While small business owner David Cheezem is the incumbent for School Board Seat G, he says that this is his first election for the spot. He was appointed to fill the seat after Lynn Gattis resigned from the School Board to serve as a member of the Alaska State House of Representatives in February.
David Cheezem has owned a book store in Palmer for the past eleven years. Before that, he was a teacher in Texas. He says that most of what he has done in his adult life has had something to do with education. He told a story about a former student who says the he inspired her, and says that knowing the impact he had as a teacher has him “walking on clouds.”
“It reminds what education is about. [It’s] not just about the immediate goals, or getting someone ready for a test, but planting some seeds that are going to be with people for many years down the road. I really want to support that.”
David Cheezem says that enhanced fiscal responsibility and transparency are some of the biggest achievements of the School District.
“We’ve run a tight ship. We’ve opened up our finances where anyone can go online and see how the money is being spent, and we have been very good about being transparent and open. We haven’t always been, but in the last few years, it’s been that way. As a result, we’ve garnered some respect both from the Borough Assembly and state legislature.”
He credits that openness and improved relationship with helping to ease some of the District’s financial issues. The Mat-Su Borough Assembly recently allowed the District to change how it handles reserves, letting it keep more money on hand in the event of unexpected expenses.
Going forward, Cheezem says he wants to free up teachers to be innovative, and allow them get away from the “teaching to the test” mindset that he calls “short-sighted.”
“We’ve done a really good job of demonstrating that we can do what they’ve asked us to do. Let’s use that as a platform, and let’s start using technology. Let’s use creativity and really do some imaginative things in our classrooms and allow teachers to stretch out a little bit [while] still maintaining those standards”
With regard to schools in the Upper Valley, Cheezem says that the School Board and administration are striving for equity for all Borough schools.
“It is unfair. The saying I keep coming back to is, ‘The squeaky wheel gets the grease.’ It seems like, up here, you have to squeak a little louder. We’re working to open our ears a little bit. I think we understand that the whole district is involved. It’s the size of West Virginia, and it’s a big challenge, but every student in this District deserves a quality education. We’ve got to be ready to meet those needs and respond to those issues.”
The School Board election will be held on October 1st. David Cheezem is running against Ray Michaelson for Seat G. Michaelson has also expressed interest in being interviewed by K-T-N-A.