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Southeast Alaska News

Sitka’s Himschoot wins national teaching prize

Sun, 2014-01-05 17:39

Rebecca Himschoot. (AFSUSA photo)

A Sitka educator has won a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science.

Rebecca Himschoot teaches Science at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary. She’s one of two Alaskan teachers honored by the White House this year, and one of only 102 teachers nationwide who receive the recognition, which includes a $10,000 cash prize from the National Science Foundation.


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Rebecca Himschoot is the Science teacher for 2nd through 5th grade. She says that she really doesn’t do anything extraordinary for her students, beyond what any good teacher tries to do.

It’s mainly about keeping kids engaged. The skies over Sitka are gray and rainy much of the time. Learning about planets and astronomy can be a tough sell. But Himschoot, through a grant from the local charitable trust, brings in a Starlab every year, and inflates it — sort of like a giant bouncy castle — inside the gym.

“If my teacher in elementary school had brought in a planetarium to the classroom, it probably would have caught my attention, and maybe even changed the direction I went with my education.”

Himschoot also takes advantage of opportunities for professional development that other teachers may not. In 2007 she traveled aboard a research vessel for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as one of NOAA’s Teachers at Sea. It was a three-week cruise in the Bering Sea studying the pollock fishery.

But she also finds opportunities closer to home.

“I try to use local resources as much as I can to connect kids to science, so I bring in lots of Forest Service scientists. The Sitka Sound Science Center has brought some scientists to town who came into the classroom and helped kids connect more to science. So I think it’s those little extras that might catch attention.”

It was Forest Service biologist Rob Miller who nominated Himschoot for the award, which goes to only two teachers from each state. Himschoot entered the paperwork back in 2012, and had pretty much forgotten about it until she was notified this past December, just before school went out on winter break.

The national recognition — along with a lot of rest over vacation — has helped energize her getting back into the classroom.

“Though I had an excellent education, I was not turned on to Science. I feel I have an obligation — if I have the great gift to teach Science all day every day, that comes with the responsibility of helping kids connect more to Science and making it more real to them.”

Besides winning $10,000, which she can spend any way she likes, Himschoot will get an all-expense trip to Washington DC, and a chance to meet President Obama. The president’s schedule could upset that plan. More of a sure thing, though, is a behind-the-scenes tour of the Smithsonian Institution.

That’s cool, she’s pretty sure.

“Possibly geeky for other people, but for a teacher very, very exciting.”

Two other Sitka teachers are previous winners of the Presidential Award for Mathematics and Science: Cheryl Hedden and Barbara Renoux.

Himschoot’s colleague from Alaska, sharing this year’s honor, is Amy Laufer, a Math teacher at Kasuun Elementary in Anchorage.

KCAW’s Melissa Marconi-Wentzel contributed to this story.

Homer News celebrates 50 years

Sun, 2014-01-05 01:07

HOMER — During 2014, Homer will note several milestones. Some are sad, like the 50th anniversary of the March 27, 1964, Great Alaska Earthquake, and the 25th anniversary of the March 24, 1989, Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. Others are transformative, like the March 28, 1964, official incorporation of the city of Homer. The year begins with an anniversary important to this paper: the 50th year of our publication as the longest-running newspaper on the lower Kenai Peninsula.

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Alaska Natives seek degrees at Haskell University

Sun, 2014-01-05 01:07

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Since he was old enough to carry a gun — in his remote Alaskan village, that’s about 8 — Daniel Andrew has helped his family hunt seal, caribou and moose to eat. Beaver-trapping, berry-picking and egg-hunting also are part of life in a place where groceries, at times, are a bush plane ride or an ice road drive away.

Outside Grace Denning’s home are views of deep green forests marching down mountainsides to the edge of the ocean. The air is always cool and fresh, the Lawrence Journal-World reports.

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Preliminary education task force report answers few questions

Sun, 2014-01-05 01:07

A two-page report by the state’s education task force released Thursday has left a lot to be desired by Juneau’s legislative delegation.

House Sustainable Education Task Force co-chair Rep. Lynn Gattis, R-Wasilla, said the report was only preliminary and that the group has until 2015 to complete a full report.

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Conserving the Kenai king is a mandate for board, ADFG

Sun, 2014-01-05 01:06

Editor’s note: This is the 10th and final part of the Morris Communications series “The case for conserving the Kenai king salmon.”

