School board race attracts two candidates for one seat

Voters on Oct. 3 will choose between incumbent Esther Aaltséen Reese and challenger John DeRuyter for a three-year term on the school board.

It is the only one of five school board seats on this year's ballot.

Reese, tribal administrator for the Wrangell Cooperative Association, is finishing her first year on the board after winning election last October, when she was unopposed.

DeRuyter, in his third year on the secondary school advisory committee, is making his first run for office in Wrangell.

If elected, DeRuyter said his primary goal is that the board always respond to public comments and questions.

"In my mind, the board has a responsibility at the very least" to respond to the public, including explaining when the board cannot follow through on someone's suggestion.

DeRuyter is "scaled-back retired," with a doctorate in clinical psychology, though he still has a few patients in his private practice.

When he first volunteered for the advisory committee, "only a few people were coming" to the meetings, where they would listen to the principal's report and then go home. "There was no advisory stuff going on," he said. "Nothing was brought to our attention to weigh in on."

DeRuyter said, "I started asking, 'What are we doing here?'"

Starting the middle of the past school year, the committee began to focus on what it could do to help, he said. The group has since expanded from four members to nine.

Recent discussion topics for the committee have included sharing community concerns and verifying that the district has adequate procedures in place to determine when weather conditions are not safe for student travel by boat to out-of-town events.

In early 2022, the advisory panel recommended that the school district discontinue its face mask mandate as COVID cases had declined. The school board voted to make masks optional, starting March 2022.

Reese, who has been with WCA since 2014, the past six years as tribal administrator, did not respond to the Sentinel in time for this report. In her campaign interview last year, she said she wanted to see more family involvement in school activities, and more collaboration between the school district, borough, WCA and other entities such as the U.S. Forest Service.


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