I felt most comfortable, making my own decisions. I moved around, learning different cultures different ways of living. Listening to their experiences Their outlooks on life. This is how I became to build myself. Face-to-face interactions is the best way for me. Absorbing others’ feelings through facial expressions, their laughs, their cries.

I want my kids to go to school I believe in school. This is why it’s so important to me to secure our children’s schooling. They need opportunities, seeing the world from every angle. But also, not forgetting they are children and need to be a child. The biggest challenge we are facing right now is coming together for our children. That is why this seat is so important to me because it’s my passion to bring people together. We will never all see eye to eye, but we can listen to each other’s side, respectfully and leaving out the negativity. That is how we grow as a community. It’s so important for our children’s future and our future for them to see us working together. They don’t need to shoulder our differences. They are children we need to protect their childhood and keep them focused on the curriculum. Preparing them for their future.

What are your thoughts on the mask mandate and when it should be in use?

The masking is a tricky subject to tap into. Back when we knew so little and had stronger variants of COVID-19 it seemed like the best decision. Now we have more information about COVID-19 and have seen what COVID-19 is capable of. Yes, it is capable of taking a life but so is mental instability that we are seeing so much of, along with many other concerns. We aren’t up against just one fear we are up against many. We need leaders that are capable of seeing the bigger picture and figuring what we can do to focus on all our concerns as a community. Should we mask? My answer is we should take a hard look at everything. Not just Covid. If you agree with protecting yourself by masking and vaccinating, then those options are available and that’s wonderful. If someone chooses different that is not for me to judge what is and what isn’t right for them or their children. It’s the school’s job to teach and leave their political views at the door. Regardless of who fills the vacant seats on this board I hope that they can make rational decisions that benefit our children’s best interest.


Barbara Jewell

Barbara Jewell

What is Cordova’s biggest educational challenge?

Recruitment, retention and support of highly qualified teachers and administrators. This is a challenge throughout the country but is felt more keenly in small rural communities like ours. Students are at the heart of Cordova Schools. Teachers and administrators provide the skeleton, the framework: they are what hold the whole structure up. Without recruiting and keeping qualified educators and providing resources and supports, we cannot begin to improve the educational outcomes of our students.

Cordova will see some turnover of staff this year and over the next few years. We will need to keep focused on how we bring highly qualified educators into our schools. This task may be accomplished through supporting local Cordovans in pursuing their education degrees and it may include recruiting from outside of our community but either way it is a challenge. Board involvement includes identifying this as a priority, supporting the superintendent in identifying resources, and working with the city and the community to ensure that Cordova is seen as a good place to live and work.

The other piece of this effort is keeping our highly qualified educators. Providing them with opportunities for mentoring and professional development, providing the physical resources they need to do a good job, and showing educators the respect they deserve as professionals who educate our children.

Describe your own educational background?

I have had the opportunity to attend private, parochial and public school. I earned a Bachelor Degree in American Studies from Georgetown University and a Master of Public Administration from University of Alaska Anchorage. I have two sons who graduated from Cordova Schools (2016 and 2019).  I have served on the Cordova Board of Educations for 3 terms and as President for the Board for the past 7 years working and advocating for our kids and schools at the local and state level. Advocating for education and kids has been a passion for me in both my personal and professional life.

What are your thoughts on the mask mandate and when it should be in use?

COVID-19 and mitigation measures such as masking are Public Health issues. I continue to believe in being guided by health and science experts when it comes to public health and masking. I want health and science experts to take into consideration current data regarding COVID-19, best evidence and local conditions when they provide guidance.

I understand that we are learning daily about this virus, and how to respond to it. I expect that guidance about masks and infection will change as we continue to learn more. Our task is to find ways to come together after this time of being apart. I read a quote in America Magazine (The Key to a post-pandemic “new normal” Solidarity, March 2022) about building a new normal that resonates for me: “we need to be united in refusing to impute malice or ignorance to those who think differently.” This will be a key to finding a good path going forward.


Terri Stavig

Terri Stavig

What is Cordova’s biggest educational challenge?

It is my opinion that our biggest educational challenge as a community is the same as it always been; to maintain the outstanding educational standards we’ve enjoyed in the past as we move on into the future. No matter the obstacle, the challenges, circumstances, pandemics, and/or including natural or manmade disasters: the task remains the same. The children of our community deserve the best education we can provide them. We have the ability, resources and leadership skills to navigate through any challenge that impacts the education of our children.

Describe your own educational background?

I grew up in northern Minnesota on a small dairy farm. Minnesota is where I experienced most of my formal education. I attended grades 1-6 in a one-room school, in Alida. While in 7-12th grade I attended a combined Jr.-Sr. High School in Bagley, Minnesota. The bus ride to and from school was 1.5 hours each way. I graduated High School in 1975. Scholarships allowed me to attend Concordia College in Moorhead Minnesota where I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in K-12 Home Economics/Vocational Education.

My “real life” education began in Haines, Alaska where I taught for two years (’79-’81). From ’81-’84 I worked as a consultant for the Alaska Department of Education. I traveled throughout the state providing leadership workshops for both students and teachers. We moved to Cordova in 1984 just a month after I had signed a contract to teach at Wasilla High School. After completing that contract, I rejoined my husband here in Cordova. There were no teaching positions available and eventually found myself serving on the local school board by appointment. After a few years, in 1989 a permanent teaching position opened. I retired from teaching in 2014. During my tenure I attended a countless number of graduate classes.

I loved teaching … and retired while still loving it! I taught a total of 29 years, an entire generation. I am so grateful for the career I enjoyed!

What are your thoughts on the mask mandate and when it should be in use?

Covid is a health issue and should be treated as such. In order to maintain safety for our students, the district must follow the advice of health officials. Currently, masks are optional and are not mandated.

I do feel it is more important that children be in school and that we should avoid circumstances that force them to return to virtual learning. If Covid cases rise again, I would rather have them attending school with a temporary mask mandate than being forced into virtual learning. Like everyone else, I hope that current conditions remain and it won’t be necessary to return to mandated masking. However, like we’ve all experienced, circumstances with Covid can change quickly. I remain hopeful. Having lived in Cordova for 38 years, I have witnessed how resilient we are. Our students will come through this and thrive, especially with us all working together.


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