Legislature(2019 - 2020)BUTROVICH 205

04/09/2019 09:00 AM EDUCATION

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Audio Topic
09:00:31 AM Start
09:00:46 AM Confirmation Hearing(s): Professional Teaching Practices Commission
10:31:12 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Consideration of Governor's Appointees: TELECONFERENCED
Professional Teaching Practices Commission:
- Todd Smoldon - Willow
- Tammy Van Wyhe - Glenallen
- Janine Todd - Delta Junction
- Chris Reitan - Craig
-- Public Testimony on All Appointees --
<Bill Hearing Canceled>
-- Public Testimony --
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
              SENATE EDUCATION STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                         April 9, 2019                                                                                          
                           9:00 a.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Gary Stevens, Chair                                                                                                     
Senator Shelley Hughes, Vice Chair                                                                                              
Senator Chris Birch                                                                                                             
Senator Mia Costello                                                                                                            
Senator Tom Begich                                                                                                              
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
CONFIRMATION HEARING(S):                                                                                                        
Professional Teaching Practices Commission                                                                                    
Todd Smoldon - Willow                                                                                                           
Tammy Van Wyhe - Glenallen                                                                                                      
Janine Todd - Delta Junction                                                                                                    
     - CONFIRMATION(S) ADVANCED                                                                                                 
SENATE BILL NO. 56                                                                                                              
"An  Act  relating  to health  education  and  physical  activity                                                               
requirements for  students in grades kindergarten  through eight;                                                               
and establishing  the Thursday in February  immediately following                                                               
Presidents' Day as PLAAY Day."                                                                                                  
     - BILL HEARING CANCELED                                                                                                    
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
No previous action to record                                                                                                    
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
JANINE TODD, Appointee                                                                                                          
Professional Teaching Practices Commission                                                                                      
Delta Junction, Alaska                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified as appointee to the Professional                                                                
Teaching Practices Commission.                                                                                                  
TAMARA VAN WYHE, Appointee                                                                                                      
Professional Teaching Practices Commission                                                                                      
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified as  appointee to  the Professional                                                             
Teaching Practices Commission.                                                                                                  
TODD SMOLDON, Appointee                                                                                                         
Professional Teaching Practices Commission                                                                                      
Willow, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified as  appointee to  the Professional                                                             
Teaching Practices Commission.                                                                                                  
PATRICK MAYER, President                                                                                                        
Alaska Superintendents Association                                                                                              
Alaska Council of School Administrators;                                                                                        
Yakutat School District                                                                                                         
Yakutat, Alaska                                                                                                                 
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supported confirmation  of Chris  Reitan and                                                             
Tamara   Van  Wyhe   to  the   Professional  Teaching   Practices                                                               
MATT EISENHOWER, President                                                                                                      
Ketchikan School Board                                                                                                          
Ketchikan, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION  STATEMENT:  Shared  his district's  experience  on  the                                                             
Professional Teaching Practices Commission's role in Alaska.                                                                    
BRITTANY HARTMANN, Legislative Liaison                                                                                          
Department of Education and Early Development (DEED)                                                                            
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION  STATEMENT:  Answered  question about  the  Professional                                                             
Teaching Practices Commission budget.                                                                                           
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
9:00:31 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  GARY   STEVENS  called   the  Senate   Education  Standing                                                             
Committee meeting  to order at 9:00  a.m. Present at the  call to                                                               
order were  Senators Costello, Birch,  Hughes, Begich,  and Chair                                                               
^CONFIRMATION   HEARING(S):   Professional   Teaching   Practices                                                               
                    CONFIRMATION HEARING(S):                                                                                
           Professional Teaching Practices Commission                                                                       
9:00:46 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  STEVENS  announced  the consideration  of  the  governor's                                                               
appointees  to  the  Professional Teaching  Practices  Commission                                                               
(PTPC).  He asked  Janine  Todd  to speak  to  the strengths  she                                                               
brings to the  commission, why she is interested  in serving, and                                                               
any goals she may have.                                                                                                         
9:01:47 AM                                                                                                                    
JANINE   TODD,   Appointee,   Professional   Teaching   Practices                                                               
Commission,  Delta Junction,  provided her  background, including                                                               
that  next  month  she  will  have completed  her  33rd  year  of                                                               
teaching. She said that she has  spent the past 28 years with the                                                               
Delta Greely  School District.  She offered  her belief  that she                                                               
brings discernment  to the commission. While  it is heartbreaking                                                               
to think of teachers losing  their certifications, it is critical                                                               
for teachers' actions  to follow the code of  ethics. She offered                                                               
her  belief  that  she  has  the ability  to  analyze  the  facts                                                               
presented in  cases and to  make the hard decisions  necessary to                                                               
protect students, staff, and the profession.                                                                                    
She was  appointed in June  to fill  a teacher's position  on the                                                               
commission.  Along   with  Melody  Mann,  the   PTPC's  executive                                                               
director, she  attended a conference  in Portland, Maine,  of the                                                               
National Association of State Directors  of Teacher Education and                                                               
Certification (NASDTEC),  which is a clearing  house for checking                                                               
on teacher  backgrounds. She learned  a significant  amount about                                                               
professional   teaching  practices   from   legal  and   teaching                                                               
professionals. She also heard from  victims about their traumatic                                                               
experiences and recovery processes.                                                                                             
MS. TODD said that  it has been a privilege to  serve on the PTPC                                                               
for the  past seven months. It  has given her the  opportunity to                                                               
give back to her profession. She  offered her sense that the PTPC                                                               
often  has been  viewed  negatively  since it  is  the body  that                                                               
