Three cities, three decades, three leaders: KPSBD graduate #inspirations

Good things come in threes, and on the Kenai Peninsula, this week the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District celebrates and introduces you to three graduates who now manage three of the largest cities in the Borough spanning 25,600 square miles.


Katie Koester [Homer High School Class of 1998] Homer City Manager

Paul Ostrander [Soldotna High School Class of 1986] Kenai City Manager

Stephanie (Arbelovsky) Queen [Kenai Central High School Class of 2000] Soldotna City Manager

Katie, Paul, and Stephanie talk about a city celebration, favorite local spot, and vision, priority and project that matters. Individual profiles for each of these graduates will follow in this four-part series highlighting KPBSD graduates.

City Manager Profile

K-12 Memories 

  • Katie Koester, Homer High School Class of 1998
    “Hands down Bishop’s Beach is my favorite spot! In high school my best friend Krista and I played Spice Girls in the parking lot and danced to,“tell me what’chu want what’chu you really, really want.” Bishop’s Beach is a wonderful spot to meet up with friends, go for walks, and crank some tunes—Spice Girls or not.”


  • Paul Ostrander, Soldotna High School Class of 1986
    “I rode my bike all over town every summer growing up, hanging out at the mall, on the beach, or off-roading on the trails north of town, but my favorite spot was on the Kenai River. I spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours fishing the Kenai River, mostly in the slough directly above Eagle Rock boat launch. It was a short walk from the house I grew up in, giving me the freedom to get there as a kid without help from mom and dad.”


  • Stephanie (Arbelovsky) Queen, Kenai Central High School Class of 2000
    “A couple of my early Soldotna memories are birthday parties at the roller rink (with the giant fuzzy dice and the limbo stick), and going to the Soldotna Airport for dog sled races and to watch the model airplane club fly their planes!”


City Celebrations

  • Homer problem solvers and determination
    “I celebrate the people of Homer–the families who have made it here for generations along with the new families who come to the end of the road, fall in love with this place, and figure out how to make it in this town. This community’s underlying determination to live and persist in Homer means people here are interesting, creative, and diverse. I celebrate the people of Homer because they are problem solvers, because they make Homer the place for their life’s work.” –Katie Koester, City Manager, Homer, Alaska


  • What separates Kenai is its heart.
    “Kenai has a diverse history and residents are ardent in their support of their hometown. When people talk about living in Kenai, whether talking about fishing the river or family time on the beach, you can sense the pride they have in our natural resources and community. The statement that, it’s the best place to live in the world, is heard often, and meant wholeheartedly.” – Paul Ostrander, City Manager, Kenai, Alaska


  • Entrepreneurial spirit and partnerships in Soldotna
    “One of the things I really appreciate about Soldotna is how engaged our residents are. We’ve figured out how to work together across public, private, and non-profit lines, to move big projects forward. This has allowed us to accomplish several of the community’s long-standing goals; something we would not have been able to do without strong partnerships.I value our community’s entrepreneurial spirit. It is true in the traditional sense, of people investing in and starting new businesses. But, it’s also true in the many events, races, festivals, markets, and concerts that people are creating, which provide more opportunities and new things to do in our area. It is great to be part of a community that rewards creativity, and supports people who are willing to invest their time and talents to build something new.” –Stephanie (Arbelovsky) Queen, City Manager, City of Soldotna


Vision, Projects, Goals

  • Open For Business
    “I was appointed city manager under Mayor Wythe who had an open for business theme for Homer. I work really hard to continue this vision because I want Homer to be a town with family-sustaining jobs—jobs where someone can raise their family while also being professionally satisfied. Families thrive when our local businesses thrive.” –Katie Koester, City Manager, Homer, Alaska


  • Project Top Priority
    The City of Kenai has been pursuing the Bluff Stabilization Project for the better part of 40 years, and for the first time in our history, the project is ready to become a reality. It will stabilize approximately one mile of river bluff fronting Old Town Kenai. A stable bluff will protect the original part of Kenai–the heart of our City. I am excited to see this project begin and stimulate other projects that explore Kenai’s tremendous potential. Paul Ostrander, City Manager, Kenai, Alaska


  • Downtown Connections
    “Part of the City of Soldotna’s economic development strategy over the past several years has been incremental investment in our downtown, and this is a priority I would like to continue to pursue into the future. We started with low-hanging fruit such as new highway banners, park signs, and landscaping improvements. And, we supported and encouraged events that bring people to Soldotna Creek Park and the commercial core.We now have an opportunity to explore more significant–although complex–redevelopment concepts, particularly along the portions of our downtown that border the Kenai River. My goal is to work closely with private landowners to plan for future infrastructure and developments, which not only add value to their property and benefit surrounding businesses, but also provide a more attractive downtown that is well connected to the rest of the community.” –Stephanie (Arbelovsky) Queen, City Manager, City of Soldotna


Watch for individual profiles in this series!

