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School Board Seat E: Trever Shaishnikoff

Courtesy of Trever Shaishnikoff

On this year’s ballot for Unalaska’s Municipal Election, there are three open school board seats, but only two have candidates vying for them. Trever Shaishnikoff is running unopposed for Seat E.

KUCB sat down with Shaishnikoff to hear his take on current district issues and find out more about why he wants to become a school board member.

Take a listen to KUCB’s interview with Shaishnikoff above and find the transcription below. You can also find more information on the Oct. 3 election here.


KUCB: So to get started, tell me a little bit about yourself, and why you're running for school board? What makes you a good candidate.

SHAISHNIKOFF: So I recently switched careers and that allows me a little bit more time to be more involved in the community, and school board is something that I've always been interested in. And I've always been as involved with the school as I could be. I've got — I still have three kids. I've still got two in school. So now that I have the time to run for school board and be more involved, here I am.

KUCB: Great, thank you. So this is a question that we've asked pretty much every year. But the issue of teacher retention seems especially important right now, with several longtime teachers retiring, including Jim Wilson, and some significant turnover among administration over the past couple of years. So my question is, how do you view the issue of teacher retention at UCSD? And what do you think the district could be doing to better support, keep and recruit staff?

SHAISHNIKOFF: So retention is a big problem. I don't think it's just a problem locally. I mean, I think teacher retention is a problem anywhere. I think there's been a lot of burnout in recent years among teachers. And that's definitely something that I'm interested in trying to help the district with — is retain teachers. It's not getting any cheaper to live out here. And that's probably one of the big issues they have with getting teachers to move out here. So yeah, that's definitely one of the issues I'm most interested in, is helping the district come up with ways to retain teachers. Whether that's … I know the city recently, well, not recently, but the city has a travel allowance that they give their employees every year. So maybe the district should look into something like that. But yeah, when I spoke at the school board meeting two meetings ago, that was one of the things I brought up, is that I’d really like to help with retention.

KUCB: And how do you view the school board's relationship with the school and with the community at large? Like, are there areas within the community that you think could be better represented by our district or board? And what are those? And how might you as a school board member better advocate for the community's needs?

SHAISHNIKOFF: I think that the board, right now, I mean, I think the board does a pretty good job at representing the community and serving the community and what they need. And I know the board members that I know, they're good listeners. I think that's very important — to listen to what community members tell you. It sounds like there's going to be one seat that nobody's running for, which is disappointing. So I think the board could do a better job at getting the word out, maybe for open seats. I know that myself and Amanda were the only ones that expressed interest in filling Bob Cumming’s seat. And I think the board could do a little bit better at reaching out to the community to get more interest in the school board.

KUCB: So administration has recently discussed the issue of learning loss following the COVID-19 pandemic, and how that has sort of disproportionately affected English Language Learning students. I'm wondering how you view this issue and how you will — as a board member — help support Unalaska's ELL students, which make up a pretty large portion of the district?

SHAISHNIKOFF: It is a large portion. Yeah, I've heard about this issue. And I think that — I've never heard it described as learning loss — but I'm familiar with it. And yeah, I think that that's a big issue. I know that the school has done a great job — teachers have been willing to make themselves available after hours for study hall, which is something that my kids have taken advantage of. And so I think that, yeah, I think that there should be definitely more time dedicated to the students trying to learn English during school for the ones that need it, and then and then also after school.

KUCB: And so of course, we've got a budget question. We do every year. It’s a big part of being a school board member. So the base student allocation — the BSA — has barely increased over the past decade and Gov. Mike Dunleavy has recently made some statewide cuts to school funding, and that's kind of amid rising costs for education. UCSD has repeatedly asked the city for full funding. They usually get it, but the city has had to do some stretching to grant that funding recently. Now the district has already made some major budget cuts. But what ways do you think district officials could keep up with those rising costs of education in general, as well as on the island, especially amid these statewide cuts and stale funding?