imposes  sanctions  and  revokes  certificates  of  teachers  who                                                               
engage in illegal and unethical  conduct. However, the commission                                                               
helps to safeguard students and  staff, she said. This commission                                                               
ensures that the  best possible educators are  providing the best                                                               
education to their students. The  PTPC also provides input on the                                                               
teacher preparation  program, the certification process,  and the                                                               
application  for teacher  certification.  For  example, the  PTPC                                                               
changed the teacher  application forms to make it  easier for Ms.                                                               
Mann to  identify people  who should  not seek  teacher positions                                                               
based  on  their  history.  The  PTPC  also  offers  professional                                                               
development to districts  on the PTPC's role and  function and on                                                               
the code  of ethics.  From her perspective,  the PTPC  works very                                                               
well.  She  said that  issues  are  reported, investigations  are                                                               
conducted,  and  decisions  are made.  The  commission  has  made                                                               
positive  strides  in  improving its  reputation  throughout  the                                                               
state.  She  highlighted  her  goal  to  increase  awareness,  so                                                               
teachers know about  the PTPC and the  commission's role. Second,                                                               
she  would  like  to  change  attitudes, so  when  the  PTPC  was                                                               
mentioned, rather  than being  viewed as  "police" that  the word                                                               
"advocate" would come to mind.                                                                                                  
CHAIR  STEVENS  said  the committee  lacks  knowledge  about  the                                                               
commission's function  and role.  He asked  whether the  PTPC has                                                               
revoked any  teacher certificates  during her short  time serving                                                               
on the commission.                                                                                                              
MS.  TODD explained  the  PTPC's process.  When  cases are  first                                                               
reported to  the PTPC, the  executive director,  investigates and                                                               
make  recommendations to  the  commission.  The commission  would                                                               
review  the  evidence  and confirm  the  director's  decision  or                                                               
reject it  and propose its own  decision. She said that  thus far                                                               
she has only been involved  in one-year suspensions. She said she                                                               
initially  thought that  most cases  relate to  teacher or  staff                                                               
offenses against  children or immoral  behavior, but  most relate                                                               
to breaking contracts.                                                                                                          
CHAIR  STEVENS   said  that  all   teachers  are  aware   of  the                                                               
commission,  but often  outsiders are  not. He  remarked that  it                                                               
would be good for people to know the commission exists.                                                                         
9:08:57 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BIRCH  pointed  out  Ms.  Todd's  affiliation  with  the                                                               
National  Education  Association  (NEA), the  union  representing                                                               
many of  the teachers. He  asked about the interplay  between the                                                               
commission,  school  districts,  e.g.,  the  employees,  and  the                                                               
union. He said  he assumed inappropriate behavior  would first be                                                               
reported to  the employer.  He asked how  the commission  and the                                                               
employee's union representative would become involved.                                                                          
MS.  TODD related  her understanding  that  anyone, including  an                                                               
administrator,  could report  a complaint  directly to  the PTPC.                                                               
She explained  that the PTPC  can be used  in many ways,  such as                                                               
determining  whether  a  teacher  has any  violations  that  were                                                               
investigated by the  PTPC. She has been a [NEA]  union member her                                                               
whole  career.   She  viewed  participation  in   a  professional                                                               
organization, such  as the NEA,  as important. Staff  members can                                                               
bring issues to  the [NEA] to seek help. However,  the union does                                                               
not supersede  any code of ethics.  Any violation of the  code of                                                               
ethics would be reported to  the PTPC for investigation. In fact,                                                               
the  union   would  not   intervene  or   interfere  in   a  PTPC                                                               
investigation, she said. The [NEA's]  role is to enforce contract                                                               
issues, not code of ethics issues.                                                                                              
SENATOR  BIRCH said  he  found that  helpful.  The committee  has                                                               
previously heard that  many first-time teachers come  from out of                                                               
state  because the  state cannot  produce enough  teachers within                                                               
Alaska.  He asked  whether the  PTPC  would retrieve  information                                                               
outside  of   Alaska  on   teaching  practices   for  prospective                                                               
MS.  TODD  answered  that   the  commission  conducts  background                                                               
checks.  She   highlighted  that  the  PTPC   uses  the  National                                                               
Association  of   State  Directors   of  Teacher   Education  and                                                               
Certification (NASDTEC),  which is  a national  clearinghouse and                                                               
repository  for  actions  taken   against  educator  licenses  or                                                               
certificates.  The districts  and the  PTPC can  use the  PTPC to                                                               
check   potential  employees   since   the   teachers  with   any                                                               
disciplinary actions are flagged.                                                                                               
SENATOR BIRCH asked if the  NASDTEC was primarily a clearinghouse                                                               
for educators.                                                                                                                  
MS.  TODD responded  that NASDTEC  pertains to  teacher education                                                               
and certification. She said she  did not believe NASDTEC included                                                               
classified employees, such as teacher aides.                                                                                    
9:13:11 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  STEVENS  asked  what time  commitment  members  make  when                                                               
serving on the PTPC.                                                                                                            
MS.  TODD replied  that she  has  not yet  attended a  commission                                                               
hearing. The hearing  would be more like a court  case, she said.                                                               
Typically,  the PTPC  holds three  scheduled meetings  during the                                                               
school year  that span one or  two days, depending on  the number                                                               
of cases  on the agenda, she  said. Prior to the  meeting members                                                               
receive a packet  of information in preparation  for the meeting.                                                               
This  information  must  be  destroyed  after  members  read  the                                                               
packets, due to confidential information, she said.                                                                             
SENATOR BEGICH asked what the phrase "breaking contract" means.                                                                 
MS.  TODD  replied it  pertained  to  teachers who  signed  their                                                               
contract and then did not fulfill their commitment.                                                                             
SENATOR BEGICH asked what "advocate" means to her.                                                                              
MS. TODD said that the PTPC  tends to be viewed as a disciplinary                                                               
agency. She  suggested the  PTPC might  need to  provide outreach                                                               
and  staff development  on  the  code of  ethics  and the  PTPC's                                                               
function.  She offered  her belief  that teachers  throw out  the                                                               
PTPC's  periodic newsletter  that reports  case outcomes  and any                                                               
