Katie Holmlund has served on the Petersburg School Board for two years and she’s seeking another three year term. (Photo courtesy of Katie Holmlund)

Two people are vying for one seat on the Petersburg School Board in the municipal election, October 6. Incumbent Katie Holmlund is hoping for a three-year term while Craig Anderson wants to replace her. In a two-part series, KFSK is looking at the two candidates to find out what their priorities are.

Katie Holmlund has been in Petersburg for almost nine years. She helped create the outdoor afterschool program, Kinderskog for 5 to 12 year olds, which she currently directs. Before that she was a substitute teacher in the school district and then she taught in the Good Beginnings preschool for a few years. She has a husband who is a fisherman and commercial diver and two children—a boy and a girl in elementary school.

Holmlund has been on school board for two years. She says she wants to continue in that role because she enjoys advocating for education in a team environment. She says her situation is unique because she’s an educator who can serve on the board where most other educators are employed by the school district and cannot.

“Because I am an educator, it’s kind of a unique role on a board of education,” Holmlund said. “And so I have that perspective as well as being a parent of young children that are enrolled in the school district. I love school board service. I want to keep doing this.”

Holmlund says she particularly likes looking at the district’s curriculums and figuring out how to implement them.

“I like the educator-perspective when there are policy changes. It’s nice to be able to think about how that will impact students as well as staff and bring those ideas to the table as well,” Holmlund said. “I love researching this kind of stuff, I love putting a lot of work into it and kind of knowing what’s going on behind the scenes to provide quality education to our community and our kids here.”

As for the school district’s response to COVID-19, Holmlund says she supports the plan the district created for the start of school. She sees it as a community effort with the district working closely with the Petersburg Medical Center, the Emergency Operations Center, and incorporating community input. Holmlund says she appreciates the administration’s patient approach to dealing with the state’s mandates and recommendations, which were changing from week to week.

“They took their time to really craft a wonderful Smart Start Plan. The plan is working, we are going green,” Holmlund said. “The kids are doing awesome at all of the schools. I’ve been touching base with teachers and staff and students and they’re all happy. They’re all happy that they get time in the buildings with students and with their teachers. They’re not really complaining about the mask policies; protocols.”

Holmlund sees COVID-19 as a temporary challenge at the school district and state level. While the district has spent several months creating a response plan, Holmlund says the school board is not all about COVID.  She says her experience as an incumbent will benefit the three-year term seat because she can address COVID and other topics that will come up.

“I think there’s a lot more to do with education than just COVID,” she said. “We have students that need us to focus on policies that are coming their way, mandates that are coming their way, we have staff that needs us to advocate for them so that they can have the funding they need to be their best and have the resources that they need teach the kids in our community. There’s just a lot more than just COVID.”

Katie Holmlund talks with her daughter, Thea, during a beach outing at Kinderskog. (Photo courtesy of Katie Holmlund)

Another education issue Holmlund sees on the horizon is the Alaska Reads Act, which state lawmakers were considering this spring. The bill would require all elementary schools to have preschool programs with certified teachers. It would create a statewide reading program with increased screenings and require all districts to hold students back if they aren’t reading well enough. Holmlund says she’s not for or against the Reads Act but wants it to be localized to fit Petersburg’s needs.

“There’s going to be some advocacy work to do to make sure that if this bill or this act continues to go through that as a school district, locally we can tailor it to the needs of our students,” she said. “As a district, we would hate to have our other preschool options close down because we’re being almost forced to start a preschool within our district. But having a preschool in the building would really benefit a lot of kids I think as well; to get that free access to education from an earlier age would be really beneficial.”

Holmlund says she believes the school district has a strong chain of command, which is receptive to feedback and concerns from the public. She says as a parent, before she was on the school board, it was easy for her concerns to be addressed. She says now as a school board member, she regularly brings concerns from the families that she cannot answer to the district’s administration.

Holmlund says she appreciates the team approach the school board has. She says even though there are five separate members with different opinions they have a respectful working relationship with one another and she hopes to continue to be a part of that group.

This is the second part of a two-part series on the school board election. Yesterday, we heard from incumbent, Craig Anderson, who is hoping to unseat Holmlund. Also running for school board is Megan Litster. She is running unopposed for a two-year term.