James SmallwoodRunning for Anchorage School Board, District 16
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign Website: jamessmallwood.com
Campaign Twitter: @votesmallwood
Campaign Facebook: @JamesSmallwoodforSchool Board
Date of Birth: 04/28/1978
Place of Birth: Concord, MA
Graduation Date: 2007 Portland State University
Graduate Study: Liberty University
What organizations are you affiliated with and how?
Russian Jack Community Councils Delegate
Safe Families for Children/ Beacon Hill
NAACP Education Committee Member
Former Chair of the Alaska Black Caucus
Have you served in the U.S. Military?
What is your motivation in running for School Board?
I’m running because all kids can succeed when we make education a priority. As a school board member, I believe every decision of the school board should always center around student achievement.
What in your background makes you qualified to be on the School Board?
As a parent of two children that are part of the Anchorage School District, a Community Leader, an Education Advocate, a former ASD Substitute Teacher, Youth Pastor, Business Owner, and Anchorage School Board Academy Graduate.
What is the biggest issue facing Anchorage schools and how would you suggest solving it?
Reading proficiency is the biggest issue facing the Anchorage School District. I am hoping that legislation coming out of Juneau will be a benefit for all Anchorage students.
Where are you from? What brought you to Alaska?
I was born in Concord, Ma. However, because my dad was in the military, he was station at Fort. Richardson in the early 80s.
What issue isn’t getting enough attention today in schools that is likely to become a problem later?
I think the issue of student attendance is a subject that has not gotten enough attention. If we are going to have student success, the first thing that we need to look at is there attendants.
If you could have dinner with any famous Alaskan — living or dead — who would it be?
I always have dinner with two of what I consider to be famous Alaskans every night. That is my two boys. They might not be “Alaskan famous,” but they’re pretty popular in our house around my neighborhood. I’m just their groupie.
Who was your favorite teacher? Why?
Other than my parents, this a challenging question just because I have had great experiences with a lot of Anchorage School Teachers. I would say to every teacher I had at Wonder Park, Nunaka Valley, Clark, and East High, thank you for all that you have done for me. You’re my favorite teacher.
What’s the best part about living in Anchorage
I love that Anchorage is a small and a big town feel to it. The best part would also be living on the Eastside of Anchorage. That is where I grew up and where I am living today in the same neighborhood.
What is your position on charter schools?
What makes ASD so unique things are that we have public/alternative schools. It gives parents an opportunity to find a school that fits their child’s learning style. I do think there are barriers preventing parents and students from participating in some of the alternative public schools. That’s one issue I would like to address.
What is your favorite book? Why?
I like to read my daily devotional/ Bible in the mornings. I just got done reading “Talking to Strangers” by Malcolm Gladwell.
What was the last song that got stuck in your head?
I’m a Star Wars fan, so the Imperial March song gets stuck in my head sometimes.
What do you believe are the core responsibilities for someone elected to this office?
I think that some of our elected officials forget that they are to be public servants. Public officials should always remember that it’s not about them, but it’s about making a difference in someone’s life. Their core responsibility is to serve the people.
What is one thing that can be done to improve test scores in Anchorage schools?
Are Anchorage schools better off now than they were two years ago? Why or why not?
What is your day job?
In the health insurance industry during the day, a Schoolkid pickup driver in the afternoon and Dad in the evening.
What is your ultimate political ambition?
I know it might sound cheesy, but it’s who I am and what I believe. I asked myself the question all the time how I can make a difference in someone’s life. That is my ambition.
Do you believe Anchorage teachers are adequately paid?
Many teachers have expressed to me that they have a hard time with the current retirement structure. I think if we can fix that at the state level, it would help a lot with the retention.