Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 5:23 PM on Wednesday, September 12, 2012

School Board
    Incumbent: Liz Downing

Experience will allow her to do more than a new board member, she says

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Liz Downing

It's because she's represented Homer on the Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board since 2006 that Elizabeth A. "Liz" Downing is running for re-election.

"I've learned through this experience how important it is to have experience," said Downing.

"The years I've put on the board so far have really prepared me to do much greater work than a new board member is able to do."

Liz Downing


Liz Downing


Occupation: Grant administration, Kenai Peninsula College

Spouse: Ron

Children: Mike, 15

Alaska residency: 25 years

Education: Associate of arts, studies in international affairs and leadership, Prince George's Community College, Md.; bachelor of science, leisure services program management and administration with emphasis on outdoor recreation and program planning management, University of Maryland, College Park, Md.; master of arts in education, counseling and student services in higher education administration, emphasis in student development theory-to-practice, community college administration and career education; cognate in business administration, Virginia Tech., Blacksburg, Vir.; began Ph.D. in higher education administration in 1986, but relocated to Alaska.

Political and governmental experience: Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board, 2006-present; Kenai Peninsula College Council 2008-2010

Business and professional positions: Owner, Alaska Goldendoodles, 2011-present; project director, Kenai Peninsula College, 2008-present; student services manager, Kenai Peninsula College, 1987-2007.

Service organization memberships: Kenai Peninsula Project Grad advisory board, 2007-present; University of Alaska staff council 1991-2007; Homer Little League board of directors, 2003-2006.

Contact: Email ldowning@kpbsd.k12.ak.us.

Downing's approach for advocating for Homer and the district begins with understanding how decisions are made and "making sure I quietly approach the right people at the right time for making those decisions," she said.

"Sometimes the public doesn't see or understand this is happening because I'm not out there in the newspaper or in meetings necessarily raising the banner high," said Downing.

Among her accomplishments, Downing pointed to participation in conversations that led to students enrolled in nearby small schools in Russian Old Believer communities being allowed to play hockey at Homer High School.

She also noted her advocacy of a new track for the high school.

"These are all things that community folks have done a tremendous job stepping up and helping make happen, but I believe I played a role in them as well," said Downing.

Originally elected to the school board in 2006 and re-elected in 2009, Downing is facing one challenger. Mike Illg also in on the Oct. 2 ballot as a candidate to represent Homer on the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.

"His only weakness I can possibly think of is simply not having experience," said Downing. "I don't know (Illg) very well, but I do like him and think he's done tremendous things for our community. ... He has always advocated for what was best for community schools."

While redistricting of the state that occured earlier this year has not altered the boundaries of the area Downing serves, she noted that not all students attending Homer schools live in Homer.

As an example, she noted students living in the Anchor Point area or out East End Road that attend schools located within the city of Homer.

When listing issues of importance to Homer schools, Downing began with reasons to rejoice.

"We have so much to celebrate that's been accomplished, from West Homer Elementary School receiving the Blue Ribbon award to all the accomplishments in so many of our schools in the district," said Downing, also pointing to work done by Project GRAD and a rise in student achievement levels.

Looking to the future, she said, "There's a lot within our strategic plan that is really poised to take off and be put in place, things related to improving learning, improving opportunities for students to have the kind of flexibility that will really widen their opportunities."

Saying groundwork laid over past years is "at a point to gel and improve things for teachers, students and families," Downing said she wants to be part of "making things fall into place."

Issues of concern Downing hears from the public include communication-related issues.

"There are concerns about communication from schools to families and vice versa, but I see things in place to improve that," said Downing.

She praised school administrators for handling concerns at the school level.

"They are straight-forward and quick in responding to those concerns, so most of the concerns I've heard about are not new issues, but ones that we continually work on," said Downing.

An unexpected increase in enrollment at Homer High School and the resulting last-minute juggling of class schedules proved a case in point.

"I know Dr. (Allan) Gee explained it clearly to students, sent out word to families and did everything humanly possible to make it work," said Downing.

Summing up what sets her apart from her opponent, Downing returned to her years of experience that extend beyond her service on the school board.

"I have more than 30 years of experience in education," she said.

"That includes being involved in supporting pre-kindergarten education all the way through university and graduate education. I understand policies, procedures and best practices throughout the education systems and I love it. Education is my chosen career and one of the most important things I could be involved in."