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From Our Listeners

Southeast Alaska News

Fire crews contain blaze at Densley Drive home

Wed, 2014-04-09 15:05

A home on Densley Drive on the north end of city limits caught fire early Tuesday morning, but fire damage was contained to the bedroom.

According to City of Ketchikan Fire Chief Frank Share, a neighbor called in a report of smoke and flames at 6:59 a.m., and crews arrived five minutes later. Share said fire crews were there until nearly 11 a.m., making sure the fire was completely out.

There were no human injuries, but Share says the residents’ dog did not survive.

“Unfortunately, there was one pet lost in the fire,” Share said. “We were able to send crews in to effectuate that rescue, once we had everything in place with rapid intervention crews. We did try to perform CPR on the dog, however, we were unsuccessful, unfortunately.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation, and Share said there isn’t an estimate yet on damage to the home.

According to a search of Ketchikan Gateway Borough assessment records, the property at 5401 Densley Drive  belongs to Bukovich, LLC. Share said the current residents had been renting the home.

Big change in tribal leadership coming

Wed, 2014-04-09 10:36

Tlingit-Haida Central Council President Ed Thomas is stepping down. Delegates will elect a new president at this week’s tribal assembly in Juneau. (Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)

Four people are running for president of Southeast’s largest tribal organization.

Tlingit-Haida Central Council delegates will make the choice during this week’s tribal assembly in Juneau.

Current President Ed Thomas has been in office for most of the past 30 years. He says the leadership change is a major topic for the meeting.

“I’m no longer going to be president. I’m not running. I’m not a candidate. So getting the next person ready is going to be very important, as well as selecting his support team on the executive council,” Thomas says.

Two of the candidates live in Juneau: William “Ozzie” Sheakley and Harold Houston. Richard Peterson is from Kasaan and Jacob Cabuag is from Seattle.

Eleven people are also running for six vice-president seats. Three of the four presidential candidates also plan to run if they don’t win Thomas’ position.

The Tlingit-Haida Central Council provides education, housing, financial assistance, foster care and other programs to tribal members. It began in 1935.

Delegates from 18 communities are attending the tribal assembly, which runs from April 9th to 12th at Juneau’s Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. Sessions will be broadcast online via the council’s website.

Before he leaves office, Thomas wants to make a delegate-selection policy change.

He says more and more tribal members are moving to urban areas. The number of seats per community is based on population. And that’s upset the delegate balance.

“If the trends continue, whereby we’re having more urban (delegates), I think we’re going to lose voices from our villages. And they’re the ones that are probably more dependent of what we do than some of the people in the urban areas,” he says.

Thomas says only tribal members with confirmed addresses should be counted. More of those with bad addresses lived in urban areas at the last point of contact.

The assembly’s agenda includes former Southeast Sen. Albert Kookesh as keynote speaker. Delegates will also hear from central council agencies, as well as regional and statewide Native organizations.

Oil company seeks to export Yukon crude from Skagway

Wed, 2014-04-09 08:01

Alaskans know Valdez as the state’s oil port of choice, but an independent Yukon oil producer is planning to make Skagway No. 2 on the list of Alaska oil ports.

Last week, Skagway Mayor Mark Schaefer announced that officials from Northern Cross Yukon are interested in using the port of Skagway to export crude oil to a refinery in Washington state.

Northern Cross, an independent oil producer with backing from Chinese state oil company CNOOC, has been investigating the Eagle Plains area along the Dempster Highway north of Dawson City for almost a decade.

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Assembly passes anti-smoking law

Wed, 2014-04-09 06:30

The Sitka Assembly passed a controversial amendment Tuesday night, tightening the city’s anti-smoking laws. The question before the assembly was whether children should be prohibited from entering any business that allows smoking — even for a non-smoking event. In the end, the decision came down to different interpretations of what voters intended nearly a decade ago.

Listen to iFriendly audio.

It was the fourth time the Assembly had discussed the amendment, which pitted anti-smoking advocates against those who felt, in the words of one member of the public, “You’re going a little too far…You’re micromanaging things that a parent should do. So let’s do city things, and let parents do parent things.”

