Homer Alaska - Schools

Story last updated at 6:18 PM on Wednesday, November 16, 2011

School board brings home honors

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff writer


PHoto by Steve Nelson

Representing the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District are, from left, Dr. Steve Atwater, superintendent, and school board members Joe Arness, Penny Vadla, Sunni Hilts, Lynn Hohl, Liz Downing and Sammy Crawford.

Board members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District attending the Association of Alaska School Boards annual conference in Anchorage this month came home with more than new ideas, stronger networking ties and increased enthusiasm. They brought home some impressive awards.

In front of 400 people attending the conference and representing the state's 53 districts, the KPBSD school board was named AASB's "2011 Outstanding School Board of the Year." Liz Downing, who represents the city of Homer and is vice president of the KPBSD board, was one of 10 Alaskans to be named a 2011 "National Distinguished Board Member" by the National School Boards Association. Board member Sunni Hilts of Seldovia, who represents areas of the southern Kenai Peninsula, was elected secretary-treasurer of the AASB board.

The nine members of the KPBSD board include Joe Arness of Kenai, president; Downing; Penny Vadla of Soldotna, clerk; Lynn Hohl of Seward, treasurer; members Marty Anderson of Sterling, Sammy Crawford of Kenai, Hilts, Bill Holt of Kasilof and Tim Navarre of Kenai; and Annaleah Ernst of Nikiski, student representative.

"I am thrilled that our board is being recognized in this way, " said Dr. Steve Atwater, KPBSD superintendent, in the district's announcement of the awards.

"It was great to see them receive this in front of school board members from across the state. Their dedication to the students of the Kenai is unwavering — they deserve this accolade."

Downing said the KPBSD board stood out because of "strong leadership in the association. We have the best district in the state. We have tremendous teachers, administrators, wonderful students and all of it combined has reflected in the great things we can do in this district."

Hilts also spoke highly of the board.

"Statewide we work hard, but in our own district, I think, we work really hard. I see people with a real commitment to children and their education," said Hilts.

Downing was surprised to be named a "National Distinguished Board Member."

"I was sitting there (at the conference) dinner ... and all of a sudden, they called my name. It was quite an honor," said Downing.

Hilts also was surprised to be nominated for the AASB secretary-treasurer and to have the nomination unanimously supported.

"I am still absolutely stunned," said Hilts.

With board approval, she will serve as president-elect next year and move into the board president position the following year, stepping into shoes previously worn by two other Kenai Peninsula board members: Crawford and former board member Debra Mullins of Kenai.

In the months ahead, Downing said the KPBSD school board will be looking at a "leaner budget" and advocating with the Legislature after it convenes Jan. 17. The board generally makes two trips to Juneau once the Legislature is in session, part of the board traveling in February and the remainder in March.

"We are recognized by legislators and other school boards as people who really take it seriously and work hard and also have the support from the community," said Hilts.

"It's just wonderful to be part of such a terrific school district," said Downing.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.