Anchorage Daily News Candidate Survey

Biographical questions


Candidate's name: Marc Grober


Party affiliation: Registered Republican


Date of birth: 4/27/52


Occupation: Attorney, Teacher, IT Professional


Employment history: Attorney, IT Professional, Elem., Secondary, Post-secondary Teacher


Previous public offices held (include dates): Never held elected office


Previous unsuccessful runs for office (include dates): Ran against Jack Coghill for Mayor of Nenana


Education (please includes dates and degrees): Bachelor of General Studies 1970 University of Michigan, Juris Doctor 1974 Denver University, Teaching credential Western Governors University 2007


Military service: No


Spouse name: Tess Nott, ASD Special Ed teacher (Whaley School and Lake Otis Elementary)


Children: Mandara (Graduated Bartlett 1999 and UAF 2006) and Keeper (Graduated West 2007 and currently enrolled at Alfred University School of Art and Design.)


Web site: Campaign Web Site at http://grober.asdk12.info


E-mail: marc@interak.com






1. Why are you running for School Board? My children have now all graduated ASD. I have time to commit to the demands of the position and I can benefit our community as a Board member.


2. The biggest problem facing Anchorage schools is the need for effective educational leadership.


3. What grade would you give the administration of School Superintendent Carol Comeau, on an A to F scale, and why? D. It is time to honestly and accurately discuss and address the issues facing us. There is a fundamental disconnect between the District and the community over equity, curriculum, teacher quality etc. and we need to frankly address these matters.


4. How specifically should the board measure School Superintendent Carol Comeau’s work performance? We need to be able to make informed decisions on the basis of real data and informed analysis. It would be very helpful if we had a reliable baseline and longitudinal data that would enable us to have some idea of the progress our schools are actually making with the specific resources they have been provided and with the issues they have been presented.


5. What is the point of kindergarten-12th grade education, in your mind? Public education should be the foundation of our republic; providing all children with the tools and experiences necessary for them to exercise their voting rights and to be productive members of society. Schools should also provide students with an awareness of and sensitivity to culture; their own as well as other's.


6. What does the successful student look like to you? There is no one portrait of a successful student. But wouldn't we all like to "see" students excited about being in school?


7. Only 64 percent of Anchorage kids who start their freshman year graduate four years later. Some go on to be fifth-year seniors. Many drop out. What specifically should the district do to reduce Anchorage’s high dropout rate? Attract and retain highly qualified teachers (for example, by restoring the defined benefit retirement program), integrate parents into the school communities, provide short term clinical instruction or services, provide effective educational leadership at the school level, diversify instruction and provide mastery based instruction and support, implement an effective pre-school program, demonstrate the value of an education, respect programs that are effective.


8. Anchorage public schools have 170 days of instruction, about the national average. Should the district add more school days to try to improve student learning? I have argued for a quarter or trimester school program that provides year-round school. The calendar I presented would provide students, parents, teachers and administrators options, alternatives and economies the District needs. The issues facing the District are complex and there are no simple answers, but its time to discuss some
new directions.


9. The school district budgets have continued to grow as enrollment has held steady or even dropped a bit. Why is this, and should the School Board do anything differently? We are serving students with more intense needs, we are investing heavily in technology, and we are seeing an increase in non-classroom staffing to meet a variety of mandates (e. g. records and assessment.) I think we need to unplug ourselves from textbooks and look at a 21st Century paradigm for instructional media. I believe we need short term clinical interventions for a wide range of issues. We need to encourage our teachers and increase accountability. We need to hire and retain the most qualified teachers.


10. The recession is slowly moving into Anchorage. Should the school district cut its spending? If yes, what budget line items should be targeted for cuts? ASD should not cut spending because of the recession, but that does not mean that ASD should waste money. ASD is entitled to ask AkDEED for additional funding for SpEd. It is time for ASD to pursue existing remedies to meet special needs.


11. Rank the following from highest importance to lowest importance if you join the School Board:


7.Cutting fees for general public use of school gyms and swimming pools.


3. Lengthening the school year to give students more classroom instruction.


4. Upgrading older elementary schools to more closely resemble the newest schools built.


2. Offering new teachers a defined-benefit retirement plan.


5. Expanding vocational-education programs in high schools.


6. Changing the start of high school classes so they begin later than at 7:30 a.m.


1. Adding teachers to reduce class size.


8. Making it easier for teachers to obtain tenure.


12. Should creationism or intelligent design be taught in school? As current science? No. Creationism and intelligent design have been scientifically and legally unveiled (see for example, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/id/). However, these subjects may have some value in classes examining comparative religion.


13. Should sex education be mandatory in high school? The recent petition efforts to address this (see, http://www.adn.com/education/story/542235.html) as well as the frank admissions of the Governor's own daughter (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,494205,00.html) are convincing arguments that effective Sex Ed. should be mandatory. Policies like "Just Say No!" and "Abstinence Plus" have failed to protect our children. I think we need to focus community input on
revisiting decisions about such matters based on the data we now have.


14. Do you think our public school students should wear uniforms? Having spent quite a bit of time in the classrooms of our District, I can tell you that I believe most parents would find the dress of many students inappropriate and it is difficult to do your Chemistry lab when you have to hold your pants up with one hand..... But how does our concern over "appropriate" dress translate into rules
and regs, or for that matter uniforms? I don't know that the energy siphoned away from academics to pursue development and enforcement of a uniform policy would provide a net benefit.


