Aaron McCollum, Nikiski Middle-High School #ClassOf2018

Nikiski High School Aaron McCollum Class of 2018

Aaron McCollum
Nikiski Middle-High School, Class of 2018

Aaron McCollum is a student who has positively influenced the staff, students and community of Nikiski. Aaron has excelled in academics, athletics, and leadership activities in his time at NMHS. He does not always do things the traditional way, which sums up his leadership activities. Aaron was able to lead his peers through multiple Student Led Education (Ed) Camps (SLEC) in an activity he first learned when he was a sophomore in Darren Zibell’s World History class, Micro Nations. He presented different strategies and information in this venue to fellow students while playing the popular board game, Risk. Only this time it had a twist: it was Human Risk where the participants acted out the fictional battles on stage with the culminating event being a Nerf Battle version of Capture the Flag. He consistently had 35 to 40 students sign up for his SLEC, which was a testament to his leadership skills.

Athletically, his abilities were on full display at Track and Field State Championships. He completed his career as a three time state champion (triple jump and as the anchor to the 4×100 and 4×200 relay teams). Most notably, his triple jump state championship came on the final jump of his high school career, a 41’1” personal record. Aaron has enlisted in the Army as a satellite communications specialist and after his commitment is complete, will enroll in Embry Riddle Aeronautical University to study engineering. “With his demonstrated leadership abilities, I am proud to have Aaron graduate from Nikiski High and serve our country in the United States Army,” said Principal Dan Carstens. Congratulations, Aaron!

Facebook: Nikiski Middle-High School

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District www.KPBSD.org

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Verina Ukatish, Nanwalek School #ClassOf2018

Nanwalek Verina Ukatish Class of 2018

Verina Ukatish
Nanwalek School, Class of 2018

Verina Ukatish is the Nanwalek Class of 2018 Valedictorian. When faced with life challenges, Verina takes those head on and most often with a smile. She is an excellent advocate for herself and a role model for her peers. She has worked in many youth and community programs, including the Nanwalek Summer Youth Program, the Kenatize Tribe Workforce Intern Program at their Head Start Program, many Project GRAD sponsored activities including Summer College Institute, Career Institute, and Leadership Institute. She has been active in Kenai Peninsula Native Youth Leadership Program and served as the Nanwalek KPNYL Student Advisor Assistant and one of their representatives at the Alaska Federation of Natives Conference in 2016.

Verina is planning to take a gap year, and then going to school to become a certified nurse’s assistant. She has an entrepreneurial and creative spirit that she hopes to use after graduation by opening a coffee cart in Nanwalek. When Verina makes up her mind to do something she will not let anything stand in the way. She has already contributed so much to her school, peers, family, and community it will be exciting to see her continue to grow as a leader.

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Kenai Peninsula Borough School District www.KPBSD.org

Amber Bridgeman, Homer Flex School, Class of 2018

Homer Flex Amber Bridgeman Class of 2018

Amber Bridgeman
Homer Flex School, Class of 2018

During her junior year, due to unforeseen circumstances, Amber Bridgeman faced the tough decision to follow her family to Hawaii or stay in Alaska to complete her high school diploma. She opted to transfer to Homer Flex, and she made the most of her decision. Amber quickly demonstrated that she possesses the maturity to manage both her personal life and school on her own. A hard worker and an organized student, Amber decided to take Jumpstart courses during her senior year at the Kachemak Bay Campus. This self-motivation and commitment to her future inspired the students around her, and has guided her on the path to post-secondary education in the health sciences.

Amber will attend a CNA program in Anchorage this summer. Granted full funding to complete the program through a migrant education scholarship, Amber plans to continue her post-secondary education at UAA-KBC in the nursing program next year. She is also the recipient of the Kachemak Bay Rotary Club’s Vocational Scholarship as well as the Homer Emblem Club #350’s Scholarship. Given her determination and focus, there is no doubt that she will find success.

Facebook: Homer Flex School

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District www.KPBSD.org

Brittany Gilman, Kenai Central High School #ClassOf2018

Kenai Central High School Brittany Gilman Class of 2018

Brittany Gilman
Kenai Central High School, Class of 2018

It was 1972 when Brittany Gilman’s KPBSD legacy began. Her grandmother Marj was a teacher in the school district followed by many other family members. It is now 2018 and Brittany is the last to follow the rest of siblings and parents as being a KPBSD graduate.

Beginning with Sears Elementary Brittany has attended KPBSD schools since Kindergarten. Thinking back, she remembers fondly Mr. and Mrs. Knudsen in Elementary school and Rosemary Bird in Junior High. She describes them as teaching love and empathy: “you could tell they cared about you outside the classroom,” she says. She is an excellent example of stellar academics, is musically gifted, and is very involved in the community. Brit is one of the KCHS valedictorians; she is the first chair of sopranos in Chamber Choir, she served on student council every year, earned All-State choir titles, and was the only Alaska student at Nationals her junior year. Performing at Carnegie Hall and Sydney Opera house with the Honors Performance Series is the highlight of her high school career.