In 2005, Sitka voters passed a law that barred children from entering businesses that allow smoking. This past December, the American Legion, a private club that allows smoking, hosted a Christmas party for kids – but didn’t allow smoking at the event. The Legion asked the city attorney whether the party was legal. She said it was.

In response, Mayor Mim McConnell and Assembly Member Phyllis Hackett sponsored an amendment to clarify the intent of the 2005 law. The new language makes it clear that if a business allows smoking, then kids can’t enter, even for a smoke-free event.

That prompted protests from the Legion, and the Assembly sent the issue to the Health Needs and Human Services Commission. The commission voted unanimously in favor of the amendment. They cited, in particular, the possible health hazards of third-hand smoke, or the chemicals that can remain in walls and furniture after a room has been used for smoking.

But both McConnell and Hackett argued that all of these issues – third-hand smoke, public health, assembly overreach and even Christmas parties – were beside the point. Voters already settled these issues when they passed the law in 2005, Hackett said. The assembly’s job was simply to honor the voters’ original intent.

“The issue here, which I know some people are having a hard time understanding or choosing to believe, but the issue here is about intent, and it’s about the intent of the ordinance that was passed,” Hackett said. “And it was passed overwhelmingly by the voters.”

Assembly Members Mike Reif and Matt Hunter, however, insisted it wasn’t so easy to tell what voters intended nearly a decade ago. Reif pointed out that third-hand smoke, for instance, wasn’t even part of the debate in 2005.

“I personally really don’t know the intent of the voters in Sitka back in 2005,” Reif said. “It’s very cloudy trying to speculate what the intent was of all those voters.”

All the same, Reif said he felt he had a clearer sense of the voters’ will now.

“I do think that if we put this to the vote of Sitkan voters today, that they would pass this, they would want to see this banned,” Reif said. “I’ll support it because that’s what I think the majority of Sitkans want.”

Hunter, meanwhile, spoke at length about how his thinking on the issue had changed.

“I’ve publicly gone back and forth on this issue and I’m still conflicted on it,” Hunter said, adding that he had consulted the original 2005 ballot. “The language as it’s written, the whole reason for doing this amendment to change the language, is because the language is unclear. And to me it means that, what people voted on, it’s very easy for people to interpret it in many ways.”

He said he thought the issue should be put to a vote once again.

“I am going to not support this ordinance because I feel that this is an issue that really needs to go to the people to decide,” he said. “And while I have no intention of exposing myself or those I love to first-, second- or third-hand smoke, I also am very sensitive to the personal responsibility issue.”

In the end, Hunter was the only vote against the amendment. Assembly Member Pete Esquiro had agreed with Hunter during earlier meetings, but he voted yes, without offering any other comment.

Heat, hydration, and the ‘occupational athlete’

Wed, 2014-04-09 06:00

Brent Ruby, PhD, believes strategies developed in his lab for endurance athletes could benefit “occupational athletes” like commercial fishermen. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

While it’s not a major health concern for residents of Southeast Alaska, it can be something we complain about whenever we travel out of our temperate climate. Heat stress is a serious risk and — as it turns out — unrelated to how much or how little we drink.

A noted exercise physiologist from the lower 48 has been in Alaska this week updating health professionals on the latest research on the subject. He’s also been taking a look at what he calls “occupational athletes,” like commercial fishermen, and trying to find ways his research can apply to their work.


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Dr. Brent Ruby will give a presentation tonight (Tue 4-9-14) on some of his research on people — like ultra-distance athletes and wildland firefighters — whose daily calorie expenditures far exceed what used to be considered normal for those activities. He’ll speak at 6 PM in the downstairs classroom at Sitka Community Hospital. The presentation is free and open to the public.

Dr. Brent Ruby is the director of the Montana Center for Work Physiology and Exercise in Missoula. But that’s not his biggest claim to fame. The guy once actually passed Frank Shorter in a race.

“It was a 5K – 30K – 5K event, and I remember coming up on him in the second 5K and going by him and thinking, This is probably one of the coolest athletic moments I’ve had.”

Frank Shorter was the first American to win the Olympic marathon, in 1972. Ruby also stayed with Kenyan great Henry Rono in a 5K race, but was “left in the dust” during the last mile.

So Ruby knows athletes, and studies athletes, but his work is relevant for the rest of us.