updates of  the code  of ethics,  in part, because  of a  lack of                                                               
understanding  about  the  PTPC's  function and  purpose.  As  an                                                               
advocate, she would like teachers to  view the PTPC as a resource                                                               
rather than to only call the commission when problems arise.                                                                    
SENATOR BEGICH  said he thought it  was a good goal.  He recalled                                                               
she  mentioned that  she  had  not reviewed  any  cases based  on                                                               
immoral or unethical  conduct yet. He asked her  to describe what                                                               
would constitute immoral or unethical.                                                                                          
MS. TODD  replied that immoral  conduct would be  teachers having                                                               
inappropriate relationships  with students. Although she  has not                                                               
dealt with that type of case,  she was aware of previous cases in                                                               
which   high   school   teachers  were   dating   students.   She                                                               
characterized  immoral or  unethical  behavior  as "crossing  the                                                               
9:17:32 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BEGICH   agreed  that  [sexual]   relationships  between                                                               
teachers  and   students  were  clearly  immoral,   illegal,  and                                                               
unethical because  of the authority teachers  have over students.                                                               
He  asked  whether  how  teachers  comport  themselves  in  their                                                               
private lives  would have  an impact on  any decisions  she might                                                               
MS. TODD  responded that she  was unsure if the  commission would                                                               
even  know about  teachers' personal  lives. She  was unsure  how                                                               
relationships   such  as   adulterous   relationships  would   be                                                               
SENATOR BEGICH asked if it were, how she would react.                                                                           
MS.  TODD replied  that she  would review  the teacher's  code of                                                               
ethics  for guidance  on whether  it speaks  to that  and if  any                                                               
consequences   were   given.  She   was   unsure   of  what   the                                                               
repercussions would be, such as losing teacher certification.                                                                   
SENATOR BEGICH remarked  that he thought that was  a good answer.                                                               
She  has  been a  member  of  the NEA  union.  He  asked how  her                                                               
personal beliefs would  affect this job or if she  could set them                                                               
aside and focus on the case in front of her.                                                                                    
MS. TODD said that she  could be impartial. She characterized her                                                               
NEA participation  as a  completely different  part of  her life.                                                               
She  is a  strong member  of her  union because  she believes  in                                                               
local support  of staff and  the protection of their  rights, but                                                               
those rights do not include violations of the code of ethics.                                                                   
9:20:38 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES asked  how many cases the PTPC handles  a year and                                                               
if some cases  never rise to that level because  the districts, a                                                               
superintendent,  or  principal  had handled  the  matter  without                                                               
going to the PTPC.                                                                                                              
MS. TODD  replied that she  is not sure  how many cases  Ms. Mann                                                               
reviews  in  a month  or  in  a  year. During  the  investigation                                                               
process some  matters are handled  in-house by the  district. The                                                               
PTPC would  not review or  be aware  of cases that  the executive                                                               
administrator determined  was more  appropriate for  the district                                                               
to handle.                                                                                                                      
SENATOR  HUGHES  asked whether  a  certificate  would be  removed                                                               
automatically in case of illegal  activity or if a complaint must                                                               
be filed.                                                                                                                       
MS.  TODD   responded  that   she  wished   that  she   was  more                                                               
knowledgeable about  that process.  She previously  mentioned the                                                               
districts'  investigative and  disciplinary  processes. In  cases                                                               
with illegal  or criminal  activity, the first  step would  be to                                                               
put the  teacher on  leave, then the  districts would  conduct an                                                               
investigation and refer it to  the PTPC, if appropriate. She said                                                               
she  was  unsure,  but she  thought  automatic  revocation  would                                                               
occur, depending on the severity of the case.                                                                                   
SENATOR HUGHES  expressed concerned  that teachers  who committed                                                               
illegal  acts would  still maintain  their teaching  certificates                                                               
even if these  teachers had served time. She said  it would allow                                                               
those teachers  to leave the  state and teach some  place outside                                                               
MS. TODD  pointed out that every  employment application contains                                                               
a  question  that  asks  whether  the  applicant  has  ever  been                                                               
convicted or accused of any  crime. Any applicants who check this                                                               
box would  be investigated, and  if an applicant was  accused but                                                               
found innocent,  the applicant could provide  an explanation. She                                                               
characterized this  as the first  level of flagging,  which would                                                               
be  information captured  by  the  clearinghouse. She  reiterated                                                               
that all applicants who check this box would be investigated.                                                                   
SENATOR HUGHES  asked whether teachers undergo  background checks                                                               
as part of the certification process.                                                                                           
MS. TODD  answered yes, plus  applicants also  are fingerprinted.                                                               
She said she hoped that  districts would carefully review teacher                                                               
CHAIR  STEVENS remarked  that the  legislature has  a Legislative                                                               
Ethics Commission.  The legislature and commission  are also very                                                               
careful about  legal issues. He  asked whether the  PTPC receives                                                               
advice from the Department of Law.                                                                                              
MS. TODD agreed the PTPC has an attorney available to assist it.                                                                
SENATOR  BEGICH said  the  statute  requires recommendations  for                                                               
positions  be submitted  to the  Professional Teaching  Practices                                                               
Commission   (PTPC)    for   consideration.   He    related   his                                                               
understanding  that she  would  fill  the teacher  representative                                                               
position.  He  asked   whether  her  name  was   submitted  by  a                                                               
recognized professional organization.                                                                                           
MS. TODD answered that her name was submitted by NEA-Alaska.                                                                    
9:28:42 AM                                                                                                                    
TAMARA  VAN  WYHE,  Appointee,  Professional  Teaching  Practices                                                               
Commission,  Juneau,  said  she  is the  representative  for  the                                                               
Department  of  Education and  Early  Development  (DEED) on  the                                                               
PTPC.  Nearly her  entire adult  life has  been dedicated  to the                                                               
field  of education.  In 1995,  she  and her  husband moved  from                                                               
Minnesota to  Alaska with  their three  small children.  Over the                                                               
last  24 years  she  has  served in  the  Mat-Su, Anchorage,  and                                                               