 

King salmon are the lynchpin of the Cook Inlet fishery. Other runs of other salmon species are far more abundant, but the health of king salmon affects all users.

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Alaska hosts Walmart execs over salmon labelling issue

Sun, 2014-01-05 01:06

JUNEAU — State officials will host a delegation of Walmart executives in Juneau next week to further discuss a flap over seafood certification and how the company buys seafood.

In 2011, the world’s largest retailer decided to only buy seafood that was certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, a London-based organization.

The Northwest and Alaska Seiners Association of Kenai says a number of large Alaska processors have dropped the MSC program because of costs and burdensome paperwork.

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Kodiak man accused of pouring gasoline on man

Sun, 2014-01-05 01:05

KODIAK — A 47-year-old Kodiak man is accused of pouring gasoline on another man, who feared he would be set on fire and ran.

Darin Wolfe is charged with attempted murder and assault, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported Friday.

According to court documents, police received a call from the victim Wednesday morning about the gasoline dousing.

The incident occurred outside the trailer in an area where police discovered drugs after serving search warrants in September.

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Alaska banks scramble Target security breach

Sun, 2014-01-05 01:05

ANCHORAGE — Financial institutions in Alaska are scrambling to reissue debit and credit cards to thousands of customers affected by a massive data breach that hit retailer Target.

On Dec. 19, Target confirmed that data connected to about 40 million debit and credit card accounts nationwide was stolen. Last week, the retailer said the stolen data included pin numbers for debit cards.

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Former Bethel mayor leads Nuvista coop

Sun, 2014-01-05 01:04

BETHEL — A former Bethel mayor has been chosen to lead Nuvista Light and Electric Cooperative, a group that was created to generate energy for a sustainable future.

Tiffany Zulkosky, 29, became the group’s new executive director last month, KYUK reported.

The group seeks to become a power producer, which would sell cheaper electricity to retail utilities, which then sell to customers.

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Anchorage man charged with assaulting acquaintance

Sun, 2014-01-05 01:04

ANCHORAGE — Bail has been set at $1 million for an 18-year-old Anchorage man charged with sexual assault.

Jessye Potts is being held at the Anchorage Jail. He’s charged with one kidnapping count, four sexual assault counts and two assault counts.

Police say Potts just before 5:30 p.m. Wednesday met a 17-year-old girl for a walk near the Ocean View neighborhood in south Anchorage.

Police say Potts took the girl’s phone, used restrains to confine the girl and sexually assaulted her.

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Fairbanks men plead to trafficking charge

Sun, 2014-01-05 01:04

FAIRBANKS — Two Fairbanks men have pleaded guilty to trafficking methamphetamine.

The U.S. attorney’s office says in a release that 51-year-old Andrew Paul Newman and 36-year-old Jason Carl Heim entered their pleas Friday in U.S. District Court in Fairbanks.

Sentencing was set for April 4.

Prosecutors said the men received a package of seven ounces of 71 percent pure meth in August from California. Postal inspectors suspected it contained drugs, and followed the package when it was delivered.

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Mobile home fire kills 1, injures another

Sun, 2014-01-05 01:04

ANCHORAGE — Anchorage authorities say one person has died and another was injured in a mobile home fire.

KTUU says the fire early Friday morning occurred on the 4100 block of DeBarr Road.

The Anchorage Fire Department says initial reports indicate that the trailer was almost fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived.

Firefighters say the injured person was taken to a local hospital.

Fire Capt. Joe Cizk says the body was found when crews entered the mobile home.

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Smack talk gets Fairbanks woman behind wheel

Sun, 2014-01-05 01:03

FAIRBANKS — She was surrounded by loud engine revving, stripped-down and spray-painted cars, trying to keep her nerves in check while she watched, waiting for the OK to hit the gas pedal.

It was the first race for 25-year-old Laurel Gangloff in the Dollar Stock league at the Mitchell Raceway’s dirt oval track, and like so many other racers who have buckled up behind the wheel of a car on a race track, it wouldn’t be her last.

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2 flu deaths reported in Alaska

Sun, 2014-01-05 01:03

ANCHORAGE — Two adult Alaskans died from the flu in the past week, according to state health officials.

The deaths are the first to be reported during Alaska’s 2013-14 influenza season — which has been picking up — and the first since new rules requiring health care facilities to report adult flu deaths to the state took effect in late December.

