Superintendent’s Corner

April 15, 2021

Dear GCSD Families and Community Members:

I love April for the increasing sunshine/daylight and warmer days, the good ‘ol fun of April Fools’ Day, and Easter! The tax man also loves April … today – in particular.

  • “What is the difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector? The taxidermist takes only your skin.”
    • Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain (author)
  • “The difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.”
    • Will Rogers (cowboy, actor, aviator, humorist, and columnist)
  • “I figured out why Uncle Sam wears such a tall hat. It comes in handy when he passes it around.”
    • Milton Supman, aka Soupy Sales (comedian, actor, radio/television personality, and jazz aficionado)

The fourth administration of the PEAKS statewide assessments began at the end of March and will run through April. SHS/GILA students took the PEAKS assessment April 6-8. IDEA is offering PEAKS testing to Region SE because that area of the state was below the red COVID-19 threshold on Friday, February 19, 2021, which is the date that DEED allowed GCSD to use as the date to decide which IDEA Regions were safe enough to proceed with testing. Regions A, F, K, and MS are not offering PEAKS testing per GCSD’s Smart Start Plan.

One of the core services IDEA provides our families and home-school/correspondence families around the state are our IDEA Curriculum Fairs. IDEA annually hosts curriculum fairs targeted for home-school families in four different cities in Alaska. Last year, we had to cancel our in-person events six weeks before the first date, and pivoted to an online event. While the benefits of an in-person event were missed, homeschoolers were grateful to have something, especially those for whom attending is difficult due to living at a distance, having multiple young children, or other factors. This year the IDEA Curriculum Fair will again be held online (April 19-24), utilizing a conference app called Whova.

GCSD’s graduation ceremonies fast approach. These celebratory and momentous events provide a venue for GCSD to honor our students and their families for their academic accomplishments and to thank our students and families for allowing us the privilege of supporting their academic interests. If you see me at one of these happy occasions, please feel free to introduce yourself. I would appreciate the chance to thank you for allowing GCSD to partner with you in the education of your child(ren).

  • Region MS (Wasilla):      May 14
  • Region K (Kenai):             May 15
  • Region F (Fairbanks):    May 19
  • Region A (Anchorage): May 20
  • Region SE (Juneau):      May 21
  • SHS/GILA (Galena):       May 27

As we look towards next school year, Governor Dunleavy’s proposed 2021-2022 budget that came out in mid-December flat-funds K-12 public education. As we all know, flat funding essentially forces school districts to tighten their fiscal belts because of inexorable inflationary annual expenses. Alaska will receive over $1.0 billion dollars from the recently-passed $1.9 federal stimulus plan … the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Heidi Teshner, Director of School Finance for the AK Dep’t of Education & Early Development (DEED) told me during the last week in March that GCSD will receive approximately $120,000 of the over $1.0 billion earmarked for Alaska. GCSD’s allocation of this Title I-allocated federal funding is based on this current school year’s enrollment at our boarding school GILA, GCSD’s only Title I school. GCSD continues developing our 2021-2022 budget conservatively, as always, in order to maintain a healthy fund balance for contingencies. GCSD always remains open for discussions on how best to maximize the funding available to meet the learning needs of each of our students.

In closing, another Mark Twain quote is apropos during this rousing month of April… “Give every day the chance to become the most beautiful of your life.”

Please contact me at the phone number above or the email address below if you have questions or would like to discuss any aspect of this letter in greater detail, or if you would like more information on any district initiative

Yours in Education,
Jim Merriner, GCSD Superintendent