Public interview for JDHS hopefuls

Three finalists for principal are from Juneau, Buckland and Bristol Bay

Posted: Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Juneau School District will publicly interview three finalists Tuesday for the position of principal of Juneau-Douglas High School.

The district is looking for someone "who is passionate about public education and student learning, and has the knowledge and skills to provide leadership to enable students to be successful," Superintendent Peggy Cowan said.

The candidates, chosen from 11 applicants, are:

• Bernie Sorenson, the district's assistant superintendent and a former principal of Glacier Valley Elementary.

• Richard Hebhardt, superintendent of the Bristol Bay Borough School District based in Naknek.

• And Elizabeth Burrell Balcerek, principal since August 2004 of the Buckland, Alaska, school for kindergartners through 12th-graders.

The position has been filled this year by interim Principal John Norman, who stepped in after Deb Morse took the position of the district's coordinator of facilities, planning, and state and federal grants.

The new principal will come on board at a time when the district is beginning to plan what are called small learning communities at JDHS. That could mean breaking up the school - whose enrollment ranges over the year from about 1,675 to 1,575 - into houses or by academic interests, or creating a separate freshman wing.

"A lot of the people on the site council want to see a principal who is favorable toward small learning communities, or at minimum is familiar with them," said Andy Bullick, a metal shop teacher on the site council.

An effort to make sure the school can "capture the benefits of quality relationships" - what some people call personalization - has led to small learning communities, said John Sisk, a parent on the site council.

"I do think there will be a lot of interest in whether the principal candidates have experience in it ... and are open to helping Juneau work through what to do with that," Sisk said.

Teachers told the district they want a principal who has a vision of excellence, who understands all of the curriculum and the psychology of adolescents, and who values diversity.

They asked for a principal who is honest and extroverted and has a sense of humor.

The interviews, conducted by district administrators and the JDHS site council of parents and staff, will be held in the school library from 10:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. A reception for the applicants will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Monday in the school commons.

The site council will advise Cowan, who will make a recommendation to the Juneau School Board, which has the final say.

• Eric Fry can be reached at

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