Shungnak School welcomes Lisa Murkowski
On Aug. 25, the boat in which Sen. Lisa Murkowski sailed in on the Kobuk River slowly docked on the shores of the Shungnak beach, where she was greeted by students and the community. Posters of all sizes and colors swayed from side to side, forward and backwards by students and community members awaiting her arrival. Everyone there was eager to welcome the senator and her staff to Shungnak.
As she disembarked, Sen. Murkowski acknowledged everyone in attendance from the boat. Once ashore the senator greeted the long line of constituents one-by-one until everyone was given the opportunity to meet her. The senator then began her walk to the school, walking along the beach and up a flight of stairs that had recently been reconstructed. She was led by youth leaders, students and community members. During her walk, the senator chatted with Shungnak's youth leader captain Justin Custer about the village and school.
Soon after arriving at the school, Sen. Murkowski began her one-hour and 48-minute tour with everyone in tow.
Sen. Murkowski summed up her visit stating five take a-ways.
She was extremely impressed with the structure the students displayed as she received a dose of CHAMPs from the third- and fourth-grade class where she was witness to the behavioral framework of safe and civil.
She was fascinated by the fourth- and fifth-grade class' academic rigor in math using the journey curriculum and the use of the time clock for students to clock in/out. Students explained the objective behind the time clocks; how it teaches real-life check and balances. Further, the students explained the necessity of learning math because it applies to real-life application such as earning a wage at the end of the week for that pay period and figuring out how much of their wages go to paying taxes and other deductions.
The 90 percent parents attendance system established by the school using a time clock for parents to clock in and out when they visit the school was just as amazing as the previous two points. The senator asked the purpose for clocking in/out and as community members explained, it was to calculate the time that parents devote visiting the school to support the academic framework, Inupiaq Traditions, Safe and Civil and work on community concerns together; she thought it was a phenomenal idea.
The senator was also impressed by the mobile library that each student has access to on their own individual IPad issued to them by the school district. The mobile library was made possible by the School Improvement Grant the school was awarded in January.
Lastly, the senator noted the importance of the Shungnak mantra "It's a 'We.'" It is unparalleled to anything else she has seen before, the senator stated. The value it has, what it means to a community and how it has helped support and drive home the importance of education in the village of Shungnak is something great, she said. She also quoted the signs on the walls that displayed the statements, "education comes first and "education is a job."
Overall, Sen. Murkowski's visit to the village of Shungnak was an extraordinary event. Her down-to-earth demeanor and sincere attention to the students, the community's accomplishments and needs was noticed. We can only hope that the small Native Village of Shungnak has impressed upon her the hard work we have made over the last five years.
Roger Franklin is the principal of the Shungnak School.