Schools Superintendent Gary Bader has recommended that Carmen Mastronardo Katasse, the interim principal at Riverbend Elementary School, be named to the permanent post.
Bader's decision, announced Friday afternoon, followed public interviews by the site council with three finalists. Bader said Katasse was the council's choice, as well as his own. The Juneau School Board is expected to consider the recommendation at its meeting Tuesday.
At the interviews, council members said they were looking for a principal who would continue the community spirit of the 460-student Mendenhall Valley school they call Riverbend Learning Community.
"I'd like to see that you build respect in the students, that you continue to nurture what I consider to be a good staff from top to bottom," council member and parent Mike Notar told Katasse.
"I see you as reaching out to the community and making contacts with both business and civic leaders to accomplish the needs of the school. I think there are financial sources out there and people willing to help that are accessible," he said.
Katasse - who is the interim principal this year following Jerry Schoenberger's retirement - has been an assistant principal at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School and at Juneau-Douglas High School, and has taught special education in the school district. She holds a master's degree in education administration from Central Washington University.
Katasse emphasized her commitment to the diversity of Riverbend's students and her belief that all children can learn. Half the school's students are minorities, from low-income families or are enrolled in the English as a second language program, she said.
"I'm committed to the diversity of this school. These are my children. I'm already attached to them," Katasse said, explaining why she wanted the job.
Katasse said she wanted to see a school in which all students meet academic standards, there's no tolerance for bullying and hostility, and teachers are trained to understand assessments and use data to drive curriculum and instruction.
"I'm seeing this resurrection of subliminal bigotry among kids," such as name-calling, she said. "It's been really difficult to instill in children that that's not OK."
Katasse suggested that the school should put more emphasis on cultural standards.
In answer to a site council question, Katasse said she didn't support homework projects that put a monetary burden on parents.
"I think homework should be reading. I think homework should be something that is not threatening to the family, something the family can do together," she said.
Andria Lacey, who was one of the other two finalists, has been an elementary principal for five years in Sandy Creek, N.Y. She administers two schools with 530 students.
"I love children," Lacey said when asked about her strengths. "That's the biggest strength. I was the kid in the back yard teaching other kids how to do cartwheels."
The other finalist was Richard Lee, assistant superintendent in Skagway, a 132-student school district. He has been principal and superintendent there, and a principal in other Alaska towns.
Lee emphasized his experience in helping prepare Skagway students for state assessments, "so the students are achieving and growing up and learning what we want them to learn."
Eric Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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