Copper River School Districts in  a multitude of positions in the                                                               
classroom, school administration, and  district offices. In 2004,                                                               
she  earned  her  certification   from  the  National  Board  for                                                               
Professional  Teaching   Standards.  During  her  years   at  the                                                               
district office, she led online  and blended learning initiatives                                                               
and  coordinated  the   district's  digital  teaching  initiative                                                               
project.  In   2015,  she  was   recognized  as   the  technology                                                               
leadership award winner  by the Alaska Society  for Technology in                                                               
Education (ASTE).  In 2019, she  left the superintendency  of the                                                               
Copper  River  School  District  to join  DEED  as  the  Division                                                               
Director  for  Educator  and  School  Excellence.  She  said  her                                                               
husband works  as a  farmer in  the Copper  River basin,  her two                                                               
sons work in education in Alaska,  and her daughter is a graduate                                                               
student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.                                                                                  
MS.  VAN  WYHE  offered  her   belief  that  she  brings  a  deep                                                               
understanding and commitment  to the code of ethics  to the PTPC.                                                               
Educators must hold themselves to  a higher standard at all times                                                               
because teachers serve  as role models for children.  As a school                                                               
administrator she  became familiar with the  PTPC's investigatory                                                               
process when concerns arose about  staff conduct and PTPC reports                                                               
were either considered or required.  She expressed gratitude that                                                               
the PTPC exists.  According to their mission  statement, the PTPC                                                               
serves as a  preventive and positive force in  helping to enhance                                                               
the  professional  performance  of  all  educators  so  that  the                                                               
public's  right  to  the  best  education  possible  for  all  of                                                               
Alaska's students is adequately protected.                                                                                      
MS.  VAN   WYHE  said   she  is  pleased   to  serve   as  DEED's                                                               
representative because  the PTPC's activities align  with teacher                                                               
quality, which  falls within the  Educator and  School Excellence                                                               
division.  She  said  that  she   is  passionate  about  educator                                                               
quality. The  PTPC plays an  important role in ensuring  that the                                                               
educators who  interact with Alaska students  and stakeholders on                                                               
a  daily  basis  are  committed to  ethical  behavior.  The  PTPC                                                               
embodies  a clear  path for  investigation and  consequences when                                                               
ethical lines  are crossed, and contractual  agreements have been                                                               
MS.  VAN  WYHE offered  several  suggestions.  First, the  PTPC's                                                               
handbook  for   educators  and   other  materials   available  to                                                               
educators  to inform  schools about  the  PTPC and  its role  and                                                               
processes should  be updated.  The handbook  was last  updated in                                                               
2011,  and it  needs  to  be refreshed  even  though  it has  not                                                               
significantly  changed. Second,  communications and  interactions                                                               
have  changed  dramatically  due  to mobile  devices  and  social                                                               
media,  so the  PTPC  could inform  Alaska  educators of  ethical                                                               
standards  using social  media.  This  tool could  simultaneously                                                               
caution  the   educators  of   their  accountability   as  public                                                               
authority figures since educators are teaching youth.                                                                           
9:34:00 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  COSTELLO  remarked that  she  formerly  was a  classroom                                                               
teacher who taught in three  school districts in Alaska. She said                                                               
she was impressed  with Ms. Van Wyhe's resume.  She asked whether                                                               
Ms. Van Wyhe  could provide the committee  with information about                                                               
the  digital   teaching  initiative  grant  that   she  designed,                                                               
authored and managed.  She also expressed an interest  in Ms. Van                                                               
Wyhe's  article,  "When  the  Impossible  Happens,"  and  on  the                                                               
digital learning programs she also  designed for the Copper River                                                               
School District.                                                                                                                
SENATOR BEGICH noted  that she spoke about  illegal and unethical                                                               
conduct. He asked her what immoral means to her.                                                                                
MS. VAN WYHE replied that  individuals define immoral differently                                                               
based  on their  personal beliefs  and experiences.  In terms  of                                                               
immoral behavior  in education, she thought  everyone could agree                                                               
on certain  things such as  the focus always being  on children's                                                               
safety.  It  would  be difficult  to  singularly  define  immoral                                                               
because it is rooted in  personal beliefs. She offered her belief                                                               
that the PTPC  could use it as an opportunity  to provide various                                                               
interpretations  of  immoral behavior  to  be  considered by  the                                                               
commission and situations  as a group. The PTPC was  not a single                                                               
stakeholder   or  individual   making  a   decision  related   to                                                               
immorality.  Instead,   the  PTPC  works  collectively   to  make                                                               
decisions, she said.                                                                                                            
SENATOR BEGICH reiterated that she  said immorality was rooted in                                                               
personal belief  and that matters to  him. He asked how  it would                                                               
affect her if a teacher's  lifestyle outside of the classroom was                                                               
one that did not match her personal beliefs.                                                                                    
MS. VAN  WYHE acknowledged that  when she worked in  the district                                                               
office  that   many  situations   arose  where   an  individual's                                                               
lifestyle  outside   of  school   was  troubling.   Sometimes  it                                                               
pertained  to  personal  relationships   or  substance  use.  The                                                               
district  would  consider  situations  brought  up  by  concerned                                                               
parents  or administrators  or  coworkers  and determine  whether                                                               
something was "not  okay" by whether it  affected an individual's                                                               
performance  in  the classroom.  Although  she  might not  always                                                               
agree with an individual's lifestyle  choice, the district had to                                                               
determine  whether  the   person's  choice  adversely  influenced                                                               
students in a  classroom, and whether it  affected the educator's                                                               
ability  to teach  or fulfill  a leadership  role. If  it had  no                                                               
bearing on the job, then the  district would not take any action,                                                               
she said.                                                                                                                       
SENATOR BEGICH remarked  that she made a  nice connection between                                                               
the two.                                                                                                                        
9:40:10 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BIRCH  recalled  earlier  testimony  about  the  NASDTEC                                                               
clearinghouse  as  a  means of  assessing  prospective  education                                                               
employees.  He asked  whether the  commission used  a rating  for                                                               