Before, Alaska only tracked deaths among children. The state has not been notified of any child deaths so far this flu season.

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No injuries in house fire on Edmonds Street

Sat, 2014-01-04 15:54

Pete Jensen took this photo of firefighters setting up a ladder truck to send water onto an Edmonds Street house that caught fire Saturday morning.

A residential fire in downtown Ketchikan destroyed one home Saturday morning, and damaged two neighboring houses, but did not lead to any injuries.

The fire started after 9 a.m., and the first home was fully engulfed in flames as firefighters arrived. Both homes are located on one of Ketchikan’s boardwalk stair streets, making access difficult.

About six hours after the initial call, as crews were finishing up, checking for hot spots and covering neighboring property with tarps, City of Ketchikan Fire Chief Frank Share took a few moments to talk with KRBD’s Leila Kheiry about the fire. Click below to hear the interview.

At the time of the interview, addresses for the involved homes were not available.

Pete Jensen caught this image of a ladder truck dousing a burning home Saturday morning in downtown Ketchikan.

Vida Davis, Tlingit culture bearer, dies

Fri, 2014-01-03 18:58

Vida Davis played a vital role in Tlingit language revitalization in Sitka. (photo courtesy of Heather Powell)

Services have been scheduled for Vida Davis, a long time Sitka resident and Native elder. She dedicated much of her life to Tlingit cultural education. Davis died on Wednesday, January 1, in Sitka. She was 70 years old.

Davis moved to Sitka at the age of 4, after being adopted by her Tlingit parents Eddie and Mary Marshall. Her biological Inupiaq parents had passed away from tuberculosis. She was always very proud of her Inupiaq roots, but raised in a traditional Tlingit home.

Davis worked as a Tlingit language instructor at Sheldon Jackson College. She took great pride in teaching the Tlingit language, and dedicated over 35 years of her life to Tlingit cultural instruction. Through the Sitka Native Education Program she transcribed many songs for the Gajaa Heen Dancers.

In addition to sharing and partaking in Tlingit culture, she enjoyed singing in the St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox church choir, picking berries, and picnicking on the islands around Sitka.

Cultural Services will be held at ANB Hall Sunday (1-5-14) at 6pm. Following the cultural memorial she will lie in state at the Coho House.

Church services will be held at St. Michael’s Cathedral Monday (1-6-14) at noon. A reception will follow at ANB hall.

KCAW News will follow-up with a story next week that will take a more in-depth look at Davis’s contribution to cultural revitalization in Sitka.

KIC Tribal Council member responds to complaints

Fri, 2014-01-03 16:30

One of the two Ketchikan Indian Community Tribal Council members named in a letter of complaint answered some of the allegations on Friday.

Andre “Skip” Lecornu rejects the letter’s claims, which include allegations of interference with personnel matters, including demanding access to confidential information, and encouraging employees to circumvent the chain of command.

Lecornu said that all the accusations listed come from one employee.

“The 11 people that signed never once asked the other side of the coin,” he said. “Other than to hear from one person what they thought happened.”

The Nov. 22 letter was signed by 11 KIC administrators. It doesn’t provide details related to the accusations, but it does demand that the Tribal Council remove Lecornu and Tribal Council Member Norman Arriola from their elected positions. Arriola declined to comment on the issue.

Lecornu said he and the rest of the Tribal Council were concerned about the accusations, and asked those who signed the letter to provide more details.

“When you take nebulous statements like this and try to formulate a response, it makes it very difficult, that’s the reason the Council asked for specifics, which were not forthcoming,” he said.

Regarding the issue of personnel records, Lecornu said he did not ask for any files. He said he requested a form that he and a specific former employee could sign, after which point the file would be available for Lecornu to look at with that former employee.

The KIC Tribal Council has eight members. The annual election is Jan. 20th. Four seats are up for election, and are currently held by Lecornu, Delores Churchill, Donna Frank and Rob Sanderson.

The letter was sent anonymously to KRBD, and Lecornu says he suspects the timing of the letter’s release.

“I think it could be an ulterior motive,” he said. “I felt pretty disheartened about the letter, and decided not to run, but by golly I don’t feel like I want to be run out of office, either, so I’m seriously considering another strong write-in campaign.”

Lecornu won his current term with a write-in campaign two years ago.

