Alaska education commissioner calls for unity

FAIRBANKS — The state’s top education official spoke Friday in Fairbanks, encouraging educators and Alaska Native leaders to unify around a common vision for education in Alaska. 

Education Commissioner Michael Johnson spoke at the 2017 Tanana Chiefs Conference Education Summit. 

“What we need to do is create some unity in this state about what we want in an education system,” said Johnson, speaking at the Schaible Auditorium at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“My place at the table is to support your vision,” he added. 

The state is working with school districts to advance public education in a new direction under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new federal policy adopted in 2015. 

A new plan for how to deliver public education in Alaska is being formed in compliance with the new federal law.

Johnson said changes will be driven by school districts and educators. 

“The answer to better schools is sitting here in front of me,” he told the room of nearly 100 people. 

The commissioner also showed a film about technology’s role in improving education in Alaska. 

Johnson will speak to educators again on Monday, three days before school starts, at the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District’s annual welcome back event. 

The TCC Education Summit focused on challenges and opportunities for K-12 education and indigenous language revitalization, among other topics. 

The keynote speaker was Larry Kimura of the Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikolani College of Hawaiian Language, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

Tim Parker, president of the Alaska chapter of the National Education Association, and Rep. David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks, also attended the education summit. 

Trimble Gilbert, Arctic Village’s second traditional chief, gave the invocation.

Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7587. Follow her on Twitter at

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