Katie Koester, Homer High School Class of 1998
City Manager, Homer, Alaska
Paul Ostrander, Soldotna High School Class of 1986
City Manager, Kenai, Alaska
Stephanie (Arbelovsky) Queen, Kenai Central High School Class of 2000
City Manager, City of Soldotna

Do you have a story tip about a KPBSD graduate to profile in our Wednesday Inspiration? Kindly email Pegge Erkeneff, KPBSD communications liaison,



Superintendent Sean Dusek announces retirement

News Release KPSD_Seal

On Monday, January 14, 2019, Superintendent of Schools Sean Dusek tendered his resignation and retirement, effective June 30, 2019. The resignation and retirement letter is posted in the online Board of Education packet, and this action was approved during the Monday evening public school board meeting.

Sean Dusek KPBSD Superintendent 2015 smaller file

In his words
“I am very grateful for the many years I have been in KPBSD that started with student teaching at Skyview High School in 1991,” said Superintendent Dusek. “Being a part of this district and holding the position of Superintendent of KPBSD has been a great honor, and while this position is very challenging, it has been the most rewarding. We have excellent staff throughout our district and I have full faith that KPBSD will continue providing the students and our communities excellence for many years to come. I look forward to beginning retirement on July 1, 2019, and will always keep my on eye this district since I consider it my home.”

Next Steps
The school board will form a Superintendent Search Oversight Committee to determine the next steps to select and hire a new KPBSD superintendent. Details of the job posting, scope of the search, and methods for community input will be determined by the Oversight Committee. When a decision about the next step is determined, KPBSD will communicate with our staff, schools, families, and the public.

Board President Vadla reflects
“I applaud Superintendent Dusek for the direction he has taken the district toward meeting the individual needs of every one of our students through the choices we provide our students, and the voices we help to empower in them during their personalized learning journey,” said Penny Vadla, Board of Education president. “As Superintendent Dusek stated in his 2017-2018 Annual Report, ‘This journey includes preparing students to be ready for life through a rigorous, relevant, and responsive educational experience.’ Superintendent Dusek is a game changer who has enabled this vision to go forth. We, as a district, will continue our vision of meeting the individual needs of each student in our district thanks to Sean Dusek. While we are saddened by his impending retirement, we wish Superintendent Dusek the best and extend a very sincere ‘Thank you’ for helping to set an amazing vision in motion.”


KPBSD Inspiration: Kersten Gomez, Soldotna High School #ClassOf1998

KPBSD Inspiration, Kersten (Petersen) Gomez, Soldotna High School Class of 1998

Kersten Petersen Gomez Soldotna High 1998

“I was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD) as a child, struggled with academics, and was bullied. This took a toll on my self-esteem. I was afraid to put myself out there and try anything new out of a fear of failing and being ridiculed.”

Mrs. Alaska America 2017, Kersten Gomez, Soldotna High School Class of 1998, and Kenai Peninsula Borough School District elementary educator


This week’s KPBSD 1998 graduate inspiration is now an educator in the school district! Kersten (Petersen) Gomez says, “When I was young, after school I would line up all my stuffed animals and teach them what I learned at school that day. I knew I wanted to do something with children even then, but it was not until I watched my mom receive a rose from one of her students at graduation that I knew I would follow in her footsteps and become an educator. I remember the boy telling her that he would not have made it through school without her unwavering support—I wanted to make a difference like she had.”


Now in her thirteenth year of teaching in KPBSD, Mrs. Gomez is a second grade teacher at Redoubt Elementary. She graduated from University of Alaska, Anchorage, and Kenai Peninsula College, and began her teaching career at Nikiski North Star Elementary with kindergarten and second and third graders for four years, before moving to Redoubt Elementary.


“My favorite moment of every day is when I stand in the door to greet my kids when they walk in. Their excitement and smiles are contagious, and no matter what kind of day I am having I feel blessed to have the opportunity to spend each and every day with them!”


