Teaching couple and three kids

This is the new version of the Alaska Teacher Placement (ATP) forum for teachers, education majors, and school administrators to discuss working and living in the state of Alaska. Those considering an Alaskan job, or considering a new Alaskan education job ask questions, and those with information and/or opinions provide answers. Although many users are teacher or principal candidates from the Lower 48, a large number of current and former school district HR and school administrators subscribe.

Moderators: Johncn, Damon Hargraves, Betty Walters, Toni McFadden

Teaching couple and three kids

Postby H.Scandale » Thu Jan 19, 2017 4:44 pm

This forum is very helpful, and I have been reading it nonstop since I joined today!

My husband (PE certified) and I (school counselor certified)want to work in the bush. We have three children 2,5,9. The 2 year old will be 3 in June and may be able to attend PreK.

I know it is not best practice to recommend schools on this site. However, if you are willing to PM me schools that may have more teacher kids that would be helpful.

We are looking for a cultural experience for our family. My husband has always wanted to work in the bush. We are active, social, and minimalists. We would like a school that centers itself around community. I picture myself hosting game nights, activity nights, other events to bring the students and parents together.

Thank you
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Re: Teaching couple and three kids

Postby Johncn » Sat Jan 21, 2017 10:20 am

Hi,

You seem to have a good attitude and a flexible family. Just to clarify for folks who may want to answer, what are you wanting from others? Schools / communities that have significant numbers children of teachers enrolled?

Regards,

John
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Re: Teaching couple and three kids

Postby H.Scandale » Mon Jan 23, 2017 6:16 am

Hi John,

One of the most important things we are looking for is a community that is open to new students and teachers. I am hoping to find a school that the teaching staff is wanting to plan after school activities for the community. In my experience, I have found that teachers with kids may start a club if their child is interested in a certain thing. This is a huge generalization so it may not be true in Alaska.

I picture the school in remote Alaska to be the hub of activity. Is this a correct assumption? I appreciate any advice of feedback.


Best,
Heather
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Re: Teaching couple and three kids

Postby H.Scandale » Wed Jan 25, 2017 8:28 am

I have only received 1 PM. I hope for more assistance. :D

If you are teaching at a school in AK and recommend it can you reply here?

Thanks!
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Re: Teaching couple and three kids

Postby madowlspeaks » Thu Jan 26, 2017 9:20 am

Lower Kuskokwim denies employment if you have a family. At least...they refuse housing to families.

I was very interested in working there last year and almost had the job but when they asked about my family status they said they only hire singles with shared housing.

This is even after I expressed an interest in paying the unshared rental cost.

I do not understand how this is legal in this day and age but they are getting away with denying families. I would not even consider them if I were you
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Re: Teaching couple and three kids

Postby H.Scandale » Thu Jan 26, 2017 9:47 am

Thanks! I've been on teaching hiring committees and they have a list of "things you can't ask" maybe it is different in AK.
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Re: Teaching couple and three kids

Postby Johncn » Thu Jan 26, 2017 11:23 am

Hi Madowlspeaks,

Actually. I personally believe LKSD is an excellent district to work for, and if I were seeking a position, I would definitely consider them.

In reading your comments about LKSD denying employment to those with families, I'm pretty sure you have two very different things confused. I can see why someone new to the state would get this impression, however.

Rural districts have negotiated agreements with their teacher unions that require them to provide housing for staff. They are both the employer AND the landlord. Because of land ownership limitations in rural villages - the vast majority of rural land can only be owned by Alaska Natives and sales and leases are tightly controlled - school districts are limited in how many and what kinds of housing they can build or lease to house teachers and administrators.

This means that in most cases rural school districts have two competing priorities: hiring staff for their schools AND providing housing for those new hires. One and two bedroom apartments are often all they have in a certain village in a certain year. Much depends on the composition of the staff at that school, and the available housing units during that upcoming school year.

