The Juneau School District has whittled its list of candidates for principal of Thunder Mountain High School to five people and is looking for public feedback for the final selection, Superintendent Peggy Cowan said.
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The five contenders - Angie Lunda and Rhonda Hickok, both of Juneau; Susan Okeson of Chugiak; Mark Kartchner of Blackfoot, Idaho; and Patti Bippus of Denver, Colo. - spent a couple of hours Wednesday evening discussing school issues with educators and members of the public during an open forum in the Juneau-Douglas High School commons.
The candidates will have public interviews today in the JDHS library between 8:15 a.m. and 3:45 p.m.
"We had to narrow the field down considerably," Cowan said. "We had a lot of good applicants, but these folks stood out with the kind of qualities and leadership that would be a good fit for Juneau."
The TMHS principal interview team will make a recommendation to the superintendent, who will consider them and finalize reference checks before bringing the selection process to the School Board as early as Tuesday. The School Board will make the final decision.
Lunda, a lifelong Juneau resident, is in her fourth year as principal of Gastineau Elementary School in Douglas. She graduated from the elementary school she presently heads. She also graduated from JDHS, and feels she has a firm grasp on the education system in Juneau.
"I've got kind of the vertical picture of education in Juneau," Lunda said. "I know the issues, I know the players and I would do a great job."
Hickok, the only candidate who has not held a principal position, also spent most of her life in Juneau and has a broad educational background and extensive experience within the district. She began working many years ago with the Indian Studies Program and is the program's director.
"It's almost full circle with the Indian Studies program, which has been a really wonderful experience because it really connects you with every single school and with all the principals," Hickok said.
Okeson, principal of Chugiak Elementary School, said she would help the community look at different educational models for the new high school.
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"I am not a person who has ever felt that a traditional high school has met the needs of all kids. Yet we've never changed the traditional high school (model)," she said. "It's always been the way it's always been because that was the way we were educated."
Kartchner, the principal of an alternative high school in Idaho, said he has a lot of experience leading students and educators. This is his first time visiting the 49th State.
"I have experience with programs that were effective with students who were struggling with education," Kartchner said. "I think I've worked well with parents and communities. I think that is important."
Bippus, principal of Denver School of the Arts high school, spent a number of years as an educator in Alaska and hopes to return to Southeast. She said she has been involved extensively in developing high school programs and helped three schools become state-ranked educational facilities.
"Creating climate is the main thing," Bippus said. "You create a climate for education, a climate for learning, a climate for respect and dignity, and everything else falls into place."
Community members will be able to fill out forms, available at the public interviews today, on the candidates, Cowan said. The interview team will consider these comments when reviewing the candidates.
"It's an open process," she said.
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