ESSER in Action in ALASKA: “The Last Frontier”

August 03, 2023

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, has launched ESSER in Action, an online series highlighting how COVID-19 relief funds are making an impact across the country. This initiative is providing AASA members with an opportunity to share their good news stories about school improvement projects underway in their respective communities, through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds that are enhancing their school districts. 

ALASKA: “The Last Frontier”

Alaskan Welcome Sign
Did you know that Alaska, the 49th state admitted to the union with its 663,300 square miles, is larger than Texas, California and Montana combined? According to, if Alaska were a separate country, it would be on a list of the top 20 biggest countries in the world. 

Alaska is a state that should be on every photographer’s bucket list, millions of visitors from around the world arrive each year to view our stunning glaciers, national parks, and famous Northern Lights. 

There are over 50 public school districts dotted throughout the state, home to over 132,000 students. The Alaska Council of School Administrators (ACSA) has served as the umbrella organization representing public school system leaders for fifty years in the state and takes a lead role in supporting and advocating for public education while recognizing the value and uniqueness of each member organization. These groups include: 

“All educators are heroes,” said Lisa Skiles Parady, ACSA executive director and former member of AASA’s Executive Committee. “At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, none of us had a playbook as we switched on a dime to serve all students in the best way possible.” 

In a state in which over 30 percent of its schools are rural or remote, American Rescue Plan (ARP) dollars are helping to bolster career and technical education programs to better serve the needs of students and their families.”  Additional funds are paid for student support, faculty, and staff salaries, improving facilities, library materials, and social and emotional learning supplies. Meanwhile, funds are also helping to offset inflationary costs. 

“Student achievement, safety and well-being are at the heart of everything educators do,” said Parady. “Being able to access these funds has allowed us to sustain and support our young learners in a much broader way. We are creating a culture of stability and learning, which is critical for the long-term success of students and is foundational in public education.”

Despite the challenges caused by the public health crisis, “teachers have provided immense social and emotional support to students, families and communities throughout the pandemic and continue to provide that empathy and care today,” Parady told the Alaska Beacon. To that end, she told AASA that Alaskan educators continue to stay focused and provide “unwavering support” to their communities and the families and most importantly the students they serve.”

In April 2021, the Alaska Department of Education issued a set of guidelines to superintendents throughout the state to serve as a resource for educators and school districts to help guide effective spending on COVID relief funds, amounting to $504 million. 

“Communicate consistently and thoroughly with your local school board, teachers, parents, students and community how your district intends to spend the funds, your plan for implementation and your desired outcomes,” wrote Michael Johnson, former commissioner of Alaska education. “The most lasting outcome of this money should be safe schools and more successful students,” he added. 

Key areas as set out by the guidelines for funding requirements and opportunities focused on include: 

  • Supporting other federal programs (including ESEA, IDEA and the Carl Perkins Career and Technical Education Act)
  • Coordinated response efforts of local educational agencies
  • Supporting principals
  • Preparedness and response (i.e., purchasing PPE and other healthy/safety supplies)
  • Professional development
  • Education technology
  • Mental health
  • Summer and afterschool programs
  • Facility repairs
  • Air quality
  • Health and safety protocols

“Superintendents and principals in Alaska are committed leaders who are problem solvers. They face challenges big and small every day and lead through them” said Parady. “They have not missed a beat. I am so proud to represent these incredible groups of dedicated servant leaders and commend them for their competence in implementation of COVID-19 relief funds focused on outcomes that will best serve each or their respective students and communities. In this unprecedented time in public education district and school leaders stepped up and responded to the individual needs of our students and communities.”


For more information about how Alaska schools are implementing ESSER funds to enhance their school communities, contact Kat Sturdevant, AASA advocacy & governance coordinator, at