educators  currently employed  and if  the PTPC  was involved  in                                                               
staff reductions.                                                                                                               
MS.  VAN WYHE  replied that  the  PTPC does  not have  a role  in                                                               
staffing   schools  or   reducing  staff   in  cases   of  budget                                                               
shortfalls. Those  decisions fall completely outside  the purview                                                               
of the PTPC, she said.                                                                                                          
CHAIR STEVENS  recalled earlier testimony  that the PTPC  did not                                                               
want to  be viewed as police  and that the commission  only dealt                                                               
with reported activity  from a parent or  administrator. He asked                                                               
her to expand on that process.                                                                                                  
MS. VAN WYHE  responded that anyone could submit a  report to the                                                               
PTPC,  but  typically  investigations  begin at  the  school  and                                                               
district level.  In fact, the  vast majority of reports  are made                                                               
to  principals,  superintendents,  or school  boards,  she  said.                                                               
Investigations  are  conducted  at   those  levels  before  being                                                               
referred  to  the  PTPC.  However,  during the  time  she  was  a                                                               
district  administrator, some  private  individuals made  reports                                                               
directly to  the PTPC. The commission's  executive director would                                                               
inform  the  school  district that  an  investigation  was  being                                                               
conducted  based   on  a  complaint.   She  clarified   that  the                                                               
commission's role  was not to  seek out problems, but  instead to                                                               
address reported issues with the districts to seek resolution.                                                                  
SENATOR BEGICH  noted that under  AS 14.20.470, one power  of the                                                               
commission was  to make  recommendations to the  board or  to the                                                               
school  boards for  improvements in  the teaching  profession. He                                                               
said that was  the positive, non-policing role  of the commission                                                               
that Ms.  Todd and Ms.  Van Wyhe  mentioned. He remarked  that it                                                               
was nice to see the commission move to that next level.                                                                         
CHAIR  STEVENS  asked  Todd  Smoldon  to  introduce  himself  and                                                               
highlight the strengths he would  bring to the commission, relate                                                               
his interest in serving, and any goals for the commission.                                                                      
9:45:36 AM                                                                                                                    
TODD   SMOLDON,   Appointee,  Professional   Teaching   Practices                                                               
Commission,  Willow, briefly  described his  work history  saying                                                               
that he  has been a teacher  for 21 years, and  has taught online                                                               
courses  for 14  years. He  has taught  Japanese, economics,  and                                                               
history at  East High School  in Anchorage  for 17 years.  He has                                                               
been  teaching at  North Star  Behavioral Hospital  for the  last                                                               
four years. He holds an economics  degree and a Master of Arts in                                                               
Teaching from the University of  Alaska Anchorage. He offered his                                                               
belief  that  he  brings  an  understanding  of  diverse  student                                                               
populations  to the  commission.  East High  School  is the  most                                                               
diverse school  in the country,  he said.  He has also  worked in                                                               
special  schools with  at-risk  students  struggling with  mental                                                               
health  issues.   During  this  time,   he  has  gained   a  wide                                                               
perspective  on   how  all  students  learn   differently,  which                                                               
presents challenges for teachers, he said.                                                                                      
MR. SMOLDON expressed an interest  in serving on the PTPC because                                                               
it   is  important   for  professional   educators  to   maintain                                                               
professionalism. Further,  a significant  portion of  the state's                                                               
budget  is spent  on K-12  education,  and the  public must  have                                                               
trust in educators. Any issues  with professionals working in the                                                               
education system can be addressed,  he said. He was encouraged to                                                               
hear his fellow commissioner appointees  discuss the advocacy and                                                               
professional development  role of  the commission.  As educators,                                                               
commission   members  must   act  as   police  and   enforce  and                                                               
investigate   complaints.  However,   the  commission   seeks  to                                                               
maintain  the   professionalism  of   educators,  he   said.  The                                                               
commission   also  wants   to   bolster   teachers  and   provide                                                               
expectations, and a method for educators to grow.                                                                               
He echoed Ms. Todd's goal to  make the commission more visible to                                                               
professionals,   and   to   assist   teachers   in   professional                                                               
development, ethics and professional  practices. He said he hoped                                                               
the commission would have more  visibility in the communities, so                                                               
parents  become more  aware of  the PTPC's  function. This  could                                                               
encourage parents to report  unprofessional conduct to principals                                                               
and school districts.                                                                                                           
CHAIR  STEVENS said  he  favors public  outreach  to ensure  that                                                               
parents and  others know to  report complaints on conduct  to the                                                               
SENATOR BEGICH said  he liked the idea of advocacy.  He asked Mr.                                                               
Smoldon how he  would define immoral behavior as a  member of the                                                               
MR.  SMOLDON  answered  that  his  personal  definition  was  not                                                               
important in terms of the  commission's function and role since a                                                               
written  code of  ethics for  professional educators  exists. The                                                               
investigation process uses  the written code of  ethics. The only                                                               
time that PTPC  would make a determination would  be in instances                                                               
in which an educator's personal life spilled into the classroom.                                                                
9:53:25 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEGICH said  that anyone can look up  the definitions for                                                               
illegal,  immoral, or  unethical  in the  statutes.  He asked  if                                                               
parents  were to  bring a  complaint to  the commission  about an                                                               
educator's lifestyle  that the parents  disagreed with,  what his                                                               
reaction would be and how that would that affect his decision.                                                                  
MR.  SMOLDON reiterated  the investigative  process the  previous                                                               
appointees  outlined. When  a parent  or anyone  files an  ethics                                                               
complaint, the principal  and local school district  would make a                                                               
determination based on the code of  ethics. If it advanced to the                                                               
PTPC,  the executive  director  would  investigate and  determine                                                               
whether  the commission  should consider  some kind  of sanction.                                                               
There  are many  disciplinary  levels that  could  be used,  from                                                               
warnings  to license  suspension  or revocation.  He related  his                                                               
understanding  that the  offense would  need to  be an  egregious                                                               
offense,  with  agreement  by  many   people  before  the  PTPC's                                                               
commissioners  review  the  case  using the  code  of  ethics  to                                                               