Married to Terry Gomez, also a KPBSD Soldotna High School Class of 1998 graduate, she knows the effects bullying took on her self-confidence and feelings of self-worth. As a result, she says, “It is important for me to teach empathy and kindness to the next generation of leaders. It is sad to me to see the way adults in our country treat one another. With each class, hopefully I am making a difference that will impact the future.”

Kersten Gomez (1)-2

Kersten Gomez (3)

A big dream for Mrs. Alaska America 2017

Attending Soldotna Middle School and graduating from Soldotna High School in 1998, Gomez explains, “It took me until the age of 37 to follow my dream and participate in the Mrs. Alaska America 2017 pageant. I was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD) as a child, struggled with academics, and was bullied. This took a toll on my self-esteem. I was afraid to put myself out there and try anything new out of a fear of failing and being ridiculed. When I won I was shocked, but the experience reminded me that my self-worth is not determined by what others think of me. In the year as Mrs. Alaska America 2017, I volunteered, spoke publically and shared my story, and competed against women from every state across the country at Nationals in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was the most incredible experience I have had and through my year of service, I grew so much as a person and in my self-confidence. If I let fear control my decision making, I never would have had the opportunity to make an impact on the state of Alaska.”

To grow in confidence, volunteer

I have volunteered at the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, Boys and Girls Club of America, the Soldotna Kids public library, and helped collect literature throughout Alaska that is now on its way to the worn torn country of Liberia to build libraries in schools there!

Kersten Gomez (1)-3

“I tell kids all the time,

‘Don’t let fear hold you back from what you want to do in life. You can accomplish so much more than you think you can!’”



Do you have a story tip about a KPBSD graduate to profile in our Wednesday Inspiration? Kindly email Pegge Erkeneff, KPBSD communications liaison,


Kersten Gomez (2)-2


New in 2019: Testify at a School Board meeting from Homer or Seward

News ReleaseKPBSD logo 4c no tag SMALL
New in 2019: Testify at a School Board meeting from Homer or Seward

Sign up no later than 3:00 PM the Friday prior to a Board of Education meeting to guarantee the remote site will be open and staffed.

Soldotna, December 20, 2018—The KPBSD Board of Education will open two additional locations for public testimony via video during a school board meeting. Homer Middle School and Seward Elementary School sites will be open—if there are advance signups—starting with the January 14, 2019, school board meeting.


Sign Up to Testify
Advanced sign up is required in order to accommodate remote testimony. The deadline is 3:00 p.m. on the Friday preceding the meeting.

  • To sign up, call or email Debbie Tressler, 907-714-8836, by the Friday, 3:00 PM deadline. If no one signs up in advance for video testimony, remote participation will be cancelled in that location (Homer Middle School, or Seward Elementary School).

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board welcomes and values public comment on agenda and non-agenda items. Citizens have four opportunities during a board meeting to address the Board of Education on education related topics:

  1. Public Presentations (non-agenda items)
  2. Hearing of Delegations
  3. Public Comments on Action Items
  4. Public Presentations (any topic)



School board meetings are held in the Kenai Peninsula Borough Betty J. Glick Assembly Chambers, 144 N. Binkley St., Soldotna, unless otherwise noted.


KPBSD Inspiration, Homer High School Salmon Sisters

KPBSD Graduate Inspiration
Homer High School | Claire (Laukitis) Neaton (2008) and Emma Teal Laukitis (2009)

 Claire and Emma Teal Laukitis HHS

“Growing up in a small town in Alaska, it is sometimes difficult to know how different life can be outside the state. We both ended up going to college on the East Coast because people in our high school years encouraged us to try something different and helped us imagine what our lives could be like. We came back to Alaska because our time away helped us realize what a special, wild place it is and how lucky we were to grow up in a supportive community like Homer. We had amazing role models growing up here, and will always be grateful for the people who taught and inspired us.” –Claire and Emma Teal, aka the Salmon Sisters


Struggling to find jobs that could accommodate the lifestyle of commercial fishermen, after college Claire and Emma Teal knew they wanted to continue spending the summers on the water with family to harvest wild Alaska seafood. Emma Teal explains,

“There were not many people who wanted to hire someone who disappeared at sea for many months at a time. We had to decide if we were going to stop fishing, or commit to the lifestyle we knew and loved and find odd jobs in the off-season. Around this time we had also started making our first Salmon Sisters designs–and though we were making t-shirts and hoodies mostly for our family and friends–we decided to start taking our work seriously.”