As this community has been important to her family for so many years, Brittney has involved herself in four to six plays a year with Kenai Performers, Triumvirate Theatre, and Encore Dance Studios. She is also involved in church activities and volunteers as needed for a variety of events.

Brittany will continue her education at New York University, majoring in Music Education. She intends to obtain a K-12 certification in Music Education and become a Choir teacher. Looking back on her time in KPBSD and the teachers she has worked with she says, “I love them, I do, everyone is so sweet and they teach good family values and they highlight the importance of education and where it can take you.”

Principal Alan Fields said, “KCHS will miss you Brittany, but we are so proud of your accomplishments and what your future holds.”

Kenai Central High School Facebook
Kenai Peninsula Borough School District www.KPBSD.org

Suzanne LaBelle, Port Graham School #ClassOf2018

Port Graham School Suzanne LaBelle Class of 2018

Suzanne LaBelle
Port Graham School, Class of 2018

Suzanne LaBelle is the Port Graham School Class of 2018 Valedictorian. Suzanne is compassionate and curious, traits that will serve her well in the future. When opportunities come Suzanne’s way, she rarely lets them go by without grabbing on. She has participated in numerous extracurricular leadership skills programs including a Chugach School District Voyage to Excellence camp where she rode 300 miles on bike in California. She was also the very first high school cross-country athlete to represent Port Graham School. When she thinks about being the first in her village to do this she states, “I felt really accomplished in being the first cross country athlete in Port Graham. I want other students to put themselves out there and participate in new experiences.”

In the fall, she will be attending the University of Alaska Anchorage to pursue a nursing degree. She understands that nursing is one of the most competitive fields to get into, but also one of the most highly needed—especially in Alaska. Someday she hopes to use her degree in pediatrics or another specialization. If Suzanne continues to explore the world and take chances in order to grow, there is nothing she cannot accomplish.

Connect with Port Graham School on Facebook

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District www.KPBSD.org

Superintendent Dusek on Borough Special Assembly Meeting

KPBSD logo 4c todaySuperintendent Dusek invites you to contact your Borough Assembly representative for your district, or attend the Borough Special Assembly Meeting on July 6, 2018, at 6:00 PM, to offer your comments about funding for Kenai Peninsula K-12 schools, and the $652k funding veto for the school year beginning July 1, 2018.

The Borough special assembly meeting action items will discuss:

  • Mayor’s FY19 Budget Line Item Veto School District Operations $652,609
  • Mayor’s FY19 Budget Line Item Veto Peninsula Promotions $206,000

“All interested persons are invited to attend the meeting. Written comments may be emailed to assemblyclerk@kpb.us or mailed to the Assembly, c/o Borough Clerk, 144 N. Binkley Street, Soldotna, AK 99669.”

Superintendent Dusek wants you to know:

“While I am disappointed with the Mayor’s veto of $652,609, I am confident that the Mayor and Assembly support KPBSD and have made a significant investment already, for which we are very thankful. We support the other entities that the borough funds because we are all a part of the larger puzzle that provides an excellent place to live and work. The positive results we get support the economic engine in this borough—and others are able to share that information to attract visitors and new families to the peninsula to promote more growth.”

Why is the $652k important now?
Superintendent Dusek explains,

“The school district was going to specifically utilize these additional funds to address mental health issues with younger students—schools have responsibility now more than ever for wrap-a-round services to support students to be ready to learn, and to provide a safe learning environment. We had set plans in motion for the $652k to hire three itinerant elementary counselors to begin serving our students when school starts in August, and contract with one clinical psychologist. Additionally, our intent was to contract with a school safety specialist to review our schools. The remainder would help offset the remaining deficit after our fund balance usage.”

KPBSD FY19 Deficit and Budget Update (June 27, 2018)

Since 2015, the school district has been making budget reductions, and used General Fund Balance reserves to offset deficits totaling $12,575,312 million.

FY19 KPBSD deficit:                                     3,356,161

Planned Use of General Fund Balance:          1,318,109

Additional one-time funds from State:           1,405,152*
*this one-time funding allowed KPBSD to keep current pupil-teacher ratios (PTR) in classrooms

In late June, the school district learned about potential funds from the State of Alaska related to a PERS and TRS forfeiture from the state for defined contributions for employees spanning a twelve-year period. The district is awaiting details and guidance from the state for the actual portion of the $945,275.36 that could become a “credit on the books” and reassigned to the general fund.

