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New JDHS principal brings team-teaching experience

Dr. Jim Kuhlmann comes to Juneau from Oregon school system

Posted: Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dr. Jim Kuhlmann understands what it takes for a high school to make adjustments.

The new interim principal, who will begin a yearlong stint at Juneau-Douglas High School this fall, was part of an administrative team that moved 2,100 students into a new high school in Oregon's North Clackamas School District. He also supervised the development of small learning communities at Clackamas High School as the school's associate principal.

In Juneau, small learning communities - also called team teaching, academies or Next Generation - were introduced when Thunder Mountain High School opened this past school year. The school district plans to expand the concept at JDHS.

Kuhlmann, who arrives in Juneau on Aug. 9, said the concept can give students and teachers a sense of belonging and ownership in a particular aspect of the school, and lets students and staff get to know each other better than they would in a larger setting.

To be successful, he said small learning communities require a commitment to training for teachers so they can develop ways to make it work best for kids.

"It's a bit of a complex process that I think I can help move forward," he said, by first establishing in-service training for staff.

"I am committed to that," he said. "I have a huge passion for working with faculty in a collaborative effort to help them develop professionally."

The school move in Oregon did not involve splitting students and staff, but Kuhlmann said Juneau's challenge in opening a second mainstream high school is to keep the community focused on making sure the schools complement each other.

"I understand some of the decisions the leadership as well as staff and students had to make" in moving into a new school, he said. "I'll help those folks work through any concerns they may have."

Kuhlmann, 59, earned a doctorate in education from Portland State University in 1988. He retired from the Oregon school system in 2007, then worked as a consultant in both public and private schools with teachers and beginning administrators. He also consulted for the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools to help schools make sure they meet accreditation requirements.

Kuhlmann found out about the interim principal opening at JDHS through a mutual colleague of Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich, a former Oregon schools administrator who started work in Juneau this month. Kuhlmann said he does not personally know Gelbrich.

Kuhlmann replaces former JDHS Principal Bernie Sorenson, who announced her retirement from the district in May. He'll serve one year while the district seeks a permanent principal.

Kuhlmann did not rule out the possibility that he'd apply to stay on at JDHS, but said family commitments in the lower 48 states would likely prevent it.

A longtime fondness for Alaska, developed through 15 years of traveling by boat and plane to the state, drew him to apply for the position, he said.

His wife, Linda, is a retired middle school teacher. She does not plan to immediately begin work in Juneau, her husband said, but might consider substitute teaching or volunteer work.

In his personal time, Kuhlmann likes to build wooden boats. He's built a drift boat and a rowboat and plans to start a kayak. The avid outdoorsman doesn't "let grass grow under my feet," he said, also doing yard work, gardening and road biking on his time off, as well as remodeling homes with his wife.

• Contact reporter Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or kim.marquis@juneauempire.com.



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