All rural districts try to hire the best teachers they can, but sometimes they may have to hire, for example, a male single teacher who is willing share housing with another male teacher, or a single female willing to share an apartment. That doesn't mean they "deny employment" to those with families. It simply means that they are trying to balance their twin obligations of staffing the school with qualified staff, and housing those teachers they are contractually obligated to.

Hope this helps.

Regards,

John
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Re: Teaching couple and three kids

Postby madowlspeaks » Thu Jan 26, 2017 12:37 pm

Does anyone have stats on the number of families at LKSD?

Anyone?
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Re: Teaching couple and three kids

Postby Johncn » Thu Jan 26, 2017 1:13 pm

Hi Again,

We raised our two children in rural Alaska, and it was a very good experience, overall, for our family. But, we were very careful about the jobs and districts we applied to in order to avoid some of the more difficult aspects you may read about in various threads on this forum.

In order to find a good fit for a family with three (3) children in rural Alaska, you will have to find the right opening in the right district. It will take patience and thoughtful interviewing during the spring to make a choice that is right for your situation, and the employer you select. The employer wants you and your family to be happy, as teacher turnover is expensive and sometimes very disruptive to a school year in a small community.

Part of the struggle is finding housing (see my answer above in thread for an explanation). Another potential struggle is with child care....which depends on the age of the children, and the available child care options if needed. Children "of school age" (kindergarten and above) are in school during the majority of the day, but depending on the village and the program, the hours and situation can vary. Child care for those under school age may not be a problem in some rural villages, but could be a significant issue in others. In some, it could be a "bring your own" situation. Your district HR contacts SHOULD have a good idea about the villages with their openings. If they don't, you should ask to speak to current staff about the reality in that location.

Remember to use the Search feature on the forum. Here is a thread from 2015 that I posted explaining how things can vary, and how teachers can research options when evaluating locations. This comes up several times a year, and is also typically brought up during our ATP Live Chats.

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1070#p1344

Housing a family of four or five can be a real challenge. Some rural districts, including the one I most recently worked for) had only one or two apartments or houses with three bedrooms, and none with four bedrooms. Again, the age of the kids can impact this, as sharing a room may be possible for some children, but not others in a family. Finding larger housing options "in the community" is possible some places, but not others. Again, if you have a family, you'll want to make sure your HR contacts know this during your interview.

That said, there are also small villages with a NEED for large families. The minimum number of children to keep a school open is 10 in rural Alaska. This is determined by a "Child Count Period" each fall, and there are instances where a district would view two or more students on their count for a village school a real bonus. Once a school closes, it's VERY hard to keep the community going and healthy, so districts try very hard to avoid that situation.

Not trying to discourage anyone. Districts will (generally) never mislead you, as they have a vested interest in stable teaching staff at their rural schools, and happy employees. Unhappy teachers on arrival or in the middle of a school year drain the energy and resources of the district staff, cause stress and tension in the school and the community, and sometimes result in mid-year openings. Districts dread these sorts of situations. Trust me. So, if you have a family and are considering rural Alaska, educate yourselves so you have realistic expectations, ask good questions politely worded during your interactions with district staff, and make sure you find a good fit for both you and your new employer. That's what this forum is for...not just selling the dream. :o

Hope this helps,

John
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Re: Teaching couple and three kids

Postby H.Scandale » Thu Jan 26, 2017 4:44 pm

John,
Thank you! Your posts are very helpful. Finding a good fit is the difficult part. Working with a good admin team is a top priority. Other than speaking to the districts directly do you have any other suggestions to find out about the school? I'm talking more about climate, staff morale, retention, etc.
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Re: Teaching couple and three kids

Postby Bushteachers » Tue Jan 31, 2017 9:36 pm

To OP:
I have a couple of questions. Are you guys looking for PE and counselor positions?
What are your childcare plans? If you are wanting a pre-school, understand you more than likely ain't going to find it, unless you focus on hubs only. Even in a hub, childcare is an issue.

