Chamber chief heading to Cairo

Community leader, longtime teacher to leave for Egypt; one accepts job with int'l school

Posted: Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Jamie Parsons, executive director of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce, announced Tuesday he will leave his post by the end of August to move to Egypt with his wife, Mary Beth, who has accepted a two-year teaching assignment.

Jamie Parsons is a former mayor and longtime Juneau resident and businessman.

Mary Beth Parsons retired last year after 15 years of teaching at Glacier Valley Elementary School. She has accepted a position teaching second grade at the Cairo American College, a private school that serves Americans, other Westerners and some Egyptians from kindergarten through grade 12.

"I have a passion for teaching, a passion for working with kids, and then this afforded both Jamie and me the opportunity to experience a new culture, a new climate, a new continent, a lot of new things," said Mary Beth Parsons, who must report for her new job by Aug. 2.

The couple has lived in Juneau for 31 years. They have never lived abroad.

Their son Rob works for DIPAC, daughter Sara works for Congressman Young in Washington, D.C., and youngest son Andrew is a student at the University of Alaska Southeast.

Though Mary Beth Parsons had considered teaching at an international school before, the decision to move to Cairo was abrupt, she said.

"I am into garnering new experiences, and thought this would be an exciting one," she said.

Vivian Montoya, a Harborview teacher who was named Alaska Teacher of the Year in 2002, will join Parsons teaching second grade at the school.

Montoya taught in Colorado before moving to Alaska in 1983. She taught kindergarten at Auke Bay Elementary, then transferred to the former Capital School, which later merged with Harborview.

"We think Vivian Montoya is one of the great heroes here at Harborview School," fellow teacher Debbie Fagnant said at an assembly honoring Montoya for her statewide award.

Drew Alexander, former Harborview principal and Juneau School District assistant superintendent, is the Cairo American College superintendent.

Jamie Parsons has not decided what he will do in Egypt during his wife's teaching stint.

"She's always been supportive of me, and this opportunity came up and she's just thrilled with it, so I'm going to be supportive of her," Jamie Parsons said.

Parsons ran the city's Department of Parks and Recreation after he moved to town in 1972. He served for 11 years on the Juneau Assembly and was mayor from 1991 to 1994. He has been executive director of the Chamber of Commerce since 2001.

"It's been a grand time," he said. "It's just hard to envision what - being part of the community for so long - making an abrupt change like this will be like."

The chamber's board of directors will meet soon to discuss options, said board President Jim Scholz.

"I'm disappointed, but I'm optimistic that Jamie has said that he will stick around," Scholz said. "He's planning on playing softball during the summers here, so I know he'll be around for at least the softball season."

The Parsons have agreed to two nine-month stints in Egypt.

"We're not moving (permanently), that's for sure," Jamie Parsons said.

The couple will be back for summer and Christmas breaks, and will keep their house in Juneau. Parsons said he likely will continue his affiliation with the Juneau Chamber of Commerce.

"The board hasn't met to discuss this issue, so I'm not real sure what we're going to do, but we'd like to have him involved in some sort of capacity, advisory or otherwise," Scholz said.

• Christine Schmid can be reached at

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