His latest data suggest that we don’t really understand heat exhaustion.

“There’s a misconception for athletes and individuals that, As long as I drink enough, we’ll be safe. And that is the misconception that we want to try to topple over.”

Ruby has consulted for wildland firefighters, the military, and football programs running two-a-day practices in the late summer. His lab at the University of Montana has developed monitoring tools for heat stress, and has explored ways to train for — and overcome — the hazards of working and playing in the heat.

Understanding the nature of heat stress, and disassociating it from dehydration, has been a been breakthrough. He says almost no one ever dies from dehydration. The real risk is heat.

“There has to be a balance between heat production and the ability to lose that heat. And when that gets out of balance — no matter how vigorous our hydration choices — we can’t combat the heat all the time. There are numerous examples of death due to heat stress — exertional heat stress — where the individual is completely, normally hydrated.”

Ruby says humans have an extraordinary ability to adapt and shed excess heat. But, by living in Alaska, do we give up that ability?

“You can’t take the heat, or you just don’t want to. Those are two separate things.”

Ruby says that heat tolerance — in every human — operates on a known schedule. And it’s good or bad news, depending on how enthusiastic you are about visiting relatives in the lower 48 in the summertime.

“It’s a slow process that kind of builds exponentially. The first five days or so you really start to see some rapid changes. And then over the course of a week or two weeks, all sorts of things start to change: Your ability to sweat — your actual sweat rate — can double per hour. What’s also unique is that the composition of the sweat will change, as a function of that acclimatization to the heat. So you lose less of the precious electrolyte, the more accustomed you get to being in that heat.”

A related area of study for Ruby is exertion. He’s worked to quantify the metabolic activity of not only ultra-endurance athletes, but also people he calls “occupational athletes.” Firefighters are in that category. So are Alaska’s commercial fishermen who sometimes work hard 36 to 72 hours at a stretch with little rest.

“Normal, basic human physiology is sort of programmed to really go big. And it’s fun to see individual examples of that in people who don’t make the kind of money that the tour athletes make, the well-known endurance athletes.”

And when your doctor tells you that “research shows” that exercise is good for us? That information is coming out of Ruby’s lab. He says that society has conditioned us to believe that inactivity is a privilege. It’s also a prescription for disease.

“There’s no doubt that the medicinal benefit of physical activity are enormous. And undeniable. That physical inactivity is as significant — if not more significant — than the health impacts we’ve seen from smoking. So getting people to choose to be more active, in a variety of ways — most people think it has to be so structured! — and it doesn’t have to be structured, but it can be a part of your everyday lifestyle.”

And this landlocked Montanan doesn’t just talk the talk. He builds paddle boards at home, and travels with an inflatable. He left our studios with directions to the nearest sandy beach to incorporate a little bit of surf into his lifestyle.

In capital budget, millions for Juneau infrastructure but nothing for schools

Wed, 2014-04-09 00:04

Each Alaska senator has an approximate limit on capital budget spending for projects in his or her district — how they spend it is up to them.

Anchorage schools are getting nearly $4.9 million in additional funding from the capital budget. Fairbanks has just over $150,000 headed its way.

Juneau schools aren’t so lucky. There’s nothing in the capital budget for them.

“We can only do so much,” said Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau. “Every project is a need, I don’t argue with that, it’s just trying to prioritize some of this stuff.

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Education funding fix passes House, moves to Senate

Wed, 2014-04-09 00:04

As the Alaska Legislature enters the final week and a half of the “Education Session,” two of the biggest questions facing lawmakers have not been answered.

How much more will schools be paid per student?

What will the state do about the multibillion-dollar liability in the public workers’ and teachers’ retirement systems?

The House of Representatives did little to answer either question Monday during a marathon floor debate on the governor’s omnibus education bill, HB278.

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Panel advances bill on AGDC appointments

Wed, 2014-04-09 00:02

JUNEAU — The House Rules Committee on Tuesday advanced legislation that would allow out-of-state residents to serve on the board of directors of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp.

The committee introduced HB383 at the request of House Speaker Mike Chenault, who was a lead sponsor of a measure passed last year that set up the organization, power and governance of the corporation, known as the AGDC.

