Why is the Dillingham City School District board turning over?

Sep 26, 2017

Three of the five members of Dillingham’s school board are not running for re-election in October. Two say that it is because of the large time commitment serving on the board requires.

Bernina Venua, left, Chris Napoli, second from right, and Sarah Andrew, right listen to testimony at an April meeting. None will run for re-election in October.
Credit KDLG

Three school board seats are open in Dillingham’s October 3 municipal election. No incumbents for those seats are on the ballot. Chris Napoli, Sarah Andrew and Bernina Venua have all decided not to run for re-election. The time involved in  serving on the school board is a common theme in their decisions not to try for another term.

Napoli has served a four-year term. He was school board president for three of those years. He said that he wants to devote the time he has spent in public service to his personal life.

“I hope that people realize the commitment of time and energy you have to put in as an elected official in this community. You have to spend the time listening to people. When you’re affecting the students’ lives, it plays a big part in everybody’s life,” said Napoli, who speaks positively of his time on the board and said he has not ruled out the possibility of running again in the future.

Andrew is finishing her first term. She joined the board, hoping to bring perspective from her years as an educator.

“It’s been a learning process the whole time, and I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned is when you are making decisions on a board it’s important to be able to listen to other members on the board and be able to seek out a variety of perspectives in the community,” said Andrew.

Between regular school board meetings, work sessions, research and meetings with members of the community, Andrew said that she was spending an average seven to 10 hours a week on school board related activities during the school year. She anticipates being involved in the school board as a community participant, but, along with Napoli, she said she wants to spend those hours now on work and family.

Venua’s stint on the school board has been the shortest, serving only six months this term. She finished out the term for a seat left vacant when Tonya O’Connor accepted the position of magistrate judge and clerk of Dillingham Court. That precluded O’Connor from holding an elected position.  Venua said that her decision has little to do with the substantial time commitment and more to do what she set out to do.  

In an era of declining state funding, deciding the budget can be a thankless task with cuts inevitably hitting raw nerves in the community. The board last spring navigated several controversies that related to staff and administration positions in the budget.

“There were important decisions that needed to be made by someone who had experience, and because it was budget issues you need to know how to read the budgets and know the basic priorities and the processes that needed to happen in order to have the finances straightened out for the schools, and I think that that purpose has already been accomplished,” said Venua. This was her second time to serve on Dillingham’s school board.

Corey Evans and Patty Luckhurst remain on the board with terms that expire next year. On October 3, Dillingham voters will go to the polls to fill the vacant seats. Emily Hulett is running against Kim Williams for Seat A. Williams previously served 12 years on the school board, finishing her last term in 2015. Patty Buholm faces no opposition for seat C. Seat B has no candidate. No write-in candidates have yet filed their intent to run. The deadline to file for write-in candidacy is October 2.

Contact the author at avery@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281.