Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 4:28 PM on Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Collaborative approach urged to avoid transportation, other crisis

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

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News that student transportation would be unchanged on the southern peninsula for the 2012-2013 school year was good news for Brett Glidden, mother of two McNeil Canyon Elementary School students.

However, that decision by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District was of lesser importance than understanding how the district got into the $750,000 financial crisis, how solutions are made and "how we'll keep this from happening again," said Glidden.

A former member of the school's site council, Glidden spent the past several months requesting information from this and other districts about how student transportation is addressed. She directed her KPBSD-related questions to school board members, district administrators and representatives of First Student, the district's transportation provider.

"It's all about process for me. It's about collaborating and decision making," she said.

The process was less than satisfactory for Glidden.

"I felt literally locked out of this process," she said.

As a result, Glidden is recommending forming a student transportation committee.

"The school district has a committee established purely for setting up dates and schedules every few years," she said. "I believe the transportation issue at least deserves the same attention and breadth as the calendar gets."

While passage of SB 182 solves the district's immediate transportation woes, Dr. Steve Atwater, KPBSD superintendent, said it also allows time for a "more long-term process."

"I think we have some breathing room now to make a decision and that's the key, go about it in a better way," said Atwater. "This obviously was a stressful process for a lot of people."

The superintendent was aware of criticism aimed at the school district.

"There was some frustration in Homer that it was not a clean enough process," said Atwater. "We'll take a look at how things went and make improvements, and we certainly want to consider public input in anything significant like this."

Asked about the possibility of forming a committee to specifically address student transportation, Joe Arness, KPBSD board president, said, "We probably would get local folks involved from various areas, but I'm talking out of school a little bit. That's a question for the board to decide."

Ninilchik parent Debbie Carey welcomed the idea of participating on a student transportation committee.

"Absolutely. I know at least two of us (in Ninilchik) that would do that," said Carey.

Glidden sees formation of a committee or task force as positive step, no matter the topic. It's a step she's committed to taking.

"Don't stop until you get an avenue to communicate," she said. "Ask for your place at the table. It's the bigger issue of decision-making, collaborating, long-range planning. That's been my mantra over and over."