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Senate panel supports alcohol 'no sell' list

Wed, 2014-04-09 00:01

ANCHORAGE — The state Senate Finance Committee has backed a $5 million proposal that includes establishing a list of people who would be banned from buying alcohol in Anchorage.

The “no sell” proposal by the Fairview Business Association also calls for comprehensive treatment and case management for the city’s most problematic drinkers.

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KPU starts chloramine water disinfection system

Tue, 2014-04-08 16:58

A listener sent us this shot of water flushing into Hoadley Creek near Tongass Avenue. KPU crews were flushing the water distribution system today as part of the switch to chloramine disinfection.

Ketchikan Public Utilities Water Division started its new water disinfection system Monday night. Water Division Manager John Kleinegger said ammonia was added to the entry point of the 3-million-gallon Bear Valley Reservoir, and the newly treated water has been making its way through.

Kleinegger said they took samples for testing, and he has tasted it, as well.

“I’m certainly pleased to say that the water, to me at least, tastes just about the same as it always has,” he said.

He said chloramine-treated water will first show up in the Bear Valley area, and then will move down Schoenbar Road toward downtown and Tongass Avenue. Some neighborhoods, such as those above Baranof in the Carlanna area, won’t get chloramine-treated water until later in the week, because of the time it takes for water to move through the system.

KPU crews will be flushing water mains to speed up that process. Kleinegger encourages residents to flush their own pipes, as well.

That would be wise,” he said. “Probably the best valve to flush out a person’s service line would be to open the cold-water line on their bathtub.”

He said there can be a stronger chlorine smell when chloraminated water contacts water that has been treated with only chlorine. But, Kleinegger said he hasn’t noticed that.

“Thus far, at least, the water that I’m drinking right now really has no discernable difference,” he said. “I’m very pleased about that.”

Chloramine is a combination of chlorine and a small amount of ammonia. The city has used chlorine alone as the primary disinfectant, but because of high levels of regulated byproducts in Ketchikan’s water, the federal Environmental Protection Agency required the city to make some kind of change.

The city chose chloramine, and has been working toward the new system for about a decade.

There is a citizen effort under way to place a ballot question in front of voters, asking them to prohibit the city from using chloramine. The completed petition is still under review by city officials.

School Board to vote on FY2015 budget

Tue, 2014-04-08 16:47

The Ketchikan School Board meets Wednesday, and the top item on the agenda is a public hearing and a vote on next year’s budget.

There are several lines segmenting the program-based budget. They indicate different funding levels, and which programs are kept or cut, based on those levels. In his report to the Borough Assembly on Monday, Superintendent Robert Boyle described each line.

“The red line is known-knowns: This year’s allocation of funds and the projected allocation of what the borough suggested,” he said. “From there, we’ve got a thin black line that indicates two things: One that the governor said he thought was appropriate, which is an $85 BSA; and then what the House said, which is $185. But the House is a tricky thing – we still don’t know if that included the $100 million one-time funding associated with the governor’s budget.

“The thick dark line at the bottom indicates where the Senate said they could go, with a $400 increase. We can accomplish everything that we’d like to have done within the district and still create a substantial reserve. We’d like to see that of course, but we’re not holding our breath.”

The BSA, or base-student allocation, is the amount of money the state provides for each student in a school district.

At the level of the thick black line, the district would spend about $32 million, not including grants.

If it passes Wednesday, the School Board will have to vote a second time on the fiscal year 2015 budget before it is officially approved.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. in Borough Assembly chambers at the White Cliff building. Public comment will be heard at the start and end of the meeting.

Assembly OKs increase to this year’s schools budget

Tue, 2014-04-08 16:39

Despite misgivings, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly opted Monday to approve the Ketchikan School District’s spending authority by about $2.4 million.

In his regular education report to the Assembly, Superintendent Robert Boyle addressed the budget debate. He said the entire budget is posted on the district’s website for anyone to look at, and it includes all the details anyone might want.

“The budget is sound, and it is balanced,” he said.

The motion to increase the district’s budget has been postponed twice because of disagreement over an apparent $437,652 disparity between what the district plans to spend and what it expects to receive.

