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From Our Listeners

Southeast Alaska News

Expert: Westboro Baptist protesters unlikely to show

Thu, 2014-04-17 00:10

ANCHORAGE — An expert on hate groups said it was unlikely protesters from a nationally known Kansas church will show up in Alaska to picket two institutions, despite their announcements to do so.

The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka has announced plans to picket the Alaska Native Heritage Center and ChangePoint, a nondenominational church, both in Anchorage on June 1.

Southern Poverty Law Center senior fellow Mark Potok told the Anchorage Daily News that Westboro has a long history of scheduling pickets, but actually attends less than half of them.

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USDA files complaint against UAF over musk oxen deaths

Thu, 2014-04-17 00:10

FAIRBANKS — The U.S. Department of Agriculture accused the University of Alaska Fairbanks of possible Animal Welfare Act violations in the starvation deaths of 12 musk oxen at the school’s large-animal research station.

USDA spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa said Wednesday that an administrative judge will decide whether the university could face fines that an animal-rights group hopes total $10,000 per animal.

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Alaska pot supporters make deal with opponents

Thu, 2014-04-17 00:09

ANCHORAGE — The group behind a ballot measure to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Alaska said Wednesday it would gladly contribute funds to their opponents — if they prove pot is more dangerous than alcohol.

The challenge was made by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and involves both a new local opposition group and a national campaign that seeks to keep pot illegal.

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Alaska House names 20 Native languages "official" for state

Thu, 2014-04-17 00:09

The Alaska House voiced its unanimous support Wednesday for having 20 Alaska Native languages join English as the state’s official language.

After emotional speeches from several lawmakers, the body burst into rare applause after Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins’ HB216 was approved.

“It’s recognition that Alaska Native languages are Alaska’s languages,” Kreiss-Tomkins said. “It elevates the importance of revitalizing them and turning the tide of language loss — preventing them from going extinct.”

The bill now heads to the Senate, where its rapid approval is expected.

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Proposed school district budget cuts four positions

Wed, 2014-04-16 17:29

The proposed budget for the Petersburg School District cuts payroll to reflect less funding from a decrease in student enrollment. The budget is a changing thing. Some of it comes in a monthly allocation. So, district administrators have been giving it their best guess as to how the numbers will actually pan out. Petersburg’s school board got a look at the proposed budget Tuesday night.

Projected revenues are $9,775,020, about $19,000 short of projected expenditures.

Karen Quitslund, Finance Director for the District, told board members they would need to go into their reserves for that balance.

One of the main factors for the shortfall is that the foundation funding is being reduced by $302,000 because of declining enrollment.
Administrators have met several times about it and came up with proposed budget changes.

“The major changes are in the payroll aspect of that. So, a lot of the other categories were not needed to be changed because we changed some of our staffing,” Quitslund said.

There will be three less teachers and one less classified employee. That includes a high school English teacher and a first grade teacher, who are both resigning. Additionally, the district is dropping a middle school special education teacher and they are losing a middle school classroom aide. To compensate, the district plans to keep students in combined classrooms at the grade school and shuffle students around.

The yearly student count happens in October which sets state funding. At this point, the district is right at the threshold of 425 students. If they have one student less come October the budget would decrease but they are actually projecting more students by then.

The district is also dealing with increases to insurance rates as well as a three percent increase to electricity and five percent increase for fuel.

But, it wasn’t all bad news.

“Breaking news yesterday was that there was a zero percent increase in our health insurance premiums,” Quitslund said. “So, that is not reflected in this draft.”

Superintendent Rob Thomason called the zero percent increase a blessing but was quick to say it’s not coming without a cost.

“We don’t have a Cadillac health insurance program. We have a Chevrolet program and it’s not even a Classic Chevrolet,” Thomason said. “But it is a good program and it meets people’s needs but it wouldn’t be happening without the cooperation and understanding of our staff.”

The zero percent increase to the NEA insurance is statewide.

The Petersburg School District is also seeing an increase in the PERS and TRS ON BEHALF rates. Those are the funds that the state contributes on behalf of employees into the state retirement system.

“We never see those funds but we are required to include those in our budget and actually for this coming fiscal year, it’s over $2 million,” Quitslund said.

Those rates went up about seven percent for PERS and 17 percent for TRS, a total of about $354,000 (from $109,507 and $463,252 respetively).

The school district is assuming the borough will make a $1.8 million contribution but that won’t be a done deal until the borough approves its budget next month.

The district’s budget is due to the state by mid-July.

Teacher evaluations pit student scores against ‘dream building’?

Wed, 2014-04-16 16:53

The Sitka School District will pilot the iObservation teacher evaluation tool next year. Board members wondered if it will change the management model in buildings. “You can not be both an evaluator and a mentor,” said incoming superintendent Mary Wegner.

A new, state-mandated evaluation system will hold everyone — teachers and administrators — accountable for student performance, beginning next fall.

The Sitka School Board Tuesday night (4-15-14) got its first look at web-based software that will follow the progress of teachers over the course of the school year.

But how far poor student outcomes can drag down a teacher’s evaluation remains a big question mark.