At the University of Vermont Claire studied business, and Emma Teal studied art and design at Williams College and the University of Washington. Emma says, “We combined skills to start the Salmon Sisters business to complement our fishing schedule and be inspired by our work as fishermen. Years later, we are grateful that we made the choice to commit to the community that has always been inspiring to us, to invest in ourselves, and to use the ambiguity of our schedules to do something new and interesting.” Now, Salmon Sisters home base is in Homer, Alaska, Claire and Emma Teal fish for salmon in Prince William Sound, halibut in the Aleutians, and in the winter run Salmon Sisters.

KPBSD teacher and coach stories spawn vision

“We were both really inspired by many of our coaches and teachers in high school who shared their personal experiences as young adults with us,” said Emma Teal. “Whether they ski raced or studied or traveled after high school, their stories helped us form a vision for what kind of work we wanted to do, where we wanted to go to college, and to know what was possible for our future.”

The possibilities continue to expand: in December 2019, Forbes named Emma and Claire in their 30 Under 30 annual list chronicling the brashest entrepreneurs across the United States and Canada.

Salmon Sisters is our way of protecting our community’s way of life and the wild places we love by creating more awareness for it. People outside Alaska are interested in the story of our industry, and we see this as an opportunity to engage and inform them.” –Emma Teal Laukitis

SS 2

“Every day with our business, we celebrate Alaska’s responsibly managed fisheries and the hard work fishermen in our state do to put wild, nutrient-rich seafood on plates around the world,” explains Emma Teal. “Because we grew up with Alaska’s natural abundance, it is easy to take our thriving marine ecosystems for granted–but in truth, Alaska is the last of its kind as fish stocks have declined due to poor management and development. As fishermen, we know that if we want to continue fishing for many generations, we must also be stewards of the resources we depend on.”

Cans of salmon for Alaskans

Growing up, “salmon helped power our bodies as athletes and brains as students,” so to share these benefits with as many young people as possible, Emma Teal and Claire created a program through Salmon Sisters to donate a can of wild salmon caught by Alaskan fishermen to the Food Bank of Alaska with every item the business sells. The donated salmon is distributed across the state and helps support the communities that have supported the business for many years.

Claire and Emma Teal attended Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Homer Middle School, and graduated from Homer High School. Claire attended the University of Vermont, and Emma went to Williams College, and the University of Washington for graduate school.

KPBSD celebrates 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs Emma Teal Laukitis (Class of 2009) and Claire (Laukitis) Neaton (Class of 2008) who are proof positive of the KPBSD mission to empower all learners to positively shape their futures.


“Salmon Sisters strives to make their garments the ones you dress up and dress down, get dirty and wear holes through, because they’re just too cool and comfy to take off. For every product sold, we donate one can of wild salmon to the Food Bank of Alaska.”

Do you have a story tip about a KPBSD graduate to profile in our Wednesday Inspiration? Kindly email Pegge Erkeneff, KPBSD communications liaison,

KPBSD logo 4c today


Flex day: 215 Hours of Community Service Learning


215 Hours of Community Service Learning in Skyview Middle School Flex Day

I.N.S.P.I.R.I.N.G. rippled throughout Kasilof, Soldotna, and Sterling on Thursday, December 14, 2018, when Skyview Middle School students assisted in elementary schools, at the Food Bank, visited Kenai Peninsula College, and visited local Soldotna businesses.

Principal Sarge Truesdell explained,

“The Skyview Middle school staff worked with our students to create a “flex day” for students to experience voice and choice in their 6.5 hour school day. Students provided teachers with feedback about activities they wanted to see offered in the flex day schedule. Administration created a master schedule that included enough academic offerings for students who needed and or wanted extra time to work with their teacher in core academic areas, and provided several enrichment and fun activates in each of the 90-minute blocks. Through an online program created by the KPBSD internet technology department, students selected their academic and enrichment schedule for the day. Along with on campus academic and enrichment actives were also community work service opportunities and field trips. One group of students chose to go to Kenai Peninsula college and tour the campus and dorms, another group chose to donate their time at the Kenai Peninsula Food bank, and 30 Skyview students chose to visit their former elementary schools and spend the day with future Skyview Middle School students!”


Arriving on time at elementary schools and ready to work, the schools created schedules for students. Every elementary school that feeds into Skyview Middle School was enthusiastic to welcome Skyview students in their building. Shanna Johnson, Skyview Middle School teacher said, “The teachers were excited to have them in their room assisting in a myriad of ways. The extra set of hands during a Christmas Fair, was invaluable! These were just a few of the comments given to us. Every time I asked our student, ‘How is it going? Would you do this again?’ A resounding ‘YES’, came from every one of them!”


