On October 1st, Mat-Su Borough residents will be electing three School Board representatives. In the second part of our series leading up to the School Board election, KTNA spoke with Neal Lacy, incumbent candidate for Seat F. Neal Lacy was elected to Seat F of the Borough School Board in 2010. He is running for re-election to the same seat in 2013. He is running against Donna Dearman of Talkeetna, Stephen Jacobson of Wasilla, and Jim Tapley of Sutton.
Lacy has lived in Alaska since the 1960’s. He attended Wasilla High School, and worked as a marine mechanic until 1989, when he earned his teaching certificate. He retired from teaching in the secondary and post-secondary school system in 2005. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Health and Safety, and is currently working on his OSHA certificate. He has one child currently in the Borough public school system. In his time here, Neal Lacy says he has seen the Valley change quite a bit.
“This is not the same sleepy little place I went to high school in. I’m guessing there were 20,000 people in the entire Borough, and now there’s almost 80,000 in the core area, so this place is growing leaps and bounds”
Neal Lacy says keeping up with that growth, and the educational infrastructure that goes with it, is a major challenge for the School District.
“That new high school is going out there, and they’re looking for ground for a new elementary school. They’re going to be replacing Iditarod Elementary. They’re working on the Day School, right now, which is behind the District maintenance shop, and they’re going to start breaking ground, if they haven’t already, for the Mat-Su Pathways in Palmer. We’ve got a lot of things going on right now, and trying to keep up with that is the biggest issue we faced.”
Neal Lacy says that, unfortunately, the income for the District is not keeping up with the population growth. Although he lives in the “core area” of the Borough, Neal Lacy says that it’s important that all of the areas of the Borough get the money they need. He says the School Board is paying attention to the Upper Valley, and describes some of the ways that he believes the School District has addressed the area’s needs.
“There’s two new schools up there, and you guys needed two new schools. Su-Valley has a new welding program and a wood shop program. Just this year, the Mat-Su Central School, our homeschooling correspondence program, has a half-time person that’s going to be working out of Su-Valley High School to bring back some of the homeschool folks up there. Mat-Su Central is real progressive–it’s actually our largest school in the Borough, right now.”
Recently, the State of Alaska received a waiver from some of the federal No Child Left Behind requirements. This has led to a new scoring system for schools. When asked what the biggest challenge with the new rating system is, Neal Lacy says:
“Trying to figure out how it all unfolds. That’s in my opinion. I was never a fan of No Child Left Behind. I do believe we need to test kids and see where they’re at, and we should, but to judge a school on the fact that we had kids absent or other factors…I don’t think that’s a realistic view of how our children are doing. I’d like to see that whole system scrapped.”
If he is re-elected, Neal Lacy says that fiscal responsibility will be his first priority.
It takes money to educate children, and I don’t have a problem spending money, but the money we do get, we need to make darn sure we’re spending it in the most prudent fashion. I have many things that I want to work on–our worker’s compensation issue. We spent $1.7 million on worker’s compensation. In the industry, as a whole, that’s a lot of money. To me, that would be ten teachers and seven support personnel, if we could use it for that. I want to go through our budget more and make sure that we’re spending our money correctly.
The Borough election, which will include School Board Seats C, F, and G, will be held on October 1st. KTNA plans to continue interviewing willing School Board candidates as the election approaches.