determine whether it  has a negative impact on  the classroom. He                                                               
did not believe a commissioner's  personal moral views determined                                                               
the  outcome since  the  outcome  was the  function  of the  many                                                               
people involved in process.                                                                                                     
SENATOR BEGICH said  he appreciated the answer.  He asked whether                                                               
a  professional teacher  organization had  submitted his  name as                                                               
the classroom teacher representative to serve on the PTPC.                                                                      
MR.  SMOLDON  replied that  his  name  was submitted  through  an                                                               
alternative  process,  by  gathering  signatures of  25  or  more                                                               
teachers who agreed to him being considered for the position.                                                                   
CHAIR STEVENS  highlighted that Mr.  Smoldon currently  serves as                                                               
the director of Governor Dunleavy's Mat-Su Valley office.                                                                       
MR.  SMOLDON  agreed.  He  related  his  understanding  that  the                                                               
[Department of  Law] and the  PTPC's attorney agreed that  he was                                                               
eligible to serve on the PTPC.                                                                                                  
SENATOR BEGICH asked whether he was currently teaching.                                                                         
MR.  SMOLDON answered  that  he  is on  a  leave  of absence,  so                                                               
technically he is still considered a classroom teacher.                                                                         
SENATOR BEGICH  asked whether the  director's job was  a fulltime                                                               
MR. SMOLDON answered yes.                                                                                                       
9:58:21 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BEGICH  expressed an  interest  in  reviewing the  legal                                                               
opinion that  found a full-time director  position was considered                                                               
a  classroom teacher's  job.  He  said he  was  confused by  that                                                               
MR. SMOLDON  explained that since  he was  on a leave  of absence                                                               
from teaching,  he was technically  still considered  a classroom                                                               
SENATOR BEGICH said he would  ask Legislative Legal to provide an                                                               
opinion on  the matter. The  point of having an  active classroom                                                               
teacher serve  on the PTPC is  to provide the perspective  of the                                                               
teacher's direct experience.                                                                                                    
CHAIR  STEVENS  asked Mr.  Smoldon  if  he  saw any  conflict  by                                                               
serving as director of the governor's office in Mat-Su.                                                                         
MR.  SMOLDON  answered that  the  two  positions were  completely                                                               
separate.  As director  of the  Mat-Su  office he  serves as  the                                                               
liaison between  local governments, constituents,  nonprofits and                                                               
business organizations in  the Mat-Su Valley. As a  member of the                                                               
PTPC he would determine whether  someone met the professional and                                                               
ethical practices  for being an  educator. Based on his  20 years                                                               
of classroom experience,  he said he was confident  that he could                                                               
do so.                                                                                                                          
10:00:49 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  COSTELLO requested  an updated  resume to  show all  his                                                               
employment history, including his position as director.                                                                         
SENATOR HUGHES  asked whether  he was appointed  to serve  on the                                                               
PTPC before he  became director of the  governor's Mat-Su office.                                                               
She  further asked  if the  legal opinion  was issued  after that                                                               
MR. SMOLDON said  he was appointed to the  commission in December                                                               
2018  to  serve  on the  PTPC.  He  was  hired  to serve  in  the                                                               
director's position  in March 2019,  which is why his  resume was                                                               
not  current. He  said he  certainly  understood the  committee's                                                               
concerns and would send an updated resume.                                                                                      
CHAIR   STEVENS   announced   that  he   would   reschedule   the                                                               
confirmation  hearing for  Chris Reitan,  Craig, appointee,  PTPC                                                               
since he was unavailable today.                                                                                                 
10:03:09 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR HUGHES asked Mr. Smoldon for  the time limit of his leave                                                               
of absence.                                                                                                                     
MR.  SMOLDON  answered that  his  current  leave of  absence  was                                                               
through this  school year. He  would decide whether to  apply for                                                               
another year of leave of absence at that time.                                                                                  
SENATOR HUGHES  asked if  the Anchorage  School District  has any                                                               
time restriction for a leave of absence.                                                                                        
MR.  SMOLDON replied  that  an  additional year  for  a leave  of                                                               
absence is the most that he could take.                                                                                         
SENATOR BEGICH  said that  the PTPC appointment  is for  a three-                                                               
year  term.  As a  point  of  information and  consideration,  he                                                               
offered his belief that Mr. Smoldon  could not be absent from the                                                               
classroom for that period of time  since he serves in a qualified                                                               
SENATOR HUGHES asked  if he planned to return to  teach the third                                                               
MR. SMOLDON replied that he has not yet decided.                                                                                
10:05:43 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  STEVENS  opened  public   testimony  on  the  confirmation                                                               
10:05:59 AM                                                                                                                   
PATRICK  MAYER,  President, Alaska  Superintendents  Association,                                                               
Alaska Council of  School Administrators, Superintendent, Yakutat                                                               
School  District, Yakutat,  expressed support  for superintendent                                                               
Chris  Reitan   as  the  PTPC   representative  for   the  Alaska                                                               
Superintendents  Association. He  has 21  years of  experience in                                                               
Alaska and  worked through numerous due  process scenarios during                                                               
his  career. He  served as  superintendent in  Galena and  now in                                                               
Craig.  He offered  his  belief  that Mr.  Reitan  would bring  a                                                               
strong rural perspective to the  commission, and that he received                                                               
unanimous  support from  the association.  He related  Mr. Reitan                                                               
has exhibited  the highest ethical  standards and will  serve the                                                               
mission  of the  PTPC in  an exemplary  manner. Ms.  Van Wyhe,  a                                                               
former member  of the Alaska Superintendents  Association and the                                                               
former superintendent  of the Copper River  School District, will                                                               
also serve with distinction, he said.                                                                                           
CHAIR  STEVENS said  the committee  would remember  his testimony                                                               
when the committee takes up Chris Reitan's confirmation hearing.                                                                
10:07:57 AM                                                                                                                   
MATT  EISENHOWER, President,  Ketchikan School  Board, Ketchikan,                                                               
said that last year one  of Ketchikan's teachers was arrested and                                                               
prosecuted for  a sexual assault  case and pled guilty.  When the                                                               
KSB  reviewed  this   case,  it  looked  at   three  levels.  Law                                                               