Permit for Herring Cove tour operators?

Fri, 2014-01-03 15:24

A few public hearings will kick off Monday’s Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly meeting. The hearings provide the public an opportunity to comment on ordinances, including two that would expand development options at the borough-run airport, and appropriate about $62,000 in cruise ship head tax funds to the City of Ketchikan for improvements at the downtown dock.

Also on the agenda is a presentation about ways to improve congestion at Herring Cove, a popular destination for summertime tourists. An earlier report suggested infrastructure improvements, but the Assembly directed staff to come up with options.

The proposed solution would establish a program to issue permits for commercial tour operators taking passengers to Herring Cove. The permit would require the operator to have an off-street parking area at the destination and proof that the driver is trained in pedestrian safety. A permit fee or cruise head-tax funds could pay for the staff position needed to administer the program.

Another option would be to establish a new service area. Then that service area would hire an enforcement officer to make sure parking and safety rules are followed.

Also on Monday, the Assembly will consider a resolution reiterating the borough’s opposition to a “no-action” alternative for the state Department of Transportation’s Gravina Access Project. State DOT and Federal Highway Administration officials are scheduled to start preparing the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for that project next week.

The Assembly meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. in Borough Assembly chambers. Public comment will be heard at the start of the meeting.

Home owners appeal 30-day demolition order

Fri, 2014-01-03 11:54

The owners of a house on Wrangell Avenue in Petersburg are hoping a superior court will throw out last month’s order by Petersburg’s borough assembly to require repair or demolition of the aging building.

Karen Ellingstad and Fred Triem on Thursday, January 2 filed an administrative appeal of the assembly’s decision that their house at 1011 Wrangell Avenue is a dangerous structure and needed to be fixed or demolished within 30 days.

The assembly made their decision at a December 2nd meeting following testimony from Triem and a closed-door executive session on the issue. In a written report, borough building official Leo Luczak wrote that the foundation of the structure had failed in 2009 and as a result had multiple violations of building code. Luczak deemed the home a dangerous building and thought the unoccupied house is uninhabitable and presents a hazard to the public and surrounding properties.

Luczak sent a letter to the home owners this summer notifying them he considered the building dangerous and requiring changes. Neighboring property owners also have written to the borough seeking to have the structure razed.

Triem and Ellingstad argue that the borough did not correctly issue a final order with a 30 day appeal period and they challenge the borough’s procedure for setting a hearing date or giving the home owners information for the hearing. The couple argue their due process was violated at the non-compliance hearing held by the assembly. Among their appeal points, Triem and Ellingstad are questioning whether the borough provided any evidence that the structure is rotten or dangerous. The pair also question whether the assembly violated the state’s open meetings act by conducting deliberations behind closed doors.

In an order dated December 5th, the borough assembly required the house be fixed or demolished within 30 days or the borough would remove it. In an email Thursday, Luczak wrote that he planned to consult with the borough attorney about the matter before determining the next step. Triem wants more time to fix the home.

It’s not the first time the two sides have argued in court over the upkeep of a local building. The city of Petersburg was in and out of court with the property owners for more than a decade over the condition of an old building on the corner of First and Fram Streets. That building was eventually moved out of the street right of way, placed on a permanent foundation and refurbished.

Photos sought for Alaska seafood marketing

Fri, 2014-01-03 11:50

Your best photo of commercial fishing in Alaska could win Alaska Airlines photos or an Apple Ipad.

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, or ASMI, is putting out the call for submissions for its second annual fishing photo contest.

Photo courtesy of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute


Communications director Tyson Fick said the photos will help tell the story of the Alaska seafood industry and will help ASMI market that seafood to the world. “You know whether in store, recipe leaflets, they could wind up on the website, facebook, things like that, all the different avenues that we use to promote Alaska seafood,” said Fick.

Prizes will be given out in seven categories including throwback, scenic, family, boat or action photos.

“What’s new this year is after we get all the entrants in, we’re gonna put up about 20 or 30 of the judges selections that then will be on our Facebook site and we’ll have a fan favorite option and the one that gets the most likes through the facebook page, the photographer will get a trip for two anywhere Alaska airlines flies,” Fick said.

Last year the contest brought in close to 600 entries. The deadline for submissions is February 2nd. Winners will be announced February 17th. There’s more information, including rules and forms on the ASMI website.

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