15. Would you favor requiring hunter's safety instruction for high schoolers? Gun safety instruction is already available through ASD. That leaves questions as to the difference between hunter and gun safety and whether such instruction should be mandatory. Where the community has developed infrastructure I think schools should take advantage of such resources. When compared with instruction on swimming and driver safety, programs that have already been cut by the District, I think we have to look to community organizations for after-school and private programming for "hunter" safety instruction.


16. Would you favor fining the parents of students who are chronically absent? I believe the Code already provides for implementation and review of this policy, while state law also provides remedies (see my web site for details.) I would like to effectively implement existing strategies before we try
anything else.


17. To your knowledge, what has research shown about whether reducing class sizes improves student learning? The research, such as it is, and contrary to what many have argued, continues to demonstrate that reduced class size is important for effective instruction. See, e.g. for USED's archive of the discussion on the question (http://www.ed.gov/offices/OESE/ClassSize/reports.html). In addition to class size, though, the research shows that good teaching matters.


18. The number of charter and small, specialty schools in Anchorage has grown significantly in the past 10 years. And the number of students attending them has increased accordingly. The district does not usually supply transportation to these schools, so they typically have more-affluent students whose parents can transport them. Is a two-tiered system developing? Yes .

If so, is that fair to all students? No, but the real question is, "Why are charter and specialty schools popular?" Buses are not the answer (though we should pursue the use of the PeopleMover system to provide greater school choice.) We need effective programs, increased parental involvement and smaller classes for all students, not just for those who can afford it. The School Within a School at East is just one example of a program that has proven we can do more with what we have.


19. Anchorage schools with the lowest test scores generally have the most transient students. What, if anything, should the district do to keep students in the same school for an entire school year? A more effective transportation system which includes use of our public transit system can help, but we also need to make sure we have consistency of curriculum across the District, make curriculum available on-line, provide educational equity for all students, and pursue more aggressive interventions through the Migrant Education and similar programs in which ASD participates. We should consider why the student is moving from school to school, and that will require community consideration of such questions as economic opportunity and minimum wage.


20. Is the school district adequately measuring the quality of teaching? If not, what should change? No. The District and the State continue to struggle with defining quality teaching and measuring it. I thought that with some refinement and modifications the video review implemented by the State was an interesting start, but the State abandoned the requirement late last year before it got off the ground.


21. School administrators often say they are happy if a student pursues any after-high school education, whether it be in the military, some sort of job training or a top university. Should the school district put more emphasis on preparing more students to go to college? While I would like to see every child be able to obtain a college education, ASD should first focus on ensuring students obtain a high school education.


22. How effective is the district in weeding out poor teachers? I don't believe the District weeds out poor teachers. Part of this may be due to the fact that ASD may not have applicable criteria, but part is also due to the inadequacy of building level educational leadership. While we do have some exemplary principals, we certainly don't have enough of them.


23. Anchorage high schools typically have 1,800 to 2,200 students. Some education reformers say students do better in smaller schools. What do you think? In some respects I think the smaller learning communities initiative is just another fad. The questions should be, "Why do smaller learning community advocates argue that students do better in smaller schools?" and "How do we provide those benefits to all students?" I believe that the benefits of smaller communities can be implemented in larger schools. But we need to provide options that increase self-efficacy and confidence in success as well as develop a sense of belonging to and identifying with the school. Remember, creating smaller schools can result in loss of academic and extra-curricular options, so experiments with "houses" in larger schools may provide some middle ground.


24. What volunteer work have you done in schools and what school district activities or committees have you participated in?I have served on budget review teams for ASD for some 12 years and created the first on-line resource to make team business transparent (http://asdtech.wik.is). By working with the MOA I brought the first extra-curricular sports program to Whaley School and have arranged donation of computers to schools to create computer labs in schools. I coached high school football and robotics.


25. At any time have you had your children in private school? If yes, explain when and why. No.


26. Do you have any children who attend or went to Anchorage public schools? If yes, list where and when. My daughter attended Clark and graduated Bartlett some 10 years ago. My son attended Rogers Park IA and West HS and graduated in 2007.


27. If your children have gone to Anchorage public schools, how would you rate the education they received? While my children had some wonderful Grade "A" teachers, I would have to rate their overall education as a C-.


28. When was the last time you set foot in an Anchorage school and what brought you there? I was in Williwaw last month for a community council meeting.


29. Agree or disagree with this statement: Anchorage spends too much money on building nice school buildings and not enough on the actual education that goes on inside them. Explain your answer. Anchorage has been delinquent in its management of physical plant assets and has been been unable to fund instruction adequately. I would take issue with some expenditures in new schools and school upgrades, but overall, funding has been unable to meet community requirements. We are also not spending enough on actual instruction.


30. What are your best and worst memories from school? As a teenager I moved to a university town in the mid-West. Assigned a paper for World History and intrigued with the guillotine as a result of some years of French, I headed to the university library. After some hours of research I located two quartos that were published in the early 19th century in France. I asked to see the books, and they eventually materialized in the hands of the library archivist, who was as surprised to see me as I was to see him. The two of us spent an exhilarating afternoon working with the books. I prepared my paper, including in my "Works Cited" the two French volumes as well as those in English, and turned it in. I was pleased with the paper, which ran some 3000 words and listed a dozen references, and pleased with myself, as I thought this would bode well for my new start at my new school. However, the returned paper bore a huge red F. I was dumbfounded. My teacher assumed that the paper was plagiarized as obviously no high school student could have written it. I appealed to the principal, who told the teacher to regrade it. Though none of my classmates' papers exceeded 3 pages or included a bibliography all but one received a "B" or better. I was awarded a C.

This communication was paid for by Marc Grober, 5610 Radcliff Dr. Anchorage, AK 99504