Sterling Elementary Principal Kelly said that students were super excited to be there this morning. At Soldotna Elementary, a student was working with kindergarten students, building a craft. The schedule was about to change, and Mrs. Murr’s first-second grade combo teacher was looking forward to students “running” a reading group. She planned on modeling how it would be done, and then letting Skyview enthusiasm take over.


The Soldotna Montessori helpers were all assistants at the Christmas Fair, helping the younger students choose a gift. Some were calculating the cost of purchases, others were walking students back to their rooms. Student William Stang said he was looking forward to the next hour block, when he and his friend were going to be in the “Hot Seat,” answering questions about middle school life and how it was different!


At Redoubt Elementary, students read aloud and helped 1:1 as math buddies. K-Beach Elementary students helped everyone get ready for lunch and with outside activities.


Tustumena students had an interesting “no power” morning at the school. They learned what it takes to adapt curriculum and locations. The Skyview assistants helped kindergarteners get geared down from recess, while first grade was reading stories in the library. Sixth grade teacher Mrs. Werner said, “Can we do this again soon? They are doing individualized math tutoring and have been invaluable today!” Fifth grade teacher Mr. Michaels said, “The Skyview student has been an outstanding asset today assisting in small group, we would love to have them again!”


Bill Withrow, Redoubt Elementary principal said,

“All I can say is AWESOME! This has been a tremendous event for everyone involved. Staff at Redoubt has nothing but positive things to say about all the students who have come back to Redoubt and work with students of all ages. We are hoping that this is something that becomes an annual event or even grows to something bigger. Awesome idea!”


“During the flex day we accumulated more than 215 community work service hours,” said Principal Truesdell. “The student flex day at Skyview was created as a pilot to meet the academic needs of our students as well as give kids opportunities to give back to the community. Administration is collecting feedback from our stakeholders to see if we should offer a student flex day multiple times each year. For a number of years the Skyview Middle School site based council had a community work service goal and the student flex day provided the time during the day where students could be off campus working in the community but not miss new academic instruction.”



Photo album on Facebook

KPBSD Inspiration, Kristin (Beck) Bates, Seward High School #ClassOf2004

“A combination of opportunities I had while attending Seward schools sent me into a salmon spiral,” said Kristin Beck Bates, a Seward High graduate who attended Nikiski Elementary, K-Beach Elementary, Seward Elementary, Seward Middle School, and graduated in 2004.

Kristin Bates Seward 2004

KPBSD Inspiration, Kristin (Beck) Bates, Seward High School #ClassOf2004

Kristin, now the hatchery manager at Trail Lakes Hatchery north of Moose Pass, Alaska, explains, “We have 3 million smolt (fingerling) sized fish on site and every day they need to be fed, their tanks cleaned, and monitored. It gives me a daily purpose, and knowing that these sockeye and coho are someday going to fill the freezers of my fellow Alaskans makes me work even harder to make sure they are healthy and happy. When working with live animals, no one ever gets a day off. It is a 24/7 job to make sure we are here in case of emergencies. It may sound corny, but these slimy little critters are family and I enjoy seeing them develop and grow from the moment they are fertilized as eggs to releasing them into the ocean. Saying goodbye is always the hardest part!”


Experiential learning

Participating in Take Your Kid to Work Day (with Phillis Shoemaker) at the Institute of Marine Science (IMS) during elementary school taught Kristin to siphon out king crab tanks at a very young age. A member of the ocean based learning group called Youth Area Watch with teacher Mark Swanson, she said, “A highlight was helping scientists ID orca whales in Resurrection Bay! In high school, I had internships for credit at the Alaska Sealife Center (set up by teacher Dan Krier) and the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery with Jeff Hettrick. I later enjoyed an oceanography class that included a trip to the University of Hawaii, Hilo, where we caught sea cucumbers for research. Seward’s annual Silver Salmon Derby had me star struck every summer catching beautiful coho, but one memory I won’t forget when I was about 15, was going to the Bear Creek Weir near Seward and asking future coworker Cathy Cline how to get a job working with fish and doing what they did with salmon. I remember her saying, ‘stay in school, come back and see me when you are 18,’ and describing how incredible working at the weir was Now at 32, I manage the Bear Creek Weir and look back at all the experiences I had while growing up in KPBSD’s schools!”