enforcement handled the police  investigation, the school handled                                                               
the  district's policy  and procedures  in-house,  but the  third                                                               
piece related to  violations of ethical standards  the PTPC could                                                               
have enforced if the commission had been informed.                                                                              
He  explained  one  standard  in 20  AAC  10.900  defined  sexual                                                               
conduct,  which  includes  explicit  sexual  jokes,  stories  and                                                               
flirtatious or  sexual comments. The school  district found those                                                               
behaviors  present  during  its  investigation.  He  offered  his                                                               
belief  that  the school  district  did  not  believe it  had  an                                                               
obligation to report  to the PTPC those  obvious ethical standard                                                               
failures.  However,  if   the  PTPC  is  not   aware  of  ethical                                                               
violations,  it   cannot  take  action.  Principals   would  hold                                                               
information  [confidentially]  similar  to  how  human  resources                                                               
personnel  handle personal  information.  He  offered his  belief                                                               
that  if  more  people  had  been  made  aware  of  some  of  the                                                               
offender's  early   behaviors  described  by  as   "creepy,"  the                                                               
district and  PTPC could have  acted earlier. One  consequence of                                                               
"creepy  behavior" not  being reported  to  the PTPC  is that  an                                                               
educator could move to another  school district. In this way, the                                                               
"creepy" behavior would  not be tracked, and  more students would                                                               
be put at risk, he said.  He expressed gratitude to the districts                                                               
for an awareness  of the importance of the  PTPC, particularly as                                                               
it relates to student safety and protection.                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS thanked  him for sharing that  school districts did                                                               
not have  any obligation to report  the behavior. He asked  if he                                                               
had any suggestions on how to resolve these issues.                                                                             
MR.  EISENHOWER  answered  that   the  districts  and  PTPC  were                                                               
addressing the  issue. Unfortunately, the pain  his community and                                                               
district  experienced would  lead these  conversations. As  a lay                                                               
person,  he  will listen  to  advice  from  the experts  and  the                                                               
executive  director.  He  serves   as  the  board  president  and                                                               
hospital administrator.  He heard  all three  candidates indicate                                                               
communication between  the districts  and the  PTPC needed  to be                                                               
10:12:01 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR BEGICH  asked whether he  had any prior awareness  of the                                                               
Professional  Teaching  Practices   Commission  (PTPC)  being  in                                                               
MR. EISENHOWER related his understanding  that the commission has                                                               
not had  a presence  in Ketchikan, although  Ms. Mann  spoke with                                                               
him  after the  fact. He  has been  focused on  what should  have                                                               
taken place before the incidents.  The district has since changed                                                               
some procedures to  make teachers and staff aware  of the policy,                                                               
but professional  standards go beyond  that. He was not  sure who                                                               
would be in charge of that outside of the PTPC.                                                                                 
SENATOR BEGICH  said that  he and Senator  Stevens both  serve on                                                               
the  Senate Finance  Education Subcommittee.  He was  fairly sure                                                               
that  the  PTPC  budget  was   not  cut.  All  three  prospective                                                               
appointees have  indicated an interest in  making recommendations                                                               
to  school   boards.  However,  he   suggested  perhaps   a  more                                                               
aggressive role  that includes  visiting communities  as outreach                                                               
might be  needed, but he was  unsure how the budget  would affect                                                               
travel. Discussing  how to  be more proactive  is a  great charge                                                               
for  the commission,  he  said.  He pointed  out  that all  three                                                               
appointees have expressed an interest in it.                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGHES  recalled  that Mr.  Eisenhower  highlighted  the                                                               
problem that the inappropriate  behaviors were kept confidential.                                                               
He also mentioned  the importance of making  policy and procedure                                                               
changes. She asked  whether districts should have  a policy about                                                               
taking  certain  matters to  the  PTPC.  She said  she  typically                                                               
advocates for  local control.  She asked  whether a  state policy                                                               
was  needed   so  that   when  students   report  this   type  of                                                               
inappropriate behavior, the  allegations would go to  the PTPC as                                                               
well as to law enforcement.                                                                                                     
10:16:07 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. EISENHOWER  replied that his district  standpoint has changed                                                               
local  policy.   He  characterized   the  education   culture  of                                                               
typically allowing  principals to  handle these  issues. However,                                                               
he believes that is a flawed  approach. He advocated for the PTPC                                                               
to serve as a de  facto human resources department, especially as                                                               
it relates to  the teachers' professional code of  ethics. He was                                                               
unsure what needed to be done to implement that change.                                                                         
It might simply  require a cultural change for the  PTPC to serve                                                               
in that  capacity. He acknowledged  that teachers  were employees                                                               
of local  districts. However, the  majority of school  funding is                                                               
provided by  the state. He  suggested that the PTPC  could figure                                                               
out  a  better   way  to  require  school   districts  to  report                                                               
misconduct. He might not be  aware of statutes that might address                                                               
this, but that is not in practice, he said.                                                                                     
SENATOR HUGHES  characterized it  is as a  "fuzzy or  gray area."                                                               
While flirtatious  remarks or jokes  do not indicate a  crime has                                                               
been committed, the inappropriate  behavior certainly would raise                                                               
a red flag.                                                                                                                     
CHAIR STEVENS  asked whether  he served as  the president  of the                                                               
Ketchikan  School Board  during the  time of  the sexual  assault                                                               
MR. EISENHOWER answered  that he served as a  school board member                                                               
at the time.                                                                                                                    
10:19:14 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  BIRCH  expressed  frustration about  the  separation  of                                                               
authority,  such as  districts'  labor contracts  that the  state                                                               
funded yet cannot participate in.                                                                                               
He  expressed   concern  about  how  the   state  would  transfer                                                               
information about "creepy" behavior  from school districts to the                                                               
commission. He pointed  out that many people  are socially inept,                                                               
so   one   person's   "creepy"  behavior   might   be   another's                                                               
"inappropriate" comment. From his  experience in managing a human                                                               
resources   office,  he   learned   the  need   to  respect   the                                                               
relationship between the employer  and the employee. He expressed                                                               