Listen to iFriendly audio.

Revised teacher evaluations are just one part of a three-part strategy to improve schools. The other two are the new Common Core curriculum — which Alaska has adopted with some modifications and calls the “Alaska Standards” — and online student testing.

The Common Core and teacher evaluations will both be piloted in the coming school year.

Blatchley assistant principal Robyn Taylor — who has been promoted to assistant superintendent beginning this summer — is leading the effort to adopt new evaluation methods, with a committee of teaching staff and fellow administrators.

Teacher evaluations are nothing new. In fact, they’re one of the largest responsibilities of a building administrator.

Vocational teacher Tim Pike accompanied Taylor and Keet Gooshi Heen principal Casey Demmert to Kodiak and Kenai last week to see the new tool in action.

“So the observation piece isn’t what’s got everybody spooked. It’s, What is this data piece going to look like? The state is moving forward on it, and that is going to be a big question for us moving forward.”

The “data piece” is student performance. In 2017, when the new evaluation system is fully implemented, 20-percent of a teacher’s evaluation will be based on so called “student data.” In 2018, 30-percent. In 2019, 50-percent.

Superintendent Steve Bradshaw has always been skeptical of student assessment. He urged the board, and the evaluation committee members, to remain focused on student growth.

“The key piece to education is to continue to have the kids build their dreams on what they want to become, and how education ties into those dreams. It’s tough to be a dream-builder as a teacher, a principal, or a superintendent, if you’re not looked on in a positive manner.”

Bradshaw said it was important for the board to reach out into the community and set the standard for a good education locally, regardless of what the rest of the world is doing. Or, he said, “it could get really ugly in 2019.”

Board member Tim Fulton agreed. “Let’s not chase the data piece,” he said, “and lose the rest of it.”

The evaluation program is called iObservation, and offers two different approaches to teacher evaluation, based on the work of Robert Marzano and Charlotte Danielson.

The committee has opted to go with the Marzano model, which they agreed would best suit the Sitka district. Robyn Taylor did a sample evaluation for the board, and demonstrated the dozens of criteria that teachers will be checked off on. She said that she had worked with one teacher in Blatchley who responded favorably to the new approach.

But Taylor also said that it’s unfair — when students don’t succeed — to point fingers exclusively at classroom teachers.

“There are so many factors outside of that 8-hour day school window that we can’t control. We don’t know how many kids are going home and the 6th grade sibling is the caregiver, having to make sure their younger siblings are fed and bathed, and put in bed. They may not have time to sit down and read that book for even twenty minutes.”

Taylor said implementing the new evaluation method will take time, energy, and money. Board president Lon Garrison wondered aloud if evaluations would change the fundamental duties of school principals. He asked, “Will we have to change our management model?”

Stirring up Support!

Wed, 2014-04-16 15:55

Do you remember dry weather of a few years ago that turned grass brown, generated forest fire warnings and spawned giant pollen clouds? Raven Radio was here to document and share those summer days, and with your support we’ll continue to share Sitka’s stories around town and around the world. It takes a cloud of pollen to make a forest…and it takes you to make a community radio station!

Council to consider $100K more for CH2MHill

Wed, 2014-04-16 15:21

Ketchikan is seen from the water on a beautiful sunny day.

The Ketchikan City Council meets in regular session Thursday, and on the agenda is a $100,000 addition to the city’s contract with engineering consultants CH2MHill. That firm has been working with the city on the decade-long process to convert the public water treatment system from free chlorine to a combination of UV light and chloramine.

According to Water Division Manager John Kleinegger, public opposition to the change that arose early this year led to the city using CH2MHill’s services more than anticipated.

Specifically, Kleinegger noted in a memo that the firm helped the City Council and city staff respond to citizen concerns; requested letters from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the American Water Works Association showing support for chloramine treatment; and provided assistance in refuting information in a letter to the mayor from national consumer advocate Erin Brokovich.

Representatives from CH2MHill also attended three Council meetings to provide information about chloramine water disinfection, and provided updated cost estimates in case the city needs to develop another treatment system.

A ballot initiative petition was turned in two weeks ago by a group that opposes the city’s use of chloramine. If it passes the city’s legal review, city voters would be asked to decide whether to prohibit chloramine in the public water system.

The city turned on the new chloramine disinfection system last week. The city has an interim permit to operate the chloramine/UV facility, and that permit expires Sept. 30th. The city must prove that it has met all regulations, and answered all state DEC concerns before final approval will be given.

Kleinegger noted that CH2MHill’s assistance likely will be needed during that interim period. In a memo to Kleinegger, the firm’s vice president and project manager, Floyd Damron, wrote that CH2MHill also would assist the city attorney with any questions he might have for his legal review of the ballot proposition petition, at an estimated cost of up to $10,000.

If the additional $100,000 is approved, the CH2MHill contract with the city will total $1.375 million.

Also Thursday, the Council will talk about whether to move forward with a fence along the Third Avenue Bypass, to discourage people from throwing items down the hill into residential areas.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in City Council chambers. Public comment will be heard at the start of the meeting.