Bates believes,
“The world is growing in size and I can use my skills to raise healthy fish to put out into our oceans. By doing the best I can while the small fish are in the hatchery, it means they will have a better chance at surviving their crazy ocean life. I feel like my part is small in the ‘bigger picture’ of salmon resources globally, but in some way I am helping feed the world and Alaskans. I have strong environmental ethics and want to use them to better our great state. I want to work towards making hatcheries more eco-friendly, maximize production through new technology, and work with the local communities to see what ideas they have for bringing fish hatcheries closer to their coastal waters.”


Inspiration: sit on a boat for 20 hours

“Fishing with my Dad as a child in Seward inspired me. I still don’t like to eat bologna and processed American cheese sandwiches, but I could sit out on a boat for 20 hours a day just trying to catch one of those amazing silver salmon! I have other siblings that would opt out of fishing, but I was in the boat every chance I could get. I hold these memories close of me and my Dad. I want every person to be able to fish for salmon on the Kenai Peninsula for many years to come. This drives me to think of new ideas and innovative ways to bring more fish to local waters. A career in fisheries is challenging every day. I am lucky to be practicing my skills right at home here on the Kenai Peninsula. Having my family close, working with salmon stocks that I grew up fishing for, and educating the people in communities that I care about—this really makes my life complete. Because of all of these details, I know that I am right where I am supposed to be. I do not know where my career is going to take me, but as long as I am advocating for the states salmon resources, I know that I will be doing meaningful work for the people of Alaska.”


Life advice for K-12 students

“Stick with it. Looking back it wasn’t as hard as I thought while in the moment. There are teachers who truly care about you—lean on those special ones to give you life advice and help guide your future. Put yourself first. Every time. Lastly, do not lose touch with those teachers who gave you an extra hand. They will not ever stop caring about you and can be a resource well into the future!”

Kristin high school basketball kristin bottom far right-2

Seward High basketball

Heartfelt thank you to Seward High School teachers:
“Through the diverse opportunities you gave me to get out and explore our community and career paths, I found something truly unique. Now I get to directly give back to the Kenai Peninsula in a very humbling way. I could not have done it without you and I strive to make you all proud! Dan Krier, Martha Fleming, Stephanie Cronin, and my many sports coaches, I owe you one for getting me through school! I wanted to quit many times, but because of your dedication to your students, I kept coming back. Special shout out to my Mom, retired (yet still teaching) KPBSD teacher Laura Beck, her special connection to her students and her kids really made me into who I am today: a science nerd, who also loves educating!”


Education beyond KPBSD

  • University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho
    • Fishery Resources: Managing fish populations to ensure that they are healthy and sustainable
    • Wildlife Resources: Managing wildlife resources to make sure populations are healthy and that people and nature can stay balanced overtime.
  • University of Phoenix (2017), MBA. “I wanted to add a higher degree that would make me into a well-rounded employee and manager.”


Connect with Kristin
Kristin began working for Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association (CIAA) in 2014, as the assistant Hatchery Manager at Trail Lakes Hatchery, just north of Moose Pass, Alaska. In 2017, she was promoted to Hatchery Manager. Kristin says, “We raise sockeye (14 million annually) and coho salmon (500,000 annually) for many user groups on the Kenai Peninsula. CIAA provides and protects your salmon resource through hatchery enhancement and habitat rehabilitation and protection.”

Kristin Hidden Lake Sockeye Project-2

Hidden Lake, sockeye enhancement project

Kristin Caribou Hunting-2

Caribou hunting up north off of the Denali Highway


Kristin little league bottom far right -2

Elementary school softball


Kristin Bates close up-2

High School “Close Up” group going to Washington D.C. to learn about government

Kristin Far Left with Outward Bound Volunteer Students-2

Outward Bound students, Trail Lakes Hatchery, summer 2018

KPBSD celebrates Kristin Bates who is proof positive of the KPBSD mission to empower all learners to positively shape their futures.

Do you have a story tip about a KPBSD graduate to profile in our Wednesday Inspiration?
Kindly email Pegge Erkeneff, KPBSD communications liaison,

Net pens hold sockeye smolt in Resurrection Bay

Net pens hold sockeye smolt in Resurrection Bay

Forty-three free public school choices in KPBSD

KPBSD: One district, 43 diverse schools

FY19 school choices in KPBSD

Parents and schools share equally valuable roles in education. Parents and guardians are more than volunteers; they are part of a school’s learning community. Students and parents both have enormous influence in the quality of a child’s education. Research shows that parents and teachers build partnerships that help children succeed. In the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District (KPBSD) you can choose to send your child to:

Superintendent Sean Dusek said, “I believe the diversity of our district is a strength. Our students have many opportunities to share and learn from one another. While there are challenges in serving this diverse district, we also gain many perspectives that support our mission of preparing every student for their future.”

