Lower Yukon’s REAA candidates talk supporting teachers, engaging parents and increasing cultural activities

An aerial view over a snowy, coastal Alaska village in wintertime

REAA elections are coming up, and three seats are open on the Lower Yukon School District’s board.

Only one person is running for Seat D in the Lower Yukon: incumbent Caroline Ulak of Scammon Bay. However, five people are running for Seat G and two are running for Seat H. Many of the candidates shared similar concerns about providing more cultural activities and improving teacher turnover.

Though retired, Fred Beans of Mountain Village is the first candidate running for Seat G. He has spent 36 years working in maintenance, including at his community’s school. He wants to allocate funds to develop vocational and home economics classes, as well as improve the student-to-teacher ratio. 

“One thing, we need is bigger classrooms, bigger classrooms than what they have now … [We also need] less students per teacher, right now there’s too many kids per teacher,” Beans said.

Pilot Station’s Susie Makaily also mentioned using funding to improve teacher turnover. For young students, she believes investing in programs that encourage reading are paramount.

“More teacher housing, so that we don’t have teacher turnover, and into the reading program is the most important, try to get some funding for reading, and also into our Yup’ik culture,” Makaily said.

Linda Greene of Pilot Station echoed investing into teaching children about their Yup’ik culture — in particular, teaching Eskimo dances. Along with cultural activities, Greene wants to see basketball revitalized.

“I think I would like to address more cultural activities for the students, and also the community … our kids love basketball up this way, in the Yukon area. I know that’s been cut down, it would be nice to see basketball camps up this way,” Greene said.

Anna Bill of Mountain Village wants to run for seat G to start making education a priority in the villages. She believes that engaging the students starts with engaging the parents.

“We really need to start getting the parents engaged into the school and getting the children more hyped up about wanting to go to school,” Bill shared. “I want the parents and the grandparents — aunties, uncles, anybody that’s associated with any of the students in the school — to become more engaged and active in the school and in the classes, as well.”

Joyce Lee of Mountain Village is the fifth and final candidate running for Seat G. KNOM was unable to get in contact with her.

Charles Greene of Pilot Station is the first candidate running for Seat H. He wants to see the parents get more involved, as well as more activities that connect kids to their Yup’ik roots.

“Even though they don’t speak Yup’ik, and English is their primary language, English is still like their second language,” Greene said.

As a former basketball coach, Greene also wants to see more funding for basketball.

“It’s like my wife said, every village loves basketball, and that’s how everybody usually gets together and sees each other during community gatherings,” said Greene. “I’d like to see more of that.”

Brenda Brown of Mountain of Village is the second and only other candidate for Seat H. She remembered going to school in the ‘80s and the struggles she faced in college due to holes in her education. She wants to invest more into classes that equip students with what they need for college.

“I went to college to further my education. … I was missing some classes that everybody takes in high school. I saw that there were classes [like foreign language] needed in schools in the district,” Brown explained.

She is ultimately motivated to run to continue the legacy of her father.

“My dad was a board member. He passed away and I just wanted to follow in his steps, to carry on what he was fighting for each day,” said Brown.

Lower Yukon residents can vote from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 5.

Image at top: An aerial view of Scammon Bay, Nov. 10, 2011. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally of the U.S. Coast Guard.