Should I stay or should I go . . .

James Fields, Chair, State of Board of Education and Early Development

As I am sure you are aware, we have just completed the first step of Alaska’s Education Challenge, which involved getting the recommendations from subcommittees on each strategic priority. Great work was done by Alaskans to come up with recommendations from a wide variety of stakeholders. The recommendations can be viewed online at:

The question is “Now what?” Well, the Department of Education and Early Development will go through the process of coming up with a plan for implementation of the recommendations, which the State Board will review, etc. My personal opinion, which I voiced in our board meeting on October 6th, is there is nothing stopping districts from acting on the recommendations right now. Alaskans have recognized 13 goals, some of which overlap, that can change our education system in the state for the good of our students and our communities. You, as the leaders in your districts, can start right now in implementing these recommendations. Don’t wait . . . Act! In most cases, the recommendations are already being put in place in pockets throughout the state; if you want a blueprint for how to start, you have it among your fellow leaders.

I would urge you to take action—be the catalyst in your district to help your students be more successful. Give them the start that you would want for your own children. We can always get better; even if you are already doing many of the recommendations at some level, you can always enhance them or increase the depth and breadth of your efforts.

Change is hard, and the messaging we deploy is important. Be sure, as you start this process, that you have a messaging plan and that it is positive and far-reaching enough to inform all stakeholders. Look to draw in all affected individuals so you can show them where they fit and how they stand to benefit from the changes that are coming. Messaging not only the what, but also the how and the why, give your stakeholders the opportunity to be part of the change. Again, you have great expertise right here in the state. Use each other, bounce ideas off of each other, do it together.

I am optimistic about where we can improve our students’ success in our state, but I also know that there is a reason why it’s called Alaska’s Education Challenge. It is a challenge; it will not be easy. We have a big state with a wide variety of communities spread out over long distances. But I believe we can do it. It will take all of us, but, for the good of our students, for the success of our students, for the success of our communities, and for the success of our state, it’s worth it.

What a great opportunity we have. Embrace it and start now. There’s no reason to wait!