KRBD Garden Party

Wed, 2014-04-16 13:42

KRBD is having a Garden Party at the station on Sunday, April 27, starting at 10 am until, well until we’re done and we’ve planted everything. We’ll be BBQing on the grill (Halibut skewers) and other stuff. If you’d like to bring a side dish or a particular spring garden party type drink, please do. While we have you there we’ll talk about the work of the Community Advisory Board and ask your opinion on how best to proceed this coming year.Come join in the garden party fun.    Oh, and bring gloves…I have the band aids!

Workshops offered by PeaceHealth

Wed, 2014-04-16 12:38

Lindsey Duckworth and Marty West speak about a workshop on Patient and Family Engagement, and a presentation on Cancer Screenings.  PeaceHealth

State starts aerial surveys of Seymour Canal

Wed, 2014-04-16 10:04

An aerial survey was conducted Monday of Lynn Canal, Tenakee Inlet, and Seymour Canal by state biologists looking for herring. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game say survey conditions were good with calm to light winds under a high overcast sky.

In a press release, ADF&G says they found that predator activity was light in all three areas.

In Lynn Canal, approximately 85 sea lions and three whales were observed scattered in small groups. No herring or herring spawn was observed. The most active group of sea lions was in the vicinity of Slate Cove and could indicate the presence of eulachon staging for spawning.

In Tenakee Inlet, approximately 75 sea lions and five whales were observed scattered singly or in small groups. No herring or herring spawn was observed.

In Seymour Canal, 49 sea lions and one whale were observed, widely scattered in small groups. No herring or herring spawn was observed.

The next survey of the Juneau area is planned for this Friday, April 18.

Wed Apr 16, 2014

Wed, 2014-04-16 08:26

Listen to iFriendly audio.
Senate candidate Sullivan opposes healthcare reform, and not so keen on dolphins. Wrangell Medical Center gets makeover.

Parnell puts on virtual town hall

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:07

Republican Gov. Sean Parnell is having a virtual town hall tonight at 6 p.m. for Alaskans to ask questions on key issues facing the Last Frontier.

The questions can be asked via email at AskAKGov@alaska.gov, by posting to Parnell’s Facebook page or by tweeting them to @AKGovParnell with the hashtag #AskAKGov.

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Coast Guard: Tug engine failure blamed on water in fuel

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:07

It is a mariner’s worst nightmare: At sea, in a bad storm, pulling a heavy load and working to keep control in a dicey situation.

Then, all the engines quit. And won’t restart.

Precisely this event occurred in late December 2012 to the crew of the Edison Chouest vessel Aiviq as it struggled to keep towlines on Shell’s conical drill vessel Kulluk.

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House panel moves Gov.'s pension plan

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:07

JUNEAU — The House Finance Committee advanced Gov. Sean Parnell’s plan for addressing the state’s pension obligation Tuesday, but the issue is far from settled.

As HB385 was moving from committee, Senate Finance was meeting on the opposite end of the fifth floor of the Capitol, discussing other options.

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Untold reality of state's minimum wage debate

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:06

Whether a minimum wage increase is approved by voters or lawmakers, the result will be the same: The Legislature will have the power to make changes.

Backers of the August ballot initiative are concerned the Legislature is taking up the matter so it has the ability to strip parts of the bill in future years, which they argue couldn’t happen with a voter-approved initiative.

Think again.

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Legislature passes bill on AGDC appointment

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:02

JUNEAU — The Alaska Legislature has passed a measure allowing out-of-state residents to serve on the board of a corporation that could play a key role in a major liquefied natural gas pipeline project.

The Senate’s 13-7 vote makes clearer the way for Richard Rabinow, a former pipeline company executive from Texas, to serve on the board of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp.

Gov. Sean Parnell appointed Rabinow last September and has defended the appointment as falling within his discretion under the constitution. Rabinow faces confirmation Thursday.

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Child porn indictment for former UAA instructor

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:01

ANCHORAGE — An Anchorage grand jury has indicted a former astronomy and physics instructor at the University of Alaska-Anchorage on 14 child pornography charges.

Assistant Attorney General Adam Alexander said Tuesday that state troopers are trying to locate 37-year-old Curtis Osterhoudt.

The indictment accuses him of distribution and possession of child porn both at his residence and in his office at UAA.

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Hughes apologizes for news release headline

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:01

JUNEAU — Alaska House members apologize for a news release on a breastfeeding initiative that had the words “smart and sexy” in the headline.

HCR18 sponsor Rep. Shelley Hughes said she intended to draw attention to the issue but not the kind it garnered.

She apologized Tuesday for the “poor choice of words” and said she was sorry if she offended anyone.

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Developers eye Anchorage site for housing project

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:01

ANCHORAGE — Developers are planning to build an upscale housing complex in Anchorage at the site of an aging mobile home park.

The group of California developers is seeking to break ground next summer at the 30-acre Riviera Terrace Mobile Home Park, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The plan calls for four construction phases of row houses and apartments, with a total of 450 housing units at the east Anchorage location.

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