School district officials say there isn’t a disparity. Boyle told the Assembly that the district simply plans to spend less than it could.

“We expect to have our reserve carry forward – it’ll be in the $500,000 range,” he said. “And we will have unspent revenue that’ll be in the $400,000-plus range … that will be allocated for FY15.”

Some on the Assembly weren’t satisfied with Boyle’s explanation. Assembly Member Agnes Moran said it appears that the school district is artificially inflating its budget.

She notes that the district wasn’t able to carry over reserves in the past, and back then, padding the budget was a way for the district to make sure it had money for emergencies.

“I just disagree with having an inflated side of a budget that supposedly has items in there that they have no intention of spending,” she said. “That just goes against the initial reason for even doing the 5 percent allowance for the reserve. There’s a choice here – maybe we rethink the 5 percent allowance if we’re not getting the other half, which is true and realistic budgets.”

The School Board is in charge of drafting the school district’s budget, but the Assembly decides how much of the borough’s property tax will go toward schools each year and must approve the district’s spending plan. Assembly Member Todd Phillips said that’s an important responsibility.

“We hear the word micromanaging a lot,” he said. “I just want people to understand that we’re responsible for the expenditures of property taxes, and have to answer to people. These people have a right to know where the money is coming from, where it is being spent.”

Borough Manager Dan Bockhorst had recommended that the Assembly approve the spending increase despite disagreement over how the district builds its budget. He noted in a memo that continuing to postpone the increase could disrupt the school district’s operations.

The motion passed 5-2, with Moran and Phillips voting no. That puts this year’s Ketchikan School District budget at $44.47 million.

Juneau mayor says contested lands important

Tue, 2014-04-08 13:46

Juneau’s mayor says his community wants a fair hearing of its claims to land on the mainland between Petersburg and the capital city. The city and borough of Juneau in late March appealed a decision to the state’s Supreme court over the northern boundary of the new Petersburg borough.

Juneau petitioned the state’s Local Boundary Commission seeking to annex some of the same mainland territory in Petersburg’s proposed borough and wants the state’s highest court to weigh in on the dispute.

“We felt that the boundary commission did not look at our petition in the same light that they looked at the Petersburg petition on this whole issue,” Mayor Merrill Sanford explained this week. “So in the end our law department advised us that we didn’t have the same amount of scrutiny on our position that we would like to see happen and be able to justify our thoughts on it.”

The contested lands are between Holkham Bay and Cape Fanshaw. The area includes thirty-thousand acres at Hobart Bay, owned by Goldbelt, Juneau’s Native Corporation.

Juneau filed its annexation petition in 2011, about seven month after Petersburg’s incorporation petition. Capital city lawyers sought to consolidate the two, with one decision process for both, or at least postpone the Petersburg decision. However, the LBC denied that request. It held three days of hearings in Petersburg in May and June of 2012, with input from Juneau representatives and others. The LBC approved the Petersburg borough to go to a vote with some of the contested land closest to Juneau removed from the new borough area. Voters approved formation of the Petersburg borough in December of 2012, dissolving the city government.

In  the appeal to the Supreme Court Juneau argues it was not able to present all the evidence of claims to the contested land.

Mayor Sanford said the lands are important enough for the appeal. “I know that in the end it is a decision between Petersburg and Juneau but it’s the boundary commission’s duty to hear these things in a fair and equitable manner and our law department has made the decision that they probably in her mind, and in our mind, didn’t do that yet.”

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court appeal could delay some decisions in the new Petersburg borough, including the possible transfer of a state-owned dock in Hobart Bay. It’s one of three remote dock facilities the state may eventually transfer to Petersburg. The new municipality has also assessed privately-owned land in the new borough for property tax and could seek to select some state land in the area, as an entitlement of borough formation.

Petersburg Borough manager Steve Giesbrecht told the borough assembly this week he could not say when the issue would be decided by the state’s highest court.  “You know the longer this goes on the harder it will be for us to back up. We’re doing a lot of work on ordinances and mapping and everything else related to borough formation, so.  We just kindof don’t know when it will happen yet.”

Petersburg’s mayor Mark Jensen said defending the superior court appeal of the LBC decision cost about 30-thousand dollars. A superior court judge upheld the LBC decision in February.

