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By ERIN EDWARDS
I regret I have been unable to attend a Ketchikan Gateway Borough School Board meeting in person, because of family commitments, but I have watched and listened carefully to the dialogue regarding contract negations with Ketchikan teachers. It is my hope that board members will take this statement into consideration as if I was standing before them.
My name is Erin Edwards, I am a veteran, a Coast Guard spouse and a mother to two children ages 5 and 2. We are a Coast Guard family but we are by no means temporary. We have been blessed to have spent nine of the last 12 years stationed in Ketchikan. We own a home, we are starting a local business, we vote in local elections (we voted for some of the current board members before we even had children in the school system), and we intend to make Ketchikan our forever home after my husband’s retirement in 2022.
We are originally from the East Coast, Virginia and North Carolina. We are choosing to raise our young children across the country from their grandparents, their cousins and our entire family support system primarily because of the schools. We have even discussed as a family that if my husband has to transfer one more time because of his career, I will stay here with our kids, by myself, until he returns so that our children can stay in the same school, here in Ketchikan.
We are making decisions that will impact our family for a lifetime because we want to keep our kids in the Ketchikan school system. But now we watch as the School Board refuses to negotiate a fair contract for the educators, the backbone of your schools, and we’re not so sure we’re making the right decision. You see, my son is in preschool, it is him and the kids who come after him, like my daughter, who will be most affected by the way the board is treating our educators now. As Ketchikan’s experienced teachers retire or move away to earn better wages and benefits, who will be left? Who is the board hoping to attract to this community without a competitive salary and health benefits? Do you want your child educated by the best teachers or by the ones who came here as a last resort? The ones that couldn’t be employed by a district that offered a contract that actually covered their cost of living and health care in Southeast Alaska.
I want my children to have the best; the best teachers, the best support staff, the best of everything their education system can offer them. The first question any incoming military family has is how are the schools? Usually we are researching and asking this question before we even put a location on our dream sheet. The question we see on the Ketchikan Coast Guard page is “what elementary school should I send my child to?” Right now my response is any of them. They are all great, you couldn’t ask for a group of more caring and qualified teachers than we have on this island. The schools are great.
I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to give that response. The teachers are the foundation of not only Ketchikan’s schools, but our community. If they go, so will the quality of life on this island. I am pleading to each and every board member, DO BETTER. Stop allocating resources to fight our educators and use that funding to support them. Have you ever seen one of our teachers give up on a child? I have not. This time they are fighting for all of our children. They are not giving up, neither is the community that’s behind them. It’s time for the School Board to start listening.