Juneau residents invited to give feedback on candidates for Thunder Mountain principal

Students head upstairs during a break between classes at Thunder Mountain High School on Monday, August 16, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska.  (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Juneau residents have an opportunity to meet the candidates for the Thunder Mountain High School principal job Tuesday night.

The Juneau School District has completed a nationwide search for applicants and narrowed it down to three finalists who are all from Alaska.

They include Shawn Arnold, who is the Juneau School District director of student services, Karen Keck who is a teacher at Kotzebue Middle High School, and Laura Scholes who is assistant principal for Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School.

All three finalists will be in the Thunder Mountain library from 5 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday. 

“Parents or members of the community are welcome to come,” said Juneau School District Chief of Staff Kristin Bartlett.

“There will be comment cards there so they can provide feedback in writing,” she said. “Then the following morning there will be interviews and those interviews are also open to the public.”

During the interviews, the candidates will be questioned by parents, administrators and teachers. 

Thunder Mountain is the largest school in the district. There were nearly 600 students enrolled there at last count. The last principal left in the spring of 2021. During the fall semester, the school had an interim principal, but there hasn’t been a principal this semester.

Angela Noon is an English teacher at Thunder Mountain and she has a daughter who attends school there. Noon said the school has seen the impact of being without a principal.

“We’ve really felt the lack, and I know our administration is doing the best they can, but they’re overwhelmed right now,” she said.

Noon said teaching and leading the school during the COVID-19 pandemic has not been easy for anyone there. So she’s hoping the new principal will be an effective communicator who is able to convey a vision for the school with both staff and families.

“We have to build relationships with our families,” Noon said. “You know the view should be that we are a team to help the students succeed and I think the principal has to lead that.”

Noon said that means being visible to the students and reaching out to the community. She said she also hopes the new principal will have a good understanding of the people the school serves, including its Alaska Native students. 

“In Alaska, with our history with our Native students, there are some very dark times,” Noon said. “So we want to build those bridges and really help our Native students succeed. It has been one of the things I think our district has struggled with.”

Following Wednesday’s interviews, the district should have a recommendation for its chosen candidate within a few days.

Bridget Dowd

Local News Reporter

I keep tabs on what’s happening in Juneau’s classrooms for the families they serve and the people who work in them. My goal is to shine a light on both stories of success and the cracks that need to be filled, because I believe a good education is the basis of a strong community.

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