And the nominee for official Alaska rifle is ...

Tue, 2014-04-08 13:39

The Last Frontier may soon have an official state bolt-action rifle.

Members of the House State Affairs Committee unanimously approved SB175 Tuesday, which names the pre-64 Winchester Model 70 as Alaska’s rifle.

Commonly dubbed the “Rifleman’s Rifle,” the gun is available in 18 calibers ranging from the small .22 Hornet round to the hefty .458 Winchester Magnum.

Two of those calibers — the .338 Winchester Magnum and .375 H&H Magnum — are designated “Alaskan,” said Eric Hollen, staff to bill sponsor Sen. Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla.

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Petersburg schedules tax free day for May 3

Tue, 2014-04-08 13:26

 Shoppers will have another holiday from Petersburg sales tax next month. Petersburg’s borough assembly Monday approved a sales tax free day for May 3rd.

Local law allows for up to two tax free days a year and typically the borough has held tax holidays in spring and fall. Shop owner Savanne Guthrie represented the Chamber of Commerce’s retail committee which requested the tax free day.“The reason we pick May 3rd is that there are funds flowing again in our community after having crabbing and herring pounding going on,” Guthrie explained. “It is before our tourism hits which is about Mayfest, kicks that off. So it’s a time when we can encourage our community members to get out and shop. They hopefully have a little extra money to do so.”

Other local merchants wrote to the borough assembly about the importance of the tax holidays for their businesses.

Assembly member Nancy Strand wondered if the borough could afford a tax free day. “I see all the letters of support and they say it’s a great way for merchants to offer a deal. They could offer a six percent sale anytime. And I question whether it should always be on the back of the borough that the sale happens,” Strand said.

Most of the year, the borough collects a six percent sales tax on purchases of goods and some services. Finance director Jody Tow noted the borough is ahead of its budgeted amount for sales tax revenue this year by 250-thousand dollars. A tax holiday last October cost the municipal government over 12-thousand dollars in lost revenue.  

Guthrie told the assembly that October tax free day was the highest single day of sales for her business in five years. “And I can give you a couple of reasons for that if you’d like,” Guthrie said. “It was the morning of the breast cancer awareness walk. People were already out and about. Number two, (Permanent Fund Dividend checks) were in. In my shop, in addition to the six percent, I offered 20 percent. So there are reasons, as retailers we’re not just trying to ride along on the back of the borough. We’re trying to take this opportunity that we’ve been given and make the most of it.”

The borough assembly voted 5-0 to approve another tax free day. Mayor Mark Jensen and assembly member John Havrilek were not at the meeting. We’ll have more coverage of Monday’s assembly meeting coming up this week on local news.

 

Exit exam bill could bring diplomas to more students

Tue, 2014-04-08 12:04

This sign was posted on the high school library doors during testing last week. Photo/Angela Denning

Graduation time is just around the corner and for most seniors that means walking a stage and accepting a diploma. But a few students a year in Petersburg do not receive a diploma because they didn’t pass a test. A bill making its way through the Alaska Legislature would change that. House Bill 220 would repeal the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam.

Angela Denning stopped into the Petersburg High School last week during test taking time.

The high school is especially quiet. Red signs are posted on the outside of the library doors and several classrooms.

High School Principal, Rick Dormer, says large groups of 10th graders are getting tested in the classrooms and smaller groups are in the library. The signs help others know to stay out because a quiet environment is important.

“You can see we have big red signs, ‘Testing, Do not Disturb’,” Dormer says, “We’re in the middle of it here today and kids are in a room and it’s three hours and it’s make it or break it. And we’ve had kids really crying before the test, crying after the test. It’s high stress, it’s high-stakes.”

There’s a lot riding on this test and students feel the pressure. If they don’t pass it, they don’t graduate with a diploma.

“And they must pass in three areas, reading, writing and mathematics. And they must pass it with a certain score that’s set by the state to earn their diploma,” Dormer says. “So despite anything that a student may or may not do, if they complete all graduation requirements, which has happened here in Petersburg, and do not pass this particular exam in the State of Alaska, we cannot give them a diploma in Petersburg High School. Rather, they get what we call a certificate of completion that is not equivalent.”