We are both teachers and we have three kids. The wife will be leaving the teaching profession to stay home with our two youngest. Though we have childcare through a tribal ran learning center, our fees for two kids just isn't worth it. When we lived in the village, we couldn't keep sober or Dependable childcare. After going through five babysitters, we decided to bring in an au pair.

Before you take employment, secure childcare. Have an exit plan in writing. Do not take a district's word that you won't have a problem finding childcare. Secure it before you arrive.

Turnover is common in many bush districts. It's the nature of the beast. As a teaching couple, you will encounter social issues with single teachers. Smaller the school, more prelevant those issues might be. However, every school is different.
We loved our village time. I think raising kids in a village can be one of the best things, depending on the village. There are many that I would never go to, no matter how high the pay, and there are some I'd go to no matter how low the pay. If you have any questions about family, don't hesitate to send me a PM.
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Re: Teaching couple and three kids

Postby Transplant2AK » Wed Feb 01, 2017 7:51 am

My wife and I are out in rural Alaska with our two year old daughter. It has been a mostly good experience so far and we plan to stay out here, but Bushteachers is right about childcare. You will struggle to find it in the small village setting because there aren't many people and most of them have other priorities, which might include subsistence or caring for their own family. You're also competing with the school, which typically pays substitutes fairly well. So, definitely do your homework and put a lot of effort into figuring out childcare if you need it. We were able to find long-term, reliable childcare but it took a lot of work plus trial and error. You might want to ask if there are teacher families at sites you are interested in that you could talk to before making any decisions... every location is so different that local knowledge is the best knowledge.
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Re: Teaching couple and three kids

Postby H.Scandale » Wed Feb 01, 2017 8:37 am

Our youngest will be three in June. Our hope is to have her attend PreK. I wouldn't try the childcare route.
Do you have experience with play based preK programs?
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Re: Teaching couple and three kids

Postby Bushteachers » Wed Feb 01, 2017 2:16 pm

H.Scandale wrote:Our youngest will be three in June. Our hope is to have her attend PreK. I wouldn't try the childcare route.
Do you have experience with play based preK programs?


Let's just say, I doubt you are going to get what you want with the pre-k in the bush. I live in a hub with 2500 people and we don't have what you think. The bush is nothing like what you know.

There may be a hub with what you are looking for, but more than likely, you won't find it.
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Re: Teaching couple and three kids

Postby madowlspeaks » Thu Feb 02, 2017 7:14 am

So as not to get banned from this forum by potentially scaring people away from teaching in rural Alaska, please PM me if you would like to hear my personal experiences with childcare/daycare/pre-k (same same) in the bush.
Last edited by madowlspeaks on Thu Feb 02, 2017 7:23 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Teaching couple and three kids

Postby H.Scandale » Thu Feb 02, 2017 7:20 am

I'm sorry if I was unclear in my original post. I am not looking for childcare. Our family will only make the move if my youngest can attend preK. If that can not be accomadated we will wait until she is old enough.

Thank you all for your help and advice!
Heather
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Re: Teaching couple and three kids

Postby Johncn » Thu Feb 02, 2017 8:00 am

Heather,

Please take whatever Madowlspeaks says as one person's experience, not representative of every village in Alaska. She has had a rough time of it, and should serve as an example of how things can happen if you don't find the right situation. As Bushteachers says, it can definitely be a problem in many communities to find childcare, so waiting until your youngest is in preschool is a good strategy. My wife and I also struggled with reliable village babysitters very early in our career, and even had to use a relative willing to move out to the Bush to live with us for one year.

