District hires three new principals

Thunder Mountain leader begins work one year in advance

Posted: Sunday, August 26, 2007

The school year started fresh last week for about 5,200 children and hundreds of teachers throughout the Juneau School District. Amid the administrative melee, three new principals worked their way through the halls and culture of the city's schools.

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Both Harborview Elementary and Auke Bay Elementary schools have new leaders, and Thunder Mountain High School's christening principal is working a full year in advance of the opening of the yet-to-be-completed $60 million school.

Patti Bippus is ready for the TMHS challenge. New to Juneau but not to Alaska, she started a 44-year career in education teaching English and art in Fairbanks. She worked all over the country and developed four high school programs from the ground up.

"I am fully committed to public education," she said.

Most recently, Bippus lead the staff and administration at Denver's School of Arts. She came to Juneau believing in the promise of next year's theme-based academy curriculum to better engage all students in education. It is her dream job.

"The opportunity to make a difference in high school education is here," Bippus said.

Along with administrative work the new principal spent last week meeting with the student council and attending the school sporting events.

"I'm a football fan," she said.

This first year, her goals entail two primary efforts; one is to create the framework that will draw students to one high school or the other based on their choice, and the other is to involve the whole community in the process of fleshing the curricular skeleton of a new form of high school education in Juneau.

Bippus said she senses a " light fear" of the themed academies, but she promises the same standards-based education within the new form.

"Change can be a good thing, but doesn't mean throwing out what's good," Bippus said.

With 20 years of teaching experience in Juneau, Lori Hoover is not exactly new to the district. This year Hoover started working as interim principal at Auke Bay. The position opened late last school year when Dave Newton became director of Student Services in the district offices.

Hoover said she plans to spend the year looking into equitable student achievement at Auke Bay, one of four schools that passed federal testing last year.

"We meet AYP already," she said.

Her goal is to close any remaining gaps among various student groups. There are some discrepancies in the level in which students are achieving, she said. Now that the school is passing, Hoover intends to work toward providing more support for every child in every group.

Hoover credits a great first week to " an awesome staff that worked hard to prepare the school."

Harborview's new Principal Dave Stoltenburg is simply pumped to be here.

"So far I love the Southeast," he said.

Stoltenburg has been in Juneau a little over a month since arriving, and he's been hiking, fishing and working to get an understanding of his new elementary school's philosophy.

"They're a good group of people," he said.

Before coming to Juneau, Stoltenburg worked as an elementary school principal for 12 years in Frazee Minnesota in the Detroit Lakes region. He said the move to Juneau came during a consolidation of schools in his former district.

"It opened the door to Juneau," He said. "It had always been a dream to come here."

Stoltenburg said the school year has started off in a fantastic way and he believes he is a good match for Harborview.

In his first year, Stoltenburg expects to mix time getting to know the community, parents, teachers and students with a focus on improving test scores in his new school. Harborview failed federal testing last year in the categories of disabled students in reading and writing and math.

"We're going to roll up our sleeves and do our best," he said.

• Contact Greg Skinner at 523-2258, or greg.skinner@juneauempire.com.

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