The Mat-Su School Board will meet Dec. 6 to choose one of nine applicants who have applied to fill the recently vacated seat of former school board member Jacob Butcher. Butcher stepped down from his District 5 seat on Nov. 6 due to a move out of state. He was among the seven-member board’s six conservatives.
Of the six current board members, five are solid conservatives with a history of promoting parental rights, defending girls’ sports and working to ensure school libraries don’t disseminate sexually explicit books to students. Ted Swanson is the lone liberal voice.
Two incumbent school board members, Kathy McCollum and Ole Larson, recently won reelection over left-leaning challengers – Diane Shibe and Sydney Zuyus.
Candidates looking to replace Butcher will be interviewed by the school board on Dec. 6. Immediately following the interviews, the board will vote for its newest member, who will then be sworn in and expected to attend the next regular meeting. This person will serve until the next scheduled election in November 2024.
During the upcoming meeting each candidate has an opportunity to address the board, and board members will be able to ask questions of the applicants.
— Patrick Martin, the longtime director of Alaska Right to Life. In that capacity, he has worked to promote pro-life efforts, politicians and legislation. He also works as a financial services professional, and currently serves as vice chairman for the pro-life Community Pregnancy Center in Anchorage. His military experience includes serving in the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment as a Platoon Fire Support Specialist, the 4th Infantry Division as Brigade Artillery Reconnaissance Section Leader and the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment as Battalion Fire Support Sergeant.
— Shirley Akelkok works as a recruiting manager for Matanuska Electric Association. She has a history of working in upper management and human resources divisions for Native corporations and private companies. She also served on the Mat-Su School District’s Equity Task Force.
— Justin Shoemake works as a police dispatcher for the City of Wasilla. Before that he was employed as a rig monitor in Prudhoe Bay, where he oversaw employee safety. He is also a former morning-drive radio co-host for KBEAR 104.1 FM.
— Robert Pymn’s application includes a long list of public school administrative positions, including his current job as director of grants and human resources at Iditarod School District.
— Jennifer Cizek is a retired elementary school teacher and homeschool mom. A fifty-plus-year Alaska resident and longtime farmer, she has successfully run several small businesses, and volunteers for school sports and other community outreaches.
— Audri Jirak’s application notes that she is a “concerned parent” who firmly believes in “parental rights, age-appropriate books for students, and putting the focus on academic excellence.” She formerly worked as a massage therapist and esthetician.
— Jacob Snedeker has two daughters in the school district. He holds a degree in physical education, and has been employed primarily in the telecom industry. His application states that he believes a quality education is “based on the values that have made our country a shining city on a hill. These values seem to be falling out of fashion for some, and I do not want to see these beliefs relegated to history.”
— Anthony Pitcher’s resume notes that he is a father of nine children, who has worked as an electrician for the past 21 years. His community service includes helping with Boy Scouts and church youth programs.
— Thomas Richards has worked as a high school and jr. high English teacher for nearly two decades. He currently works at Redington Jr./Sr. High School. He served in the U.S. Navy and coached basketball and Native Youth Olympics, and has also worked for the Office of Children’s Services in Bethel.
— The meeting to choose a candidate to fill the District 5 school board seat is set for Dec. 6, 4 p.m., at the Mat-Su Borough School District’s Central Office (501 N Gulkana, Palmer). It is open to the public, but there is no public comment period.
— Click here to contact members of the Mat-Su School Board.
— Click here to read each candidates full application.
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