As far as finding villages with PRESCHOOL / ECE / Pre-K programs (the terms are used pretty much interchangeably), I posted some tips about using the Alaska EED directory of schools and grade ranges, and explained the different programs a bit in this post from 2015:

Locating Preschool Programs in Alaska Communities - Info that might help
http://www.alaskateacher.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1070&p=1344#p1344

These programs vary widely from those that are free, and run on school property with a certified ECE teacher (rare) to totally community-run Headstart programs that may charge non-Native children tuition. The quality of the programs is also going to vary widely, and funding does vary year-to-year because education prior to Kindergarten is not state funded as a rule. Just finding a program listed in the EED list does not mean there will be a program in place for the next school year, but it is a good starting point. Communities that have historically valued preschool programs will tend to seek grants, put pressure on the local school board to continue the program, and so more likely than others to have one...even in times of dwindling funding. Several schools I was an administrator of had ECE students in the school (without funding), but a local aide or para-professional ran the program under my supervision, or that of a teacher or two on our staff. Others had the preschool in tribal council buildings, or community supported facilities that had totally separate funding. It's really a wide range. Some great. Some not so much.

So, in short, I'd research communities, and make one variable or check box the availability of a preschool program. Then, when you get the list of villages and districts you are MOST interested in, you can check your list, and be ready to ask smart questions if you get an interview for one of those locations.

One of the key things to consider if offered a contract is whether you can talk to current staff. Asking those teachers about how the children of school staff are accepted, and how child care is handled would be a good idea. If you have a family moving out to the village, and the district won't put you in touch with current staff in some manner, that is likely not a good sign in my opinion. Most districts will do so.

Hope this helps,

John
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Re: Teaching couple and three kids

Postby Betty Walters » Sat Feb 04, 2017 3:48 am

Hi Hscandale,

Here is a bit of information that you may want to search on the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development website.

Access: education.alaska.gov Then, near the top of the homepage, tap PARENTS AND STUDENTS. Further, under Specific Programs (left hand side of page), tap Early Childhood. (I will try to attach screen shots!)

Moderator added direct link: https://education.alaska.gov/tls/EarlyLearning/

As an example, there are currently newer state grants provided to selected rural and urban districts that will provide a pre-school program at specific sites. The grantees were selected this past fall for planning purposes and should be staffed with certificated teachers for the coming school year. Several sites already have existing programs in the community or school as was mentioned by johncn.

Districts should provide the information you need as you move through the interview and selection process. Districts want the best fit for you and your family so that you will have a positive experience in your new community.

I believe that you will find Early Learning to be a focus throughout the state.

Betty Walters
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Reason: Fix URL and add direct link
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Re: Teaching couple and three kids

Postby Bushteachers » Sat Feb 04, 2017 10:56 am

Question on those grants...since I am not able to get the links to load at the moment.
Is headstart still income based? If so, the two teacher salary household won't qualify. Another issue with head start is that many are 1/2 day programs which would still cause childcare issues. We've been on a waiting list for headstart for two years.

I'm waiting to see how these grants play out. I'm not being optimistic. It's good there will be a focus, as long as they can keep someone in those positions.
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Re: Teaching couple and three kids

Postby Betty Walters » Sat Feb 04, 2017 12:02 pm

To the writer identified as 'bushteachers' and other readers,

The state grants that I referred to are not the specific Head Start community-based programs but additional grants funded directly by appropriation of the AK Legislature through a statewide application process in Fall, 2016. You are correct in that the programs are slated to be half-day on site and therefore may require additional childcare. In some communities, from time to time, there are teacher-spouses who have their own pre-schoolers and do not work outside the home thus welcoming other staff children into their daytime care. Cost of care is up to the individual providing this service.

Here is what I can offer as 'screen shots' (see below) since you do not have access at this time. The map will only indicate this particular set of grants and does not include districts/communities that may have other pre-school programs.

Applicants are best indicating this need in a cover letter if a priority for a family. Talking directly with district administrators/staff before signing a 'Letter of Intent' or a 'Professional Contract' with a district when at the point of making a firm and final decision is a must. Districts want employees to be pleased in their new community and school. Ironing out details early is essential for your enjoyment and success.

I hope this gives you some info needed.

Betty Walters
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