KPBSD Neighborhood Schools
Neighborhood schools offer the district adopted curriculum choices and educate elementary, middle and secondary students. School configurations range from K-2, K-5; K-6; K-8; K-12; 6-8; 6-12; 7-8; and 9-12.

KPBSD Alternative Schools
Alternative schools provide free public school choices for students who have not found success at a traditional school and desire other options to complete their education and receive a high school education:

KPBSD Charter Schools
Charter schools provide free public school choices for students and their families. Attendance is based on a lottery system. Charter schools allow parents, teachers and students to choose an alternative curriculum or program of study. Charter schools also offer a choice to parents who want a style or type of instruction that they believe best fits their child’s needs. KPBSD offers four charter schools:

KPBSD Homeschool
The KPBSD homeschool option provides offices in Homer, Soldotna, and Seward to serve families and students who reside on the Kenai Peninsula. Connections Homeschool is the largest school in the district, and receives the added support from being a part of the KPBSD school district. Students receive a KPBSD high school diploma.

KPBSD Performance-Based School
A performance-based school does not include time in spent in a class or a grade as a variable to consider when determining student advancement. That is, at the end of the school year a student in a performance-based school is not advanced to a new grade. The advancement only occurs after a student has demonstrated proficiency in meeting the standards within the prescribed course of study.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District provides diverse schools in order to meet the educational needs of every student, and develop productive, responsible citizens who are prepared to be successful in a dynamic world. 
To learn more about free public school options in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District:


Community partnerships: a habitat for learning

Tebughna School students bundled up to wade the frosty streams of Tyonek in exploration of baby salmon habitat. Just outside their school building, juvenile salmon flourish in small streams and ponds before heading out to the saltwater to hopefully later return as big, delicious table fare. In a partnership with Project GRAD Kenai Peninsula (PGKP) and the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (KBNERR), Tebughna students were coached to sample salmon and trout using electrofishing, and then sample creek bottoms with kick nets to see what those baby salmon might be eating.


KBNERR researcher Jacob Argueta and KBNERR educator Dana Nelson visited with Tebughna’s K-12 students to provide the equipment and instruction. Following a morning in the field, collected samples were brought back to the school and classrooms were converted to wet labs. Students, staff, and community members were fascinated to discover that the gravel and leaf litter of the creek bottom teemed with thousands of invertebrates- from larval flies to earth worms. Using special magnifying glasses, the captivated students learned how to use dichotomous keys to identify the various organisms collected from the creek a stone’s throw from their classroom.


As part of a research project exploring groundwater recharge, KBNERR is engaging villages in KPBSD to identify how communities value groundwater. Often times, the conversation quickly leads to healthy salmon habitat. Over the course of KBNERR’s two-day visit there were lively discussions regarding how groundwater cycles valuable nutrients into salmon streams.

In addition to introducing the students to research methods and a great field trip, the visit from KBNERR also served as a follow-up to a trip four Tebughna High School students made to Homer. Sharon Jones, Reka Smoke, Alicia Smoke, and Dulcinea Moon had the opportunity to join KBNERR to sample salmon habitat and peatlands near Stariski Creek just north of Anchor Point. Back at Tyonek, the four students presented on their experience and helped lead the KBNERR team in the field with Tebughna’s younger students.


A big thanks is warranted for the KBNERR staff, Native Village of Tyonek, and Tebughna’s staff for coordinating such a high-quality fieldtrip experience delivered to Tebughna School. Fortunately, KBNERR and Tebughna’s relationship will not end here. Future visits and engagement is in the works. Whether an interest in natural resource management or a more resilient commercial fisherman, PGKP’s partnership with KBNERR is providing the stepping-stones from classroom student to community provider.

Thank you to Kenny Daher, Project GRAD Kenai Peninsula, for contributing this story!




KPBSD Inspiration: Jeffrey Dolifka, Class Of 2006

“Take risks and don’t be afraid of failure,” says attorney Jeffrey Dolifka, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, Class of 2006, Skyview High School. “I wish I had figured that out a lot earlier in my life.”

