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Southeast Alaska News
HOMER — What would Brother Asaiah do?
That question is at the heart of a dilemma many small cities would love to face. Where’s the best place to put a donation of an $18,500 work of art by one of Homer’s finest sculptors?
The issue will be on the agenda of the Homer City Council on Monday night when the council considers a resolution to accept a sculpture of Brother Asaiah Bates to be done by Homer artist Leo Vait.
EAGLE RIVER — “Forward, march. Half-step, march. Platoon, halt.”
Chugiak High Cadet LieutenantKim Julian’s voice echoed through the crowd-packed gym at the 2014 Eagle River High School JROTC Drill Competition on Saturday, Jan. 18.
Thirteen immaculately dressed teams performed in seven rounds of competitions during the daylong event.
Julian, unit leader for the Chugiak’s Regulation Armed division, led her rifle-carrying team through sharply executed turns and marches.
The team moved as if one body, one mind.
KODIAK — Soon, Kodiak teachers will be able to roll into classrooms on two wheels.
The Kodiak Island Borough School District has purchased 12 telepresence robots to expand the district’s virtual learning program. Instead of being tied to a webcam attached to a computer, teachers can use the robots to move around a classroom and communicate through an attached iPad.
“What’s amazing is how fast people move past it being a robot,” schools superintendent Stewart McDonald said. “It’s not a robot, it’s you. You get to be in more than one place.”
JUNEAU — Staff members at Aquarian Charter School in Anchorage are ecstatic that their school was spotlighted by Gov. Sean Parnell in his recent State of the State address.
The old green building hidden behind a strip mall at the corner of Anchorage’s Minnesota and Benson boulevards is busting at the seams with 378 students and fifteen teachers. Aquarian offers a program for students reaching their academic ability with emphasis on the arts. There are 800 names of potential students on a waiting list this year who had hoped to get into its K-6 program.
Gov. Sean Parnell submitted an education bill on Friday that would increase per-pupil funding by $201 over the next three years.
It’s the first increase to the base student allocation in four years, but the state’s largest teachers union says the added funding won’t be enough.
According to the bill, per-pupil funding would increase $85 the first year and $58 in the second and third for a total of $5,881.
National Education Association-Alaska President Ron Fuhrer said that while the organization supports an increase in per-pupil spending, Parnell’s proposal falls short.
A non-partisan government transparency site has released its 2013 report cards on members of Congress, and it shows Alaska’s lawmakers have exceptional ratings in some interesting areas.
The site, GovTrack.us, uses information from federal government information websites, like THOMAS, to compile the yearly report card.
The grim economic forecast for the Juneau School District grew a touch lighter Friday when Gov. Sean Parnell introduced legislation that would send the beleaguered district about $400,000 in additional funding next year.
The bill, HB278 in the House and SB139 in the Senate, increases the state-funding per pupil by $85 next year and by $58 each of the following two years, which if passed by the Legislature would make it the first per-pupil funding increase in four years. The base student allocation currently is $5,680 per student.
ANCHORAGE — Residents living at an Anchorage motel face an uncertain future after the city seized the structure for the owner’s failure to pay property taxes.
The Anchorage Daily News reports the municipality is taking over the Big Timber Motel across from Merrill Field.
City officials inspected the structure this week and found infestations of bedbugs and shrews.
The building was in violation of safety codes because it lacked heat and hot water. Tenants were keeping warm with space heaters and kitchen ovens.
JUNEAU — Two senators plan to introduce legislation that would bar state officials and agencies from helping the National Security Agency secretly eavesdrop on Alaskans’ private communications without a warrant.
The bill, from Sens. Bill Wielechowski and John Coghill, would also apply to corporate contractors, according to a release.
The bill is expected to be introduced in the coming days.
Wielechowski, in the release, said widespread, indiscriminant information-gathering by government agencies violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
KETCHIKAN — The state ferry Matanuska is at Ketchikan Shipyard for engine repairs.
The Ketchikan Daily News reports the Matanuska is scheduled to return to service March 2. Besides engine work, minor refurbishments will also be completed.
The ferry’s spring route will be from Bellingham, Wash., to northern Lynn Canal and communities in between. It’s summer route will be from Prince Rupert, B.C., to Lynn Canal.
JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell has introduced gas line legislation that would set a gross tax rate of 10.5 percent on gas.
The provision’s part of a larger bill meant to help advance a liquefied natural gas project.
The bill proposes moving from a net to gross tax.
Parnell, in his transmittal letter, said for gas produced after 2021, the tax levy would be 10.5 percent of annual gross value at the point of production. The bill also would allow certain leases to pay production taxes with gas.
JUNEAU — Mead Treadwell’s U.S. Senate campaign reported raising more than $228,000 during the last quarter.
Treadwell is among the candidates seeking the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Mark Begich. Begich is seeking re-election.
Another Republican hopeful, Dan Sullivan, announced earlier this month that he had raised about $1.3 million between October and December but did not provide further details at that time.
The filing deadline with the Federal Election Commission is Jan. 31.
ANCHORAGE — Residents in the nation’s northernmost city are about ready for some sunglasses.
KTVA reports Barrow had its first sunrise this week in 68 days.
That happened Wednesday, when the sun came up at 1:28 p.m. and stayed out for 23 minutes. That was the first sunrise there since Nov. 18.
It’s all uphill from there. Barrow residents enjoyed 78 minutes of light on Thursday.
ANCHORAGE — Some 16,000 applicants had difficulty with the new electronic signature feature when filing their Permanent Fund Dividend application electronically.
The Anchorage Daily News reports there were no problems encountered filing the application itself and being issued a confirmation number. Some people’s computers froze.
When others exited the window, they didn’t continue to the “Pick. Click. Give.” Page to donate a portion of their return to one of about 500 nonprofits.
ANCHORAGE — Family and friends searching for a missing Anchorage man grew concerned when they saw a tweet from police that said a body was found in Spenard.
Their hunch was correct. Police found the body of 31-year-old Aylett Hanson in his black Mazda 5.
Hanson would have turned 32 on Sunday. His death left his family looking for answers, The Anchorage Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/1gdairm ).
Hanson’s cousin, Brittany Hales, told the paper he was a capable handyman who worked construction jobs in the summer and did odd jobs in the winter.
Wal-Mart will continue to stock and sell Alaska seafood under an agreement with the State of Alaska, Gov. Sean Parnell’s office announced Friday.
In 2011 Wal-Mart said it would only sell fish certified as sustainable by the London-based Marine Stewardship Council. Several of the major players in Alaska’s seafood industry dropped the certification program in January 2012, favoring instead the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Responsible Fishery Management certification because it was less pricey and more local.
The Juneau Docks and Harbors board has given the green-light to build a pair of cruise ship docks for $53.74 million in downtown Juneau.
Seattle-based Manson Construction Company won the project with a bid of $53.74 million, nearly $2 million less than initial estimates, and will now be expected to have the project completed in time for the 2017 summer tourism season. The southern berth will be ready for the 2016 season.
LIVINGSTON, Mont. — Officials in south-central Montana say they have a warrant for the arrest of a truck driver suspected in the hit-and-run death of a man on Interstate 90 near Big Timber in September.
The Sweet Grass County sheriff’s office is searching for David Welk of St. Cloud, Minn., in the Sept. 30 death of Elgie Bedford, 81, of Wasilla, Alaska. The warrant lists bond at $250,000 for a charge of leaving the scene of a fatal crash.
Most of us take awhile – sometimes quite awhile — to figure out what we want to do when we grow up. But one Sitka fourth-grader has it all figured out.
HL: My name is Hunter Lambdin, I’m 9 years old, and I go to KGH. I’m aiming to be a famous singer.
Hunter Lambdin has been singing pretty much since the day she was born, according to her mom, Stephanie Lambdin.
“But she was so shy that she would only do it in front of family if she didn’t think we were looking,” Stephanie said. “And then as she got older, she’d belt out this gorgeous voice but it was behind closed doors in her bedroom, so we couldn’t see her sing.”
So her family was a little surprised when Hunter announced this fall that she wanted to audition for the NBC television show, America’s Got Talent.
“I just want to be famous for what I really like,” Hunter said. “And I always watch the X Factor and American Idol, and I wanted to be one of those people just auditioning, you know, making it through.”
