Winter in Unalaska by Sam Zmolek
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School Board Seat C: Bob Cummings

My wife Megan Sarnecki and I, along with our two young children Indira and Kaz, moved to Unalaska/Dutch Harbor in 2016. Two main draws for us were the community spirit and the great schools.  I stepped away from my environmental engineering career to spend more time with our children which has created time to become active in our community. I serve on the Library Advisory Committee, the PCR Advisory Board and am a volunteer EMT with the Fire Department. After living for two years in rural Bolivia working with communities to provide better access to clean water as a Peace Corps volunteer, the impact of strong communal institutions was evident. Communities with strong civil societies provided a better quality of life for their residents.  I am grateful that we live amongst an extraordinary people and institutions that make this community a joy to live in.  I strive to contribute to this community by working to make Unalaska an even better place to live, work, and be a child. 

I am passionate about education and am a life-long learner.  I am involved in the schools as parent to a first and a second-grader at Eagle’s View Elementary, but I have also volunteered for the Unalaska City School District (UCSD) budget committee for two years (2017, 2018) and last year I substitute taught.   

While UCSD currently provides a great education to the youth of Unalaska, great threats loom on the horizon. Earlier this year the administration in Juneau proposed a 19% cut to K-12 funding even though the previous legislature had forward funded education for the current school year. The battle over forward funding will be decided in the courts and the reduction in funding did not occur – yet. However, the intent is clear – severely reduce funding for K-12 education. 

These funding issues will most likely force some difficult decisions that will have long-term implications for education in Unalaska.  While the funding landscape will be challenging going forward, I will be focused on improving the educational experience for all students.  I would like to see more community and student input to the school board. I would like to see more partnerships between the school and the community. This community is filled with people, businesses, and organizations with amazing opportunities to offer our youth. We need to find ways to make more of these connections.  Unalaska is an amazingly diverse place with a group of exceptional students that have varied interests and dreams. I want to work to provide educational experiences that give our students the knowledge, skills, and mindset to allow our students to transform their dreams into reality. 

It is extremely difficult to provide an outstanding educational experience in rural Alaska. It is a testament to the administration, teachers and school board along with the amazing support from the City of Unalaska and the community that UCSD is an elite school district.  It would be an honor to represent this community on the school board to continue this great work.