Monday, October 26, 2009

Governor Sean Parnell appoints first ever Director of Rural Education.

Juneau School Board member Phyllis Carlson will be the state's first director of rural education, Gov. Sean Parnell announced Thursday.

Carlson works for the Tlingit-Haida Central Council and is in Anchorage for the Alaska Federation of Natives convention, where Parnell announced her appointment.

In a press release announcing her appointment to the new job, Carlson said it was both a privilege and a challenge.

"Because education is so vital to preparing youth to meet their future goals and become productive citizens, it is very important that we find connections between what they know, their world view, and the educational system that serves them," she said.

Alaska's great distances means that it has a higher proportion of small schools than any other state, but many of them have struggled academically. Carlson attended a one-room elementary school in Chignik.

Bill Martin, president of the council, praised the appointment, which got an ovation at the convention.

"Oh, it's tremendous, nothing but good news for us," Martin said.

Carlson most recently served as director of the Vocational Training and Resource Center of the council, after a long term as manager of its Johnson O'Malley Native Education Program and a stint with Head Start.

She has worked with the Rural Systemic Initiative of the Alaska Federation of Natives, University of Alaska Fairbanks and the National Science Foundation.

She has worked for many years at the central council, but is Aleut and graduated from Kodiak High School.

Carlson has lived in Juneau 34 years but grew up in the tiny community of Chignik on the Alaska Peninsula, where her dad was a commercial fisherman.

After 4 years of Frank Murkowski, and two and a half years of the disastrous Palin administration, I have to admit that I have learned not to expect much from our Alaska Governors. And my expectations for Sean Parnell, a man I referred to as Palin's lapdog, were just as low.

However against all expectations Governor Parnell as done something intelligent, proactive, and groundbreaking. It is like he learned NOTHING from working with Sarah Palin.

For too long the Alaska rural school system has suffered from a lack of funds, inadequate teachers, and out dated school equipment. I have worked for the school district and have heard many a horror story about terrible conditions, student apathy, and seemingly insurmountable cultural differences.

Having a person who is completely focused on the inherent problems facing parents, teachers, and students in rural communities could finally bring those classrooms into the 21st century.

I can do nothing but applaud Sean Parnell for this decision. My only caveat is that he remember that this position needs to have access to the funds required to make the dramatic changes that are absolutely necessary to address the problems in rural Alaska. If Ms. Carlson does not get the financing she needs, this position will just be another empty gesture with no real impact at all.


  1. Anonymous10:33 AM

    Thanks for sharing that info, Gryphen. Sounds promising, and I hoping for the best!

  2. Aussie Blue Sky1:35 PM

    Sean Parnell is campaigning. I hope this is not another fraudulent "Moller" appointment.

  3. Anonymous5:46 PM

    The pandering begins, just in time for the biggest rural gathering event in Anchorage. . .

    Don't forget, newly minted Governor/stranger, Sarah Palin went to New Stu in Todd's region and told the residents they would not be forgotten while she was in the big city (meaning, Wasilla) but she never did anything to address the preventative deaths that drew her and the press out there in the first place.

    Let's see what Parnell remembers to forget in his effort to get elected.


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