Four finalists vie to be new JDHS principal

Candidates speak to community members, JDHS staff at open house

Posted: Friday, March 12, 2010

For the four Juneau-Douglas High School principal candidates interviewing and meeting with students, staff and community members, vying for the job is a long-distance race.

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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

"It's a marathon, but that's what the high school principalship is like," said Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich.

The four finalists are Dalton West of Liberty Hill, Texas, Sherrill Murray-Lazarus of Newburgh, N.Y., William McLeod of Sparks, Nev., and Ryan Alsup of Castle Rock, Colo.

Thursday night, candidates spoke to community members and JDHS staff at an open house in the JDHS library.

Each elaborated upon his or her reasons for applying, and why he or she would be a good pick.

"I love working with kids," West said. "I want to make a difference. I looked at the scores - the AYP scores (adequate yearly progress, a measure from No Child Left Behind), the dropout rate ... I think we can turn that around. There are a lot of good things going on at JDHS right now, and we want to continue that. I want to get teachers on board that it's all about kids ... We're going to affect their lives one way or the other, positively or negatively, and we want to try to do it positively."

A former social studies teacher and coach, West served as principal of Liberty Hill High School from 1989 to 2007. He also has served as a high school assistant principal, a middle school principal, and, most recently, as an account executive for Pearson Digital Learning in Arizona.

Murray-Lazarus' sister and two nephews, one of whom is a student at JDHS, live in Juneau. "I like the community. It's like me; it's kind of quirky," she said.

Murray-Lazarus said her leadership and listening skills, her love of cold weather, her family ties, and her experience turning a school with an at-risk population into one of the top 1,000 schools in the country would all come into play at JDHS.

"They (students) are as good as they want to be, and we get them to want to be amazing," she said. "And I'd like to be part of this community."

She served as principal of Roy C. Ketcham Senior High School from 2003 to 2009. She also has worked as a Spanish teacher, religious school principal, assistant principal, and social studies and second language district coordinator. She speaks five languages.

McLeod served as principal of James T. Hutchison High School in Fairbanks from 2003 to 2007, helping to get it off the ground in 2004. He also has served as a high school teacher, advisor, coach and director of fiscal affairs, facilities, occupational programs and technology for the Elko County School District in Nevada. He was awarded Alaska Principal of the Year for Region VI in 2006-07, and Nevada Vocational Educator of the Year in 2003.

"You've got a very quality school district here, and a number of improvement initiatives going on that I have a wealth of experience in," McLeod said. "I love Alaska and we're excited to get an opportunity to come back, particularly to Southeast." He added, with a smile, that "although I have a deep passion for education, I love fishing."

Alsup said he's impressed with the degree of community involvement he's seen in Juneau schools thus far. He also said he has a good ability to relate to kids, something he said is paramount in education and would want to see in all JDHS teachers. "I believe that teachers can not teach students that they don't know," he said, adding, "I'm looking for a place to spend the rest of my career. I haven't been in it as long as others, so I have a long time I could spend here. This just seems to be the place to be to me."

Alsup has served as assistant principal of Ponderosa High School and administrative dean at Douglas County High School, both in Colorado. He has also served as an administrative intern and high school teacher.

Today, each of the four finalists will be publicly interviewed by a 10-member committee consisting of members of the JDHS site council, Juneau Education Association and Juneau Education Support Staff, the community and district administration.

West will be interviewed at 8:15 a.m., Murray-Lazarus at 9:30 a.m., McLeod at 10:45 a.m. and Alsup at 12 p.m. The interviews will take place in the JDHS library.

Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich will make the final decision. He said he hopes to reach it by the beginning of next week at the earliest and the end of next week or the following Monday at the latest.

Candidate resumes and schedules are available at

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