The certificate does not hold the same weight as a diploma. Students who want to further their education after high school can’t qualify for financial aid.

Sonya Stein is the Director of the Student Financial Assistance Office at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

“The federal department of education requires that a student has a high school diploma or its equivalent in order to be federal financial aid eligible,” says Stein.

An equivalent would be the GED or the General Education Development, which would require students to pass another test.

The exit exam has been required in Alaska for a decade. It was established through state law before the No Child Left Behind Law prompted other standardized tests.

There’s no middle ground with the exit exam.  . .either you pass it or you don’t.

Principal Rick Dormer says it can be heart breaking.

“I can tell you we’ve had two students who have not passed the test by one point, one section by one point,” Dormer says.

In both cases, the school paid some extra money to appeal the results to the state’s education department but it didn’t work.

“We don’t believe that’s the best assessment of a kid’s knowledge of what they know,” Dormer says. “Really any testing is there just as a measure to see what they know and then you build on it and so we don’t agree that high stakes testing is the best measure of what a kids knowledge is and whether or not they deserve a diploma. I think it’s a much more complicated than a one shot test.”

House Bill 220 would work retroactively, so past students who received a certificate instead of a diploma because they didn’t pass the test would be able to get a diploma. They’d just have to request it.

So far the bill hasn’t seen much opposition. It passed the House with a vote of 32 to 5. The Parnell administration and the Education Department support getting rid of the test as well.

The bill is sponsored by Representative Pete Higgins, a Republican from Fairbanks.

Mentoring program for new gardeners

Tue, 2014-04-08 11:55


Listen to iFriendly audio.
Linda Wilson, with the Sitka Local Foods Network, discusses a mentoring program for first-time gardeners. For more information, visit the SLFN online.

Tue Apr 8, 2014

Tue, 2014-04-08 11:48


Listen to iFriendly audio.
Sitka Assembly to take final vote tightening anti-smoking ordinance. Senate Finance Committee releases budget; includes $3.3-million for Harrigan remodel. This is not your father’s shop class. Petersburg family takes the stage at Juneau FolkFest.

Assembly okays school budget

Tue, 2014-04-08 09:56

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly accepted the budget presented by the school board.  Fines for improper maintenance of sewer systems were also approved.  Assembly Member Glen Thompson gives details.  Assembly040814

State Senate boosts Southeast project funding

Tue, 2014-04-08 09:30

Southeast Alaska could get another $27 million from this year’s capital budget.

The Senate Finance Committee added the money to Gov. Sean Parnell’s spending plan, which was released in December.

Petersburg plans to combine its police station and borough offices. Lawmakers just added $1 million to the capital budget for the project. A conceptual model is shown above. (Petersburg Borough image)

Larger new projects include improvements to Juneau’s water system, Petersburg’s municipal building and Sitka’s visitor facilities.

The Petersburg Borough already has $4.1 million in state funding for a new or renovated police building.

The budget would also fund a new fuel tank farm in Kake, construction equipment for Craig, and biomass heating projects in Yakutat, Haines and Ketchikan.

The total value of Southeast projects in the budget is about $163 million. That’s about 9 percent of the statewide capital budget.

Further changes could be made as the Senate Finance Committee fine-tunes the spending plan. More additions, and some cuts, could happen in the House before it’s passed into law. The governor can also veto specific projects not to his liking.

The Senate panel increased funding for the State Library, Archives and Museum building, which is under construction in Juneau. The governor proposed $15 million and the committee increased it to $37.5 million.

Another big project, a road north out of the capital city, continues to be funded at $35 million. That’s a fraction of the total amount needed for construction.

The committee also considered a companion bill that doubled an earlier $500,000 appropriation to the Inter-Island Ferry Authority, which sails between Prince of Wales Island and Ketchikan. That proposal came from the governor.

Smaller community projects added by the Senate Finance Committee include:

  • Upgrading the Gustavus Volunteer Fire Department’s 911 Radio System, at about $65,000.
  • Ketchikan Shipyard improvements, at about $1.2 million.
  • Angoon sewer system upgrades, at about $700,000.
  • Repairing and upgrading Klawock’s garbage truck, at $154,000.
  • An ice machine for Pelican, at $300,000.