concern  how a  school board  could  share such  comments to  the                                                               
commission without  harming the  employee, and yet  still protect                                                               
the public  interest. He acknowledged  that his expertise  was in                                                               
engineering  since he  is a  professional engineer,  not a  human                                                               
resources  professional. He  suggested that  Mr. Eisenhower  as a                                                               
hospital administrator may also have encountered these issues.                                                                  
MR. EISENHOWER replied that hindsight  is 20/20. He recalled some                                                               
early  student  reports  in the  Ketchikan  sexual  assault  case                                                               
related  to  touches  and  hugs  that  seemed  inappropriate  and                                                               
"creepy" to some  students. He now realizes  that the perpetrator                                                               
was "conditioning" some  of his students, he  said. The challenge                                                               
was knowing when to intervene. He  related his view that the code                                                               
of   ethics  was   very  clear,   such   that  anyone   observing                                                               
inappropriate  behavior has  an obligation  to report  it to  the                                                               
commission.  The  PTPC staff  in  conjunction  with the  district                                                               
would  subsequently  conduct  an investigation.  He  related  his                                                               
understanding that some  people believe some of  this behavior is                                                               
viewed culturally.  He advocated the need  to teach professionals                                                               
to  report what  the teacher  sees,  but not  to take  ownership,                                                               
judge,  or investigate.  The ethical  standards for  teachers are                                                               
very  high and  these standard  professionals should  be held  to                                                               
those  standards.  He  acknowledged  that if  the  KSB  had  done                                                               
something differently early on, the  outcomes would not have been                                                               
the same.                                                                                                                       
SENATOR BEGICH noted  that Ms. Van Wyhe said it  becomes an issue                                                               
when the  behavior influences or  affects classroom  behavior. In                                                               
this  case, students  reporting  inappropriate behavior  affected                                                               
classroom behavior.  He said that influencing  classroom behavior                                                               
was not in  statute, but maybe the committee may  wish to explore                                                               
that some more.                                                                                                                 
10:23:24 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STEVENS thanked Mr. Eisenhower  for coming forward. He said                                                               
that  the   committee  appreciated   the  difficulties   the  KSB                                                               
president has experienced.  He asked Ms. Hartmann  to explain the                                                               
funding for the PTPC.                                                                                                           
BRITTANY HARTMANN,  Legislative Liaison, Department  of Education                                                               
and Early Development  (DEED), Juneau, said the  only funding for                                                               
the PTPC  was for  the executive  director's salary.  She related                                                               
that the budget included a  50 percent travel reduction, but that                                                               
reduction was not included in the House version.                                                                                
SENATOR BEGICH said  the proposed travel budget had  a 50 percent                                                               
cut, but that was not in the House version of the budget.                                                                       
10:24:21 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. HARTMANN agreed.                                                                                                            
CHAIR STEVENS  asked Ms.  Hartmann to  relay to  the commissioner                                                               
the committee's desire for the PTPC  to have more presence in the                                                               
districts and communities.                                                                                                      
MS. HARTMANN agreed to do so.                                                                                                   
SENATOR  HUGHES   asked  if  the  PTPC   provides  training  that                                                               
districts  can  use for  in-services  or  annual ethics  training                                                               
similar to the training that legislators receive.                                                                               
MS.  HARTMANN replied  that she  was not  certain, but  she would                                                               
check and report back to the committee.                                                                                         
CHAIR  STEVENS said  he  would like  some  information about  in-                                                               
service training regarding the PTPC.                                                                                            
SENATOR BEGICH  said that Ms. Van  Wyhe was still online  and may                                                               
know whether the PTPC has training curriculum about ethics.                                                                     
10:26:56 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STEVENS asked whether  teacher in-service training included                                                               
information about the PTPC.                                                                                                     
MS.  VAN WYHE  said some  resources  were available  on the  PTPC                                                               
website. As  she mentioned during  her testimony, a  handbook for                                                               
educators  has not  been updated  since 2012.  The PTPC  presents                                                               
basic materials in  the fall, including the code  of ethics. This                                                               
was  typically  part  of  professional  development  and  teacher                                                               
evaluation activity  throughout the  year. She doesn't  know that                                                               
it  is  required,  but  it  is a  best  practice  that  would  be                                                               
occurring in most districts across the state.                                                                                   
CHAIR STEVENS  asked her  to report back  to the  committee about                                                               
updating  and refreshing  the  handbook  and whether  information                                                               
about the PTPC is required in-service training.                                                                                 
10:28:42 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STEVENS closed public testimony and solicited a motion.                                                                   
10:28:51 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR HUGHES stated  that in accordance with  AS 39.05.080, the                                                               
Senate Education  Standing Committee  reviewed the  following and                                                               
recommends the appointments  be forwarded to a  joint session for                                                               
     Professional Teaching Practices Commission                                                                               
     Todd Smoldon - Willow                                                                                                      
     Tammy Van Wyhe - Glenallen                                                                                                 
     Janine Todd - Delta Junction                                                                                               
10:29:08 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STEVENS found no objection and the motion passed.                                                                         
10:29:16 AM                                                                                                                   
At ease.                                                                                                                        
10:29:20 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STEVENS reconvened the meeting.                                                                                           
He  said  that  signing  the reports  regarding  appointments  to                                                               
boards  and commissions  in no  way reflects  individual members'                                                               
approval or  disapproval of the  appointees; the  nominations are                                                               
merely forwarded to the full legislature for confirmation or                                                                    
10:31:12 AM                                                                                                                   
There being no further business to come before the committee,                                                                   
Chair Stevens adjourned the Senate Education Standing Committee                                                                 
at 10:31 a.m.                                                                                                                   

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SEDC_ConfirmationHearing_PTPC_09April2019.pdf SEDC 4/9/2019 9:00:00 AM
Confirmation Hearing - Professional Teaching Practices Commission - April 09, 2019