The show was accepting video auditions, so Stephanie made a short video of Hunter singing, sitting on their living room floor with the family dog. They sent it in – but they didn’t expect to hear back.
Then they got an email. The producers had watched Hunter’s video, and they liked what they saw. They encouraged the Lambdins to have Hunter audition before a panel of live judges.
But to do that, they’d have to travel to one of the show’s public auditions in the lower 48. And as the holidays rolled around, Stephanie realized it was too expensive. They just couldn’t swing it.
She posted about it on Facebook – and right away, the responses started rolling in.
“And the outreach that came back that day or the next day,” Stephanie said. “Especially with Melissa Broschat at Highliners – she was like, ‘Uh-uh, we are not going to let this opportunity pass up. That girl needs to be in front of those judges and this town is going to make it happen.’”
On January 18, the Lambdins held a fundraiser at Highliner Coffee in Sitka, and raised $2,000, enough for Hunter and Stephanie — and Hunter’s 11-year-old brother Colt — to travel to Providence, RI for a live audition.
But that wasn’t all. Producers at America’s Got Talent got wind of the community effort, and decided to set aside a specific time to meet Hunter – and find out a little more about the community that came together to send her there.
“I’m holding back tears,” Stephanie said. “Because a week ago, this wasn’t a reality. I mean, we literally pulled it together in a few days, and we’re moving forward and I can’t thank everybody enough.”
The Lambdins will be holding a bake-sale at Seamart on Saturday, January 25, 10am-2pm, to help cover the costs of travel to the audition.
The Sitka School Board has narrowed its search for a new superintendent down to three.
The finalists are: Eddie Campbell, who currently works as a superintendent in Parsons, West Virginia; Joseph Krause, currently a teacher in Larson Bay in the Kodiak School District; and Mary Wegner, the current assistant superintendent of the Sitka School District.
The finalists were selected from a pool of ten applicants. Board president Lon Garrison says that prior experience in Alaska was “pretty important” in making the final cut. He emphasized the uniqueness of Alaska, the challenges of working in a rural community, and the importance of multi-cultural experience.
Eddie Campbell, the only finalist not currently working in Alaska, met these criteria in previous jobs. He has been a principal in Kotzebue, and has taught in China. Campbell holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Virginia.
Joseph Krause is now teaching in Kodiak, but he’s been an administrator. He is the former superintendent and principal of the Tekonsha Schools in Tekonsha, Michigan. He was also a principal in Alaska in the Nenana School District. He holds a Masters in Education from the Saginaw Valley State University.
Sitka’s assistant superintendent Mary Wegner is the former supervisor for Educational Technology in the Anchorage School District. She’s also been a teacher in the Sitka, Juneau, and Chatham school districts. Wegner expects to receive a doctoral degree this coming May.
The board met in a public work session (Thu 1-23-14) with a committee of sixteen community members to review applications. School board president Lon Garrison said he and other board members really benefited from the input.
Garrison also noted the relatively low number of applicants for the job. There were a few more than the ten the committee ultimately reviewed, he says, but they withdrew their names when they were informed that their applications would be made public.
The applications the committee reviewed on Thursday were submitted by:
Larsen Bay, AK
Spanish Fork, UT
Sugar Land, TX
The board initially planned on keeping the applicant list confidential, but reversed course after receiving requests from local media for full disclosure of the applicant pool. Daily Sitka Sentinel editor Thad Poulson sent the board a letter on January 23 citing a 1982 Alaska Supreme Court ruling which clearly outlines the legal basis for the request. The justices defined the public process used by Alaskan communities to hire “high public officials” like city managers, police chiefs, and by extension, school superintendents.
Nevertheless, Garrison says that the pool of qualified applicants for superintendencies in Alaska has been shrinking. He says there is a “changing of the guard” in state education, several top administrative positions open, and the number of qualified applicants to fill them is “growing smaller all the time.”
The finalists will all be in Sitka for tours on February 12 and 13. A public “candidate forum” will be held at Sitka High School at 5 PM on the evening of the 12th. The school board will interview each candidate individually in public on February 13. The successful candidate is expected to start before July 1.