Palmer High School March

Principal's Post

Palmer High- Climate & Culture

School culture refers to the school's effect on students. This effect is a shared belief in a school climate that is set by the way administrators, teachers, and support staff works together with students and parents. This sets the climate in the school and climate is the feeling in a school that is almost palatable; its an energy that you can feel.

Last year at this time the country was in a frenzy of anxiety about the safety of our schools. As a country, we were in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting. I'm very happy to say that anxiety has decreased significantly, but the focus on school safety is still one of our greatest priorities. The greatest tool schools have to keep students safe and connected to their school are positive relationships with the adults in their lives. Teachers, coaches, administrators, and educational support staff all play a key role in creating positive connections at Palmer High. We strive to let kids know we care about them and we work to cultivate a culture of caring. Connections are the tool in creating a positive school climate and culture.

What a difference a year has made. This year I feel like Palmer High is a safer school. An addition to Palmer for the 2108-19 school year that has made our school even safer is adding a school resource officer (SRO). This week I reported to Palmer City Council about our SRO Officer Muilenburg. This is her first year to be dedicated to Palmer area schools. She has her office here at Palmer High and she has been a wonderful addition to our school culture. She is friendly and approachable for both staff and students. Her ability to build trust with our students has proven to make a valuable resource for us in our school. We are grateful that the Palmer City Council and the Palmer Police Department for providing this valuable resource that makes our school safer.

How are MSBSD School Performing?

With all the budget talks taking place Alaska's education system has been a big topic of discussion. I have been hyper-focused on news in all forms; radio, TV news outlets, social media, and local newspapers. What I have found is there is a lot of false narratives. The school system is being painted with a broad brush stroke that schools are failing. Nothing could be further from the truth about schools in the MSBSD. The table below shows the 2018 college entrance exam data for the secondary students in the MSBSD.

Another false representation is that our state funding for education is being spent on administration and not on students in the classroom. I've heard in the news and radio that as much as 50% of the cost is going towards administration expenses. Again this a gross over exaggeration and in reality the MSBSD has the lowest overhead of administrative cost in the state with a 5.54% cost going towards administration.

The other big fallacy about how our state budget is spent is that less than 50% is going to cost outside of the classroom. In our district, 77.04% of our funding goes towards instruction in the classroom. The remaining 22.96% goes towards instructional support such as operations and maintenance, and administrative support.

The MSBSD has made some significant cuts throughout our states 39-month recession. The Mat-Su Valley is the one area that the population has had a growth trend during this timeframe. Our state's population has declined but the Valley has grown and part of that growth has to with families moving here for our schools.

I feel like I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't stand up and fight for our schools, but more importantly speak about the truth of what our schools are doing in the MSBSD. If you have concerns about how our school is performing I encourage you to come and share those concerns with us. If you are satisfied with what schools are providing for students I encourage you to reach out to our legislators in support of education funding.

MSBSD Student Performance Data ACT College Entrance Exam

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The Sandwich Project

Zoe Nelles, an 11th grader at Palmer High School received the Thrive Mat-Su volunteer youth making a difference award for her work in initiating the PHS Sandwich Project. The award included a $250.00 scholarship. The sandwich project aims to provide a meal for the weekend to students in need.

Zoe started the project in November 2018. She gathers and invoices supplies, and assembles lunches every Friday to be given to identified students. She started serving approximately 7 students, she is now serving 20 students weekly. These serve students across the Palmer community.

If you are interested in helping Zoe with this endeavor, there is an account set up with Palmer High for monetary donations. Non-perishable food items can be donated as well. She can use items like fruit snacks, cookies, chips, snacks that kids will like in easy packaging, Ziploc bags, plain brown paper bags, bread, peanut butter, and jelly. No canned or homemade food, please.

If you are a family in need, who might benefit from this service, please contact Mrs. Pell the school nurse for assistance at 746-8438 or

This post was written by Carmen Pell, School Nurse at PHS.

Mrs. Pell has been instrumental in helping Zoe get this project off and running. Bravo to both of them!

Good Resources for the Topic of School Safety