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Harty and Nichols seek School Board Seat C

Candidates for the open seats on the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District Board of Education met Monday in a forum hosted by the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce. Running for Seat C are Les Nichols and Brandy Harty.

Forming the district budget is the primary job of the school board. Candidates were asked about dealing with the deficit the district expects for the next two-three years.

“We need a bigger pie. And the first way you get a bigger pie is maximizing the number of students that we have in district from our community and making sure that those cycle back through our district,” said

Les Nichols, running for Seat C, noted that per-student state funding would increase with bigger enrollment.

“If you just pay more money and it's not used correctly, it doesn't yield better results. But if we acquire more teachers, lower class sizes, so the teachers have better access and instructional time with the students, that does get better results,” he said.

Brandy Harty is also running for Seat C. She also noted the state’s Base Student Allocation, or BSA, still needs a long-term increase.

“Yes, we increased the BSA by $30 this last year, which did really nothing in the grand terms of our budget. So, advocating down in Juneau to increase the BSA, really looking at the Foundation Formula and making sure that that's really working for Alaskan schools,” she said.

Harty also said the Borough Assembly, which decides about 25 percent of the district’s budget, may be inclined to help the district through the deficit.

“That relationship with the borough assembly has already paid huge dividends for our local schools, in that we now have kindergarten aids that we wouldn't have had, if it wasn't for a Borough Assembly member who put forth that motion, even though it wasn't asked for by the school board.”

Brandy Harty was a teacher at Hutchison High School, Hunter Elementary and Tanana Middle School. She has two children in public schools.

When candidates were asked about the top diversity issues in the district affecting student success, Harty said recent efforts in the district have had a positive effect.

“As a teacher, I can tell you that kids learn best when they feel safe, when they see themselves reflected in their classrooms and in their curriculum,” she said.

She said she’s noticed a benefit in her own children’s school.

“Every Friday, we have an assembly and we say a land acknowledgement. And my seven-year-old son has been talking to me about that land acknowledgement and why we say it. And it's opened this wonderful opportunity for me to talk about, well, why it is.”

Les Nichols says he has not thought enough about the issue.

“You know, that's a tough one. I don't think I've gone through to try and prioritize diversity issues for our schools. I tend to look at people as people, as individuals, rather than groups. You know, there's a difference between advocating for a group and promoting a political agenda. And that's one of the things that I get concerned about,” he said. “I'm gonna leave that one there as an area that I have some research to do.”

Les Nichols has two children in the school system. He taught arts and English in Brazil and in Gainesville Florida, and served in administrative positions there. He currently works at the Fairbanks Nissan dealership. He says the school board could be a bridge between the district and the community.

“I wanna get in and make some changes before things get worse. And make sure our teachers are protected and that we're creating an environment that allows them to do their job well and be held accountable for the things that are in their area, instead of all these things that we're piling on top of them,” he said.

Nichols did not have a statement published in the borough’s online candidate pamphlet. However, he has been answering questions on a campaign Facebook page. Brandy Harty also has a campaign Facebook page, and she and Nichols both have campaign websites.

Harty says the next board will hire a new superintendent.

“When we hire this next superintendent, that it is somebody who truly understands Fairbanks, who really believes in the promise of public education and do the communication and transparency that is so necessary to accomplish those bigger goals and is willing to advocate and do know that is a huge thing our next school board is facing,” she said.

The municipal election is October 4, although early voting is available now at the Shoppers’ Forum. A recording of the entire Chamber of Commerce School Board candidate forum is posted on our website,