Jeffrey Dolifka Skyview C06

He’s been in the courtroom since he was five, when he’d accompany his father, and sit beneath a table, look at the judge, and play. Now he is an attorney with his dad at Dolifka & Associates, P.C., in Soldotna, Alaska, a practice that includes Estate Planning, Probate, Adoptions, Guardianships, and Real Estate Law. Jeffrey Dolifka, who attended Soldotna Middle School and Skyview High School (Class of 2006) knew in first grade he wanted to be an attorney. As a young child, he would travel to work with his Dad to court in Kenai, Seldovia, and Homer. Jeffrey says, “My father, Dale Dolifka, was the most influential person on my career path. He has been an attorney in our community for over 40 years. He is a great example for me as an attorney and a father, and always prioritized giving back to the community and trying to help those in need.”

Three KPBSD teachers impacted his life, along with Winston Churchill. Dolifka says:


  • Rob Sparks, my history and government teacher. After seven year of college, I still consider him the most influential educator in my life. Mr. Sparks’s designed his classes to challenge students to think outside the box and to challenge the status quo. I learned over and over that if there is an issue or problem that you believe needs changed, it is YOUR job to change it. I spent many classes debating Mr. Sparks. I never imagined it was preparing me for the courtroom and life.
  • Dave Schmidt, my chemistry and biology teacher. Mr. Schmidt would never give up on a student. It did not matter if the student was the valedictorian or about to drop out of high school, he cared about every student and helped them succeed, staying hours after school every day. He helped me through many rough days in high school and was a great role model.
  • Renee Merkes, my math teacher. I would not have graduated from high school without Mrs. Merkes. Math was my worst subject and Mrs. Merkes would stay after school for hours each day and help me with my math homework. She refused to give up on me and I cannot thank her enough.


Jeff Dolifka profile story (7) 

“Take risks and don’t be afraid of failure.”

I was always so afraid of failing and embarrassing myself that I missed a lot of opportunities. The fear of failure causes many people to pass up on opportunities in their life and those missed opportunities can quickly turn into regrets. I wish I had figured that out a lot earlier in my life. I was deathly afraid of public speaking which is tough if you want to be an attorney. A photo of Winston Churchill and his wise counsel kept me going all through college and helped me push through my fear and barriers. Churchill said, ‘Success is the ability to move from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm.’ That insight helped me to move out of state for school, and kept me going at Western Washing University for one year before transferring to Boise State University where I graduated in 2010 with a Degree of Bachelors of Arts (Major in Political Science, Minor in History). Moreover, especially in my studies at the University of Colorado Law School (2013), and anticipating taking the Bar exam—what if I failed? I did pass the Alaska Bar in October of 2013!

When life gets hard, and it will, what will you do?
“Sports taught me lessons to go through horrible times, and prepared me for life lessons. I love to coach basketball, and hope to coach at Skyview Middle School sometime in the next year or two as soon as there is an opening!”

I love fishing. My Mom is an Alaska Native, and starting about four years old, I would go to Ninikchik to fish with my Grandma who instilled a love of fishing in me. Now, during the summer months, you will likely find me somewhere on the river.

Service and volunteering

One of my primary goals is to help children, specifically those who have grown up in tough environments. My parents taught me the value of service, I am involved with several organizations, including the Mae Ciechanski Scholarship Fund*, Kenai River Special Management Area Board, Boys and Girl Club, and I co-chair an advisory committee that is attempting to build a sport complex with an indoor turf field and track.

*High school students, apply for the Mae Ciechanski Scholarship Fund—especially for the trade and vocational tech scholarships. We have a lot of scholarships to award this year!

Soldotna Sports Complex

No stranger to a playing field or basketball court, a big project close to my heart with an important timeline on December 12, is to build a new sports complex in Soldotna. I have been working on the sports complex expansion for over three years. The project has recently taken a step forward to become a reality:

The Soldotna City Council will vote on several ordinances related to the new sports complex at a Soldotna City Council Meeting on December 12, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. The vote will determine whether the City of Soldotna residents will get to vote on the project in early March.

Wherever you live on the Peninsula, if you believe a sports complex would be a beneficial addition to our community, please show up to the meeting and show your support.

When I took the risk to go out of state to college, I never changed my Alaska residency. I knew I wanted to return to this community, where I will raise my family, and give back as best I can.

KPBSD celebrates Mr. Dolifka who is proof positive of the KPBSD mission to empower all learners to positively shape their futures.




Do you have a story tip about a KPBSD graduate to profile in our Wednesday Inspiration? Kindly email Pegge Erkeneff at