Edgecumbe to ANSEP Its 70 years of tradition here

first_imgThe past three weeks have been turbulent at Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka. The Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program, or ANSEP, has proposed turning the 70-year-old boarding school into an accelerated high school, with an emphasis on science and engineering. It all began when ANSEP founder Herb Schroeder presented his idea to lawmakers in January, as a draft piece of legislation.Download AudioNow, Edgecumbe students and teachers, are asking questions about ANSEP’s motivations – and whether the plan would even work.Erica Willis and Xochitl Martinez (’16) have spoken critically about ANSEP’s proposal to turn Mt. Edgecumbe into an accelerated high school. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)Erica Willis and Xochitl Martinez are in Mt. Edgecumbe’s radio club. They broadcast every other week.Martinez: Okay, so the past week or two have left our school in a bit of a tizzy due to a situation that’s come up.And for anyone listening to their program, you can tell, these two students are not pleased. Click here to listen to their full commentary.Willis: Though our school and ANSEP have had good relations and a strong partnership in the past, this was brought before the legislature without consulting any of the people who actually run Edgecumbe.Nor did ANSEP secure the approval of the Department of Education and Early Development, the Board of Regents, or the University of Alaska, who would absorb any retained Edgecumbe staff should the plan roll through.Speaking with KCAW after she got off air, Martinez said  she is confused as to why Schroeder, ANSEP’s founder, wanted to take over instead of collaborate. “Why didn’t he come talk to Edgecumbe about inputting more STEM classes or integrating a program that would fast-track kids through three years, but at the same time they would keep the old program? I don’t see why that couldn’t work and why he would just go straight to legislature. I mean, dude.”Historically, the institutions have been friendly, if casual, partners. ANSEP has trained Edgecumbe teachers. Edgecumbe kids have flown up to Anchorage taken part in ANSEP’s summer programs.Martinez said one of her friends still has a desktop computer ANSEP gave her. The Gustavus-born senior was living in Oregon when she decided to apply to Edgecumbe. And she added, that while an ANSEP boarding school sounds appealing, it would not have been a good match for her.“I don’t have the scores for something that would be fast-tracked. I’m not good at classes that are going to be sped up or anything,” Martinez explained. “So, I’d be concerned about my own education and probably would have stayed in Oregon.”In a press release issued last week (01-30-16), ANSEP’s stated that students at its school would earn dozens of credits towards a Bachelor’s of Engineering, Science, Psychology, or Education and graduate college in three years.For Willis, also a senior, her big bone to pick is that ANSEP feeds the University of Alaska only. “I have applied to UAF, just in case, but it’s not my first choice,” she said. “I’d rather go to school out of state.”Willis is from Central, a tiny community near Fairbanks. She considers ANSEP a fantastic program for rural Alaskans like herself. But she was adamant that if ANSEP wants to fix education in the state, they’re better off leaving Edgecumbe alone and putting their energies towards other problems.“There’s other proposals going through legislature to raise the number of minimum students to keep a school open. In the next few years, there’s a really good possibility that there’s going to be schools closing. So there’s going to be that many more kids without schools to attend,” Willis said. “And if they don’t have as many options for other places to go… I can’t predict the future, but that doesn’t seem like a great combination of factors.”Teacher Dionne Brady-Howard worries about this too. “The fact is that, in going from a four year to a three year program with narrower focus, things will be lost,” she said.If Edgecumbe had a pride parade, Brady-Howard would be marching in front with a cardinal and gold batton. She graduated in 1991, has taught social studies since 2000, and sent both her daughters through the school.And Brady-Howard is worried that young Alaskans wouldn’t be ready to sign on to the kind of school ANSEP has in mind by the 8th grade. In their press release, ANSEP claims it will have its graduates career ready by age 20.“There are so many of us who go out in the world and can barely declare a major by the time we’re 20, let alone know that we’re already certified as an engineer or a scientist and be work ready,” Brady-Howard said. “To expect 13-year-olds applying to the ANSEP Mt. Edgecumbe Accelerated high school that they’re proposing is a bit daunting.”Months away from graduation, Willis also has the next generation on her mind.KCAW: How does it make you feel the idea of Edgecumbe closing?Willis: Heartbroken seems a little strong but then not really. It just feels like everybody, as well as Alaska, would kind of be losing something. It’s 70 years of tradition here. And it’s not just the history, it’s the future. Okay,  I know kids in 7th and 8th grade who want to come here and there are kids in freshman and sophomore year who want to graduate from here. If that were to go away, it  just seems like it would be tragic.Though very little is on paper – after all, no bill has not been filed to further ANSEP’s proposal – Martinez says that ANSEP has come to represent a bogeyman for Edgecumbe students, if not a running punchline.“Something breaks, we’ll say, ‘Oh it’s ANSEP’s fault.’ Something happens, ‘Oh it’s ANSEP. This is totally a conspiracy by ANSEP.’ A bunch of running jokes,” Martinez said. “I think that’s how Edgecumbe deals with things. Bad humor for sure.”Bad humor maybe, and a lot of Edgecumbe pride for sure.last_img