Riverbend principal candidates meet community

Posted: Thursday, March 10, 2011

Four candidates for the top job at Riverbend Elementary were interviewed Wednesday, with a meet-and-greet community session held on Tuesday.

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Principal Carmen Katasse announced her retirement after serving in that role for the past 10 years. She was both a teacher and administrator in Juneau’s elementary and middle schools since 1986.

The candidate interviews were open to the public and comment cards were passed out.

Kenneth “Ben” Russel

Kenneth “Ben” Russel is currently principal at Oak Creek Elementary School (pre-kindergarten through eighth grade) in Arizona.

Russel earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a mathematics emphasis from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Ariz., and holds a master’s in education leadership with a principal’s certificate.

Russel, originally from Pennsylvania, said he is interested in the position because he wants to focus more on elementary education (K-6), having worked also with middle-school- and junior-high-school-aged children. His family also has visited Alaska before and Russel believes it would be an excellent place to raise children.

His goals for the school would be to develop relationships and bonds and trust with the community, the staff and the kids so there’s a sense of trust. Russel said he would take inventory of what is working well within the school — as well as what isn’t — and determine how to maintain and improve those things both academically and culturally. He also wants to make sure to celebrate the achievements of the school and make sure that any changes that do come are sustainable.

Nancy Hudson

Nancy Hudson is currently an administrator for the Scottsdale Unified School District in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Hudson earned her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, and her Master of Education in educational leadership and policy from the University of Washington.

Hudson, who is originally from Ketchikan, said she is interested in the position partly because she wants to move back to Southeast and recently married a Juneau man. She said she feels she can provide a lasting impact on the school because she has worked with both primary- and secondary-aged students so she knows where youth are coming from and where they need to go to be successful.

Hudson said her goals for the school would shape with strong collaboration will all the stakeholders of the school — including community members, parents, staff and the district.

Hudson wants to be able to affect a change that would make it easier for kids to transition into the middle schools.

“My goal is ultimately to get the kids to (be able to) choose successful career paths,” she said. “Every kid should be able to have the background so they can make choices and go into areas where they want and be successful in life.”

Brenda Weaver

Brenda Weaver is currently working with Riverbend Elementary as a lead teacher in the Summer Scholars Academy and as a Fast ForWord coordinator.

Weaver earned her bachelor’s degrees and certificates from the University of Alaska Southeast in early childhood education and elementary education, and earned a master’s degree from the University of Alaska Anchorage in educational leadership.

Weaver said she is interested in the position because she is excited about the discussion and actions being made at the district level academically.

“I’ve taught at Riverbend since it’s opened,” she said. “I’ve seen it through various changes. There are a lot of good things going on. I’d like to help develop what is working — help it grow so we are a great academic school.”

Some goals would be to help the teachers grow into whatever their professional aspirations are, create a very welcoming and respectful place for families to come in, and help more families become involved with the school.

Weaver said she has a high regard for community involvement in the education system and is really excited about when kids get really excited about learning.

Denise Kelly

Denise Kelly is currently working at Molokai Middle School as interim principal, and has served two other terms in the same capacity at other Hawaiian schools.

Kelly earned her bachelor’s in elementary and special education from Northern Arizona University and her master’s in administration and supervision from the University of Phoenix.

Kelly said she is interested in the position because she feels the district goals and philosophy on education match her own. She said the place-based, culturally diverse culture appeals to her and she wants to work in an elementary school again.

Her goals for Riverbend would be to develop community relationships within the first year and get to know the parents and students. She also would look at the systems in place at the school and how that meshes with the district.

Kelly said she is very family oriented with her own young family and believes family comes first.

Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School also will be interviewing four candidates for a new principal, with a public meet-and-greet from 4:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. today at the school, with interviews beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Friday. Hudson is also a finalist for that school.

For a full schedule of remaining interviews and resumes of all candidates see: http://bit.ly/fiCPfY.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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