SHAISHNIKOFF: Yeah, so the school is very fortunate that the city has been able to make the funding contributions that they have. And I think everybody in the school is very grateful that the city's able to do that. But yeah, budgets are tight all over the place, I think. I think we need to look at our enrollment and how much enrollment has gone down in the last several years. And I definitely think that … I know, I read an article in KUCB, I think that had mentioned maybe as teachers retire, maybe those positions being absorbed or some sort of consolidation amongst the classes. And I don't know if that happened. But I know that it's been brought up. So with a smaller enrollment — and if enrollment, it seems like it's leveled off — if it were to continue, that's something that could be looked into.

KUCB: Thank you. So, the school district received extra funding this year for activities. And that's an area that I don't think has had an increase in nearly a decade or about a decade. What is the importance of having school activities? And what is your role as a board member in fostering those extracurricular activities?

SHAISHNIKOFF: You know, of course, our school has a big budget for activities and for travel. And it always seems like it's the first thing brought up when people want to cut the budget, is cutting the travel budget. But I am always hesitant about that, because there's so much that our students gain from these extracurricular activities. I know I went to school here, and I participated, you know, years ago, in a lot of student government, I did foreign language, I did sports. And it was all just a really great experience. Those are the things I still think about all these years later. So I am a big supporter of the activities. It's great to see the kids and their coaches doing the fundraisers on Saturday mornings and doing everything they can to raise funds for their activities. But I'm a big, big supporter of the extracurricular activities that we offer.

KUCB: So this next question is something that we've gotten from a community member in the past. And I think it's worth asking again this year, the CDC says, adolescent girls across the nation face record levels of violence and teens who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning, other non heterosexual identities, also experienced high levels of violence and distress. Rates of depression, anxiety, self harm, suicide, those have risen among teens in recent years as well. I'm wondering, do you consider this an issue with Unalaska's youth? And what do you think the school board's role is in addressing that sort of mental health crisis among youth, among students?

SHAISHNIKOFF: So I know that that's an issue nationally, and in other parts of the state for sure. I haven't heard as much about it locally. I think it's important for the school board to make sure that people feel safe and that they have people that they can talk to. You know, that's something that I don't necessarily know a lot about, but I think it's as a school board member — as a potential school board member — I think that it's important to listen to those perspectives and try to make an informed decision. I'm not sure how many school counselors we have on staff or how many people are available for that. But definitely, we need to have enough people. So that everybody that wants help can get it.

KUCB: Okay, and this is my last question before I sort of open it up to you, but I'm just wondering, in general, what areas do you think the district could improve on and how could you help make those improvements as a board member? And that's kind of a two sided question, you know, if there aren't areas that you think need improving, then where does the district shine, I guess?

SHAISHNIKOFF: So, going back to one of your earlier questions, I definitely think the district could do a lot better job on intention, on employee retention. And that's something that I really, really think that I could help the district improve on. Our district does very well statewide. Our students are doing very well, it seems like, and, you know, there's always room for improvement, of course. But definitely, retention, turnover, I think, is a big problem for the district.

KUCBP: And are there specific ways that you ,as a board member — how might you help the district in your role, improve on retention?

SHAISHNIKOFF: Well, I think I would have to listen to the faculty and see what they would like to see — what would help people stay longer. You know, the easy answer would be that, people want to make more money, and I'm sure that they do, but it's not ever that simple. So, we just need to find out if our classrooms are — I don't think this is the case — but if our classrooms are too big, if our teachers are overworked. So, yeah, I think it's something that you just need talk to the faculty and really get a feel for what they want to see and what will keep them in this community.

KUCB: Great. Thank you. So now I just kind of want to open it up to you. Are there things, other things that you want the community to know about you when they go to the polls, or anything maybe that we didn't touch on today that you think that you wanted to address?

SHAISHNIKOFF: Well, I thought you had very good questions. So I think we covered most of those topics. I just want people to know that this community has been great for my family, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to help out this community that's been so good to us.