Superintendent Dusek states,

“I believe in the future of this borough and look forward to working with the Mayor and Assembly to develop a fiscally responsible, long-term plan to continue to grow our communities. The future is bright and I believe this because I get to work with our future everyday–our students.”

If you have a friend who would find this information helpful, kindly share it.

The Future is Bright in KPBSD


KPBSD will inspire all learners to pursue their dreams in a rigorous, relevant and responsive environment.

Alexandrea Moseley, Homer High School #ClassOf2018

Homer High Alexandrea Moseley Class of 2018 wrestling

Alex wrestles and wins during the Round Robin Rumble in Homer, Alaska, on October 21, 2017

Alexandrea “Alex” Moseley
Homer High School, Class of 2018

Alexandrea Moseley, or Alex to her teammates, is continuing the Homer High School legacy of female wrestling. She started wrestling on a whim her sophomore year and liked it so much she stuck with it through adversity. Although she did not win many matches the first few years, her persistence and hard work gained traction. She became a student of the sport, went to summer camps and participated in large out-of-state tournaments. The result is a winning record against the boys and a 2017 Alaska State Championship at 126, and a wrestling scholarship to Adrian University in Michigan!

Homer High Alexandrea Moseley Class of 2018 XC

Photo: Alex paints her freshmen teammate, Brook Miller, at the 2017 Cross Country State Championships where they were State Runner-ups. Alex was also a member of three state championship running teams, and one wrestling championship team throughout her career at HHS.

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Kenai Peninsula Borough School District www.KPBSD.org

Isaiah Trevino, Kenai Alternative School #ClassOf2018

Kenai Alt School Isaiah Trevino

Isaiah Trevino
Kenai Alternative School, Class of 2018

Isaiah Trevino is one of the twenty-five graduates to walk the handshaking, hugs, and celebration line at Kenai Alternative’s graduation ceremony in 2018. Two years ago, Isaiah came to Kenai Alternative looking for a different school environment. The shorter rotation schedule offered him the opportunity to grow and achieve in his classes, and it was not long before he started taking leadership roles within the school community. Isaiah would often speak up at the daily morning meetings to encourage other students to arrive to school on time, and get their grades up. As time grew closer towards graduation, Isaiah began developing his post-secondary plans. In the fall, he plans to move to New Mexico where he will start working and attending school. Principal Loren Reese said, “We look forward to hearing great things about his future successes!”

Kenai Alt Class of 2018

Kenai Alternative School

Borough Mayor vetoes 652k in school funding

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor vetoes $652k of school funding

June 19, 2018, Soldotna, Alaska—Today, Borough Mayor Pierce introduced two funding vetoes for the Borough budget beginning in less than a month. The Borough Assembly meets tonight, and one veto directly affects school district funding.

Mayor Charlie Pierce said this in the memorandum to decrease funding to Kenai Peninsula Borough schools by $652,609: 

“Including this amount in the budget for school district operations would reduce the general fund, fund balance to an amount that is, in my view, too close to the recommended minimum fund balance to be financially prudent. Had the funds been appropriated from the Land Trust Fund I would not have taken this action.”

  • The school district hoped to add mental health counselors and school security measures with the $652k funding appropriation from the Borough. Plans were already in motion, and these important measures would have taken effect beginning July 1, 2018.
  • The veto announced today would increase the FY19 school district overall deficit to more than two million dollars.
  • Tonight is an opportunity to provide your thoughts during public testimony. The Tuesday, June 19, 2018, Assembly Meeting begins at 6:00 PM in the Borough Assembly Chambers, 144 N. Binkley Street, Soldotna, Alaska 99669.

The school district is hopeful Borough Assembly members and Borough administration will resolve their budget prior to the start of the KPBSD fiscal year in 12 days.


Budget cuts

Jode Sparks, Soldotna High School, #Classof2018

Jode Sparks
Soldotna High School, Class of 2018

Soldotna High Jode Sparks Class of 2018
“Jode Sparks is a remarkable leader who genuinely cares for the needs of others,” said Principal Tony Graham. In Jode’s words,

“Community is not a location—rather, it is the result of a group of people caring about the same thing and caring about each other.”

A former United States Senate Page, and Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Student Ambassador, Jode is involved in many activities promoting good things for our community and good things for our state. In the Soldotna Unified Track team, he participates alongside special education students in track and field events. In the Alaska Youth for Environmental Action—a diverse group of high school students from across the state—Jode works with young people to advocate, and speak up in the political system. This led him to his future studies.

In the fall, Jode will attend the University of Chicago, pursuing degrees in Public Policy and Environmental Studies. Everyone at Soldotna High School is excited to see him begin the next phase of his life, and we wish him the best!