Riverbend Elementary School Interim Principal Elizabeth Pisel-Davis interviews for a permanent position in front of a panel at Riverbend on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Riverbend Elementary School Interim Principal Elizabeth Pisel-Davis interviews for a permanent position in front of a panel at Riverbend on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A new principal could be around the Riverbend

Riverbend Elementary School’s interim principal interviews for position.

Elizabeth Pisel-Davis said Riverbend Elementary School’s mission statement is a big reason she wants to fill the school’s open principal position.

Pisel-Davis, who has been interim principal at the Mendenhall Valley school since mid-February, publicly interviewed for the position Thursday morning in Riverbend’s library. It was the second interim principal within the school district interviewed this week and an announcement regarding hirings is expected Friday.

She said during her interview the mission statement, “Riverbend is a safe place where we feed our minds, bodies and hearts. It is our school family,” made an impact on her when she began working at Riverbend four years ago and is a big part of the reason she wants to be the school’s principal. A banner containing that phrase hangs near the entrance of the school.

[Read live coverage of the interview here]

“I distinctly remember my first day, walking into the building and seeing the mission statement, and saying, in my head, ‘I have never seen a school with a mission statement that said the same thing,’” Pisel-Davis said. “It really touched my in my heart. Ever since that day, I’ve looked for how we live that mission statement, and as a leader for the school, that is something I think is important.”

Pisel-Davis said most of her leadership experience came while outside of the district or working for the Alaska Department of Education, but also noted she had been serving as interim principal since February.

In February 2019, former Riverbend principal Scott Nelson was placed on administrative leave while the district examines recent lawsuits filed against the Matanuska-Susitna School District, as previously reported by the Empire.

During Pisel-Davis’ interview by a panel consisting of administration, staff and site council members, she was asked about leadership strategies, how she would share information with the school’s stakeholders and how to balance addressing behavioral concerns while still ensuring every student learns among other things.

[Harborview could have a new principal soon]

Many of Pisel-Davis’ answers touched on the importance of communication, learning about students and their stories on an individual basis, gathering as much information as possible.

Pisel-Davis said she has a “love-hate” relationship with email and winds up making many early evening phone calls with parents. She said she also has tasked a staff member with reaching out to families to find out what students like about the school, how educators can be better partners in educating children and anything else families might like to share.

She said statistics can be informative for tracking tends in disciplinary matters and achievement, but it’s also important to know students as people.

“That’s one of my core values really,” Pisel-Davis said after her interview. “I want to know children as individuals, not just a statistic or test score.”

When it was Pisel-Davis’ turn near the end of her interview to ask the panel a question, she asked what members of the panel hoped