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Embracing a diverse and changing society

From Dr. Karen Gaborik, Superintendent of Schools:


The mission of the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District is to provide an excellent, equitable education in a safe, supportive environment so all students will succeed and contribute to a diverse and changing society. One of our core values is respect for the diversity and dignity of all.


Recent events in the school district have been a lightning rod for several issues, and our community has been in the spotlight. In the borough, opinions on these topics cover a broad spectrum, and I’ve received communications representing the full range of viewpoints. We truly are a diverse and changing society, and these are important conversations for our community.


We have students who made choices that had negative impacts on themselves and others. I believe those decisions often come from a place of fear or discomfort. These are not the feelings we want our students to experience in our schools — not any of our students in any of our schools. What’s important to me as superintendent is that we take care of our kids and we take care of our staff. And we navigate these conversations in healthy ways with our families who may disagree with one another.


I can say with confidence our teachers, counselors, support staff and school administrators work hard to make schools safe and welcoming for all students. District employees care deeply about kids and about their colleagues. Staff want their school to feel safe and they want their school community’s rich diversity to be celebrated.


We have transgender students all across our district at every level, including elementary. Schools work very closely with students and families to help navigate transition. This includes restroom choices; locker room choices; and travel with sports teams, co-curricular activities and clubs. We also have transgender staff. Our goal is to support each individual in their communication with colleagues, students and parents. Schools work with their entire community to nurture a culture of respect. We provide district support to assist with that process.


With regard to Tanana Middle School, I appreciate the many voices and important input that was shared as we processed through the incidents that occurred on April 4. The school community provided feedback regarding the communication and response related to student safety, while parents and staff also shared a great deal of insight regarding the culture at Tanana. After personally hearing and reviewing the feedback, I made a change in school leadership.


We are a diverse and changing community, and our school district is constantly evolving. We always have room for improvement. There is much I can do to personally facilitate dialogue about how we can ensure welcoming and respectful school environments. In the coming months I will be holding engagement sessions with students and families across our district. We have heard from some in our school community, and we want to hear from more.


I know we will come together to find solutions that provide respect, support and safety for all our kids.