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Newcomers challenge school board member for Seat A

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Posted: Friday, September 28, 2012 12:29 am | Updated: 11:34 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

Editor’s note: The Daily News-Miner continues its series of stories looking at the candidates and issues on the Oct. 2 municipal election ballots. For complete coverage and candidate Q&As, visit newsminer.com/election

FAIRBANKS — Two school board seats are on the ballot for the Tuesday municipal election — Seat A, currently held by Silver Chord, and Seat B, which is being vacated by Wendy Dominique, who has served nine years in three consecutive three-year terms.

Two newcomers, Lisa A. Hall and Robert Kinnard III, are attempting to unseat Silver Chord from Seat A.

Candidate, Heidi Haas, is unchallenged for Seat B.

Silver Chord — Seat A

Silver Chord, 78, is seeking to retain Seat A for another three year term. Just two months ago, in a fit of frustration, Chord resigned from his seat during a school board meeting. After a cooling off period and apology to the board, he stayed on.

“There were some things I did not agree with at that moment, and I got really irritated and frustrated,” he said Tuesday. “My thinking is a little different now.”

Chord said he and the other board members do share a common goal of getting kids ready to become contributing members of the community, but he objects to how it is being done in some areas, particularly school expulsions.

“I don’t think expelling students accomplishes what we want to do,” he said. “We need to develop a new program.”

Chord said he would like the district be more welcoming to all students who come into its schools. He also would like a heavier focus on vocabulary development for children in grades K-3, to give them a sound educational basis. “There has to be more individual time spent with students,” he said.

Chord earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Montana and came to Alaska to administer special education programs in the Yukon Flats School District.

A year later, he began employment with the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District administering programs for emotionally impaired students at Lathrop High, North Pole High and eventually Howard Luke School. He retired from the district in 1997.

Chord is self-employed, managing rentals and has been active in the music community and as a volunteer at nonprofit agencies around Fairbanks including Resource Center for Parents and Children and Love INC.

In October 2003, Chord was arrested by University of Alaska Fairbanks police and charged with driving under the influence, resisting arrest and speeding. In March 2005, Chord pleaded no contest to an amended count of reckless driving and the other charges were dismissed.

“Thank God that happened,” Chord said. “I haven’t had a drink since.”

Lisa A. Hall — Seat A

Lisa A. Hall, 40, has been involved as a volunteer, aide and active PTA parent in the Fairbanks school district for several years.

Hall now would like to take her inside knowledge of the school district to a new level as a voting member of the school board.

“I always want to develop and grow personally and professionally, and I’m up for the challenge. I like to seek out problems and be part of the solution,” said Hall, who is USA Federal Credit Union’s regional vice president for Interior Alaska.

Hall’s school involvement started at Hunter Elementary where she was president of the PTA. She went on to head the Fairbanks Council of PTAs. She was a member of the statewide PTA organization and was involved in the Denali School renovation project bonding, planning and construction.

Hall said her strengths include her leadership ability — she heads up a staff of 65 in six locations — and her willingness to approach problems and decision making with an open mind.

“I’m always willing to look at both sides,” she said, “to come out with the best possible solution for everyone.”

A mother of four, and grandmother of one, Hall’s youngest child is a freshman at North Pole High School.

Hall earned a communications degree at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2004. She is a member of Rotary, the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce and is on the board of the UAF Alumni Association.

Robert Kinnard III — Seat A

Born, raised and educated in Fairbanks, Robert Kinnard III, age 22, decided to run for school board “to ensure students are prepared for the future, higher education and the workforce.”

Kinnard graduated in May with leadership distinction and a degree in justice from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he was active in student government and now he wants to bring “a new perspective to the school board.”

“I know I will be forced with some tough decisions, and I feel I can make these decisions on behalf of students and the school district as a whole,” he said.

While at UAF, Kinnard served on student government committees and was student elections board chairman in 2011. In addition, he advocated for the university budget in Juneau on multiple occasions.

Since graduating, Kinnard said he has been looking for work in his field, studying to take the LSAT test, since law is one of his interests and concentrating on giving back to the community.

His candidacy recently was endorsed by the Fairbanks Education Association and the Employee Support Staff Association.

Kinnard said he received a great education in the borough school district, adding, “But I had a great support system.”

And strengthening student support systems will be one of his priorities if he is elected.

“I want to see kids meet their minimum requirements but to their full potential,” Kinnard said.

Heidi Haas — Seat B

For the past year, Heidi Haas, 34, has served on the school district’s Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, a diverse mixture of parents, teachers, both working and retired, and military representatives, that makes recommendations to the school board on the budget.

The mother of three children, ages 8, 6, and 3, said she found the budgeting process and problem solving interesting and intellectually stimulating. “We made some tough decisions because there was a big shortfall,” she said.

The experience was one of Hass’ motivations to seek a seat on the school board.

“It’s important to be involved in decisions being made for my children and all kids,” Haas said.

“I feel the voices for young kids are important, too,” she said, pointing out that there are no school board members with children in district elementary schools.

Haas counts her leadership abilities, special education experience and open mind and attitude among her main strengths.

Haas started the Autism Society of Alaska Golden Heart Chapter three years ago and is now running it statewide. “We had more than 1,000 referrals and requests last year,” she said.

Fairbanks born and raised, Haas attended college in Missouri and at UAF. Her business experience consists of property management and compliance management for federally funded housing projects in 14 states. Her goal is to get a special education certificate. She currently is teaching two special needs courses for the Early Education Department as an adjunct at UAF Community and Technical College.

Haas volunteers at Barnette Magnet, which her oldest daughter attends, and Ladd Elementary, where her son is enrolled. She sits on the Governor’s Council for Disabilities and Special Education, and the Alaska Center for Children and Adults Advisory Board. Her candidacy has been endorsed by the FEA.

Haas, who is unopposed for Seat B, said she looks forward to working on the school district budget and seeing to the continuing maintenance and upkeep of the district’s aging buildings.

One of her goals is to identify and seek out the population of parents who are not engaging with their children’s school to bring them into the school family loop.

She also would like to have the school district present an annual report to the community so they can see the many programs and opportunities that are available for students.

Contact staff writer Mary Beth Smetzer at 459-7546.

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