Andrew Graham is a candidate for Fairbanks North Star Borough School Board Seat A.
A third generation FNSB resident, Graham was born in Washington state but has lived in the borough since age 4.
Graham attended local schools, including North Pole High School and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. After graduation, he enlisted in the Air National Guard, where he is still employed as a technical sergeant. Graham is also a real estate agent.
Graham is married to a third grade teacher, which he said gives him insight into what goes on behind the scenes in Fairbanks public schools. Graham and his wife are expecting twin girls, and he said this was one of his motivations to run for school board.
“I’m running to feel like the policies are written in a way that I would feel comfortable sending my kids to the school,” he said.
Graham, who describes himself as conservative, is unhappy with current school policies. According to Graham, many people in his circle feel similarly, so he is running in part to “restore trust in local schools.”
“We should partner with parents so they don’t feel like their values are being subverted,” he said.
Specifically, Graham feels as though “the district is working to put social and emotional learning over academic learning.” This leaves teachers less time to focus on the basics of learning, such as reading, writing and arithmetic, he said, which ultimately makes students less prepared for the workforce. If elected, Graham would work to refocus the district’s goals on education rather than social values.
Another issue is that this conflicts with individual family values.
“Parents should be teaching worldviews, not schools,” Graham said.
This is his first run for public office. In terms of qualifications, Graham said that his managerial-level work position with the Air National Guard provides leadership experience. Additionally, an extremely important factor, he said, is “having skin in the game, which I absolutely do.” Along these lines, Graham believes that, in part due to his wife’s work, his connections work to his advantage.
“I really do feel like I’m in touch with faculty and the community,” he said.
Outside of work, Graham is involved in his church.
1. Are you satisfied with efforts by the school district to address diversity, equity and inclusion? Explain your reply.
I am satisfied with the current efforts by the school district in this area. Current nondiscrimination policies in the district prohibit discrimination based on characteristics such as race, sex, sexual orientation, disability status, etc.
2. What are your thoughts on closing a school building to save money? What is a fair process for choosing a school to close?
If closing a building were necessary, the process of closure would have to be done involving all stakeholders. This would require a multi-meeting process of hearing community feedback to ensure the least amount of people are impacted negatively. If a closure is conducted, I would like to see the facilities utilized in a way that benefits all taxpayers and school age children.
3. If you were in charge, how would you handle Covid-19 mitigation?
Covid-19 Mitigation should be performed on the basis of observable symptoms, and the individual sent home for testing. Masking and vaccination should be voluntary for students and faculty, and more options like remote learning should be available for those who are immunocompromised or concerned about their safety as it pertains to the virus.
4. Should smartphones be allowed in school? Why or why not?
This should be allowed or disallowed on a teacher-by-teacher basis. Some forms of instruction can involve the use of smartphones, while others are harmed by their presence. I trust our professional educators to make the call.
5. When was the last time you visited a public school and for what purpose?
I visited Pearl Creek Elementary for their ice cream social right before the fall 2021 semester started, and helped first grade educator Mr. Baxter welcome students and parents to the school. It was great to see everyone’s faces and to see how overjoyed the students were to begin in-person learning.
6. What makes you qualified to hold this office?
I’m qualified to hold this office because I am a stakeholder in this community. I’m a third-generation Interior resident, and my wife and I are about to go from a family of two to a family of four with the birth of our twin daughters, due on Election Day. I care about the future of our district, and I will be a fierce advocate for parents who want to take back their children’s education.