NEW SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER— Panganga Pungowiyi is being sworn in by NPS Superintendent Shawn Arnold on Tuesday, April 25.

Panganga Pungowiyi appointed to NPS school board

On Tuesday, April 25 the Nome Public Schools Board of Education met in the Nome Elementary School library for a special session, the majority of which was spent hearing answers to interview questions from a panel of applicants vying for the seat left vacant by the resignation of board member Keith Conger two weeks ago.
After a public interview and voting process, the board came to a decision and Panganga Pungowiyi was sworn-in as the new school board member, to serve from April 25 until October elections, when she will need to re-run to keep her seat.
There were seven interview candidates present at last Tuesday’s meeting, although one was eliminated immediately because she was not currently registered to vote in Nome. This fact was brought to the board’s attention right before the meeting.
The six candidates left to be interviewed were Melissa Ford, Talyn Green, Eva Dickson, Panganga Pungowiyi, Keith Morrison and Sandy Martinson, who participated via conference call.
Based on their letters of interest, background experience and answers to interview questions, candidates were judged by current board members on their knowledge of board governance, finance and operations, performance outcomes and equity, as well as their independent thoughts and actions.
Questions ranged from the candidates’ knowledge of dealing with large budgets, to their opinion on the various challenges and opportunities of the school district, questions about measuring academic achievement, and their view of the role of the school board.
In their first round of voting the school board nominated candidates Pungowiyi, Morrison, Green, Ford and Martinson, but not a single nomination passed by a majority vote. As the board reached an impasse, candidates continued into a second round of interview questions to help the board narrow the selection.
After the second round of questions were completed, Superintendent Shawn Arnold informed the board that the number of candidates should have been set at a maximum of four, and the board would not be able to suspend the rules when a vote is required. “We’ve policy’ed ourselves into a corner,” said Arnold.
The board agreed to continue with the voting process using a proportional voting method, or point ranking system, in the hopes that they would select a candidate before the meeting concluded so that new candidate would be available for their upcoming board retreat on April 28-29.
Ballots were printed off in haste and board members ranked the candidates in order of one, highest choice, to five, lowest choice. Before the proportional voting began, candidate Melissa Ford pulled herself from the running.
After the first round of proportional voting, board members eliminated Eva Dickson from the list, as the lowest ranking candidate. In the second round of voting, board members ranked the remaining candidates from one to four, although it was concluded at the end of voting that the methodology was in vain, as the candidates would continue to be ranked in the same manner at each round.
In the end, Superintendent Arnold presented the results of the last voting ballots. By adding the ranked points, results showed Pungowiyi to be the clear leader. Sandy Martinson ranked a close second, followed by Talyn Green and Keith Morrison. Nancy Mendenhall made a motion to nominate Pungowiyi based on the use of the point system. Her motion was seconded by Dr. Barb Amarok and eventually passed by all members of the board.
Pungowiyi was immediately sworn in as a new member of the school board by Superintendent Arnold and joined the other members at the table. The board reorganized, and Pungowiyi took over open positions as the primary representative on the Cultural Committee as well as the representative to the UAF Northwest Campus.
Originally from Savoonga, Panganga Pungowiyi has lived in Nome since 2010. Pungowiyi works as Program Director of Wellness at Kawerak, which deals with various types of prevention, including suicide prevention, substance abuse and mental health. She has worked in this position since 2013. Before that, Pungowiyi worked for Kawerak in the Education, Employment and Training department.
“I’m very invested in the youth in our community,” Pungowiyi told the Nome Nugget in a phone interview. “I’ve done a lot of work with the youth through my job.”
In her letter of interest to the school board, Pungowiyi stated, “It is ultimately my work directly with the schools that has led to my interest in serving on the school board. In the past few years I have had the pleasure of working with NPS in many different capacities […] as contributor to the youth leadership organizations at Nome Beltz […] and I have been grateful to serve in classrooms discussing bullying intervention, local history, leadership skills, peer helping skills, among many other topics.”
Pungowiyi said that she plans to re-run for a seat on the school board during elections this fall.
The school board will reconvene for a regular meeting on Tuesday, May 23 in the Nome Elementary School library.

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