Two Fairbanks North Star Borough School District seats were up for election this year. Together, the two races featured five hopefuls, who were a mixture of incumbents, veteran candidates and political newcomers. At press time, incumbents Erin Morotti and Chrya Sanderson looked to retain their seats against challengers.

For many voters, the school board race was the hot election this year, with several people listing the status of schools as their top priority. This is in large part because the school board’s recent decision to implement mask requirements among students brought Fairbanksans out to the polls.

“As an educator, I felt that this was definitely an election that we needed to pay close attention to,” voter Hannah Monzingo said. Specifically, she added, masking was important to her because “the safety of children was first and foremost topic.”

Other people, however, were concerned that masks made it more difficult for students to learn and voted for candidates who campaigned on eliminating mask mandates.

School Board Seat A

The race for School Board Seat A was a three-way competition between incumbent Erin Morotti, Andrew Graham and Sally Gant. As of press time, unofficial results show Morotti winning over Graham, followed by Gant.

According to preliminary numbers, Morotti received 7,223 votes to Graham’s 5,593. Gant received 796 votes.

Despite her presumptive win, Morotti was careful not to be overly confident, pointing out that she won her last election by only about 40 votes.

Monzingo said she voted for Morotti in part because she was impressed with her response to masking debates. “She just seems really aware and does research ... she does a really good job of trying to learn more and know more before making the decision,” Monzingo said of Morotti.

A grant manager for the Association of Alaska School Boards, Morotti was first elected to the school board in 2018. Her reasons for running this year remain the same: student safety and financial responsibility.

As a first time candidate, Graham also put up a good showing. Eleanor Waller said she voted for Graham because he campaigned on removing school mask requirements. “Kids are having a hard time with all these mandates,” she said.

Graham said he was “eager” to see the final results, but noted that even if he did not win, he will continue to support causes he believes in. An Air National Guard technical sergeant and a real estate agent, Graham ran for school board because he was unhappy with current policies. Graham also ran because he wanted Fairbanks schools to be a place where he felt comfortable sending his children: He and his wife became parents to twin girls just days prior to the election. Graham said he will remain committed to being “a voice for Fairbanks residents who want to retain their personal freedom.”

Gant, an accountant, was motivated to run because she wanted schools to return to the values she grew up with, including Alaskan self-sufficiency. Gant ran for school board twice several years ago.

School Board Seat B

In the race for School Board Seat B, incumbent Chrya Sanderson unofficially prevailed over challenger Jeffrey Rentzel. Preliminary results show Sanderson winning with 7,334 votes to Rentzel’s 6,256 votes.

Upon viewing preliminary results, Sanderson said she was thankful for the community’s support. “I’m feeling grateful that people believed in me and continue to support me as I work on behalf of students and staff,” she said.

Sanderson received Becky Johnson Perry’s vote because of her emphasis on technical and career education. “I just want to see more student success,” Johnson Perry said, and one way this could occur is through different educational avenues.

A teaching assistant for the Alaska Native Education Program at North Pole High School, Sanderson ran to “finish what she started” in her first term. Sanderson’s priorities include building the Career and Technical Education Program and ensuring that the school budget is used to prioritize the safety and well-being of students and staff.

Rentzel, a retired state of Alaska juvenile justice officer, ran for school board last year as well. In both campaigns, Rentzel ran on the platform of improving test scores and turning the emphasis back to education and away from “social agendas.”

Contact reporter Maisie Thomas at 907-459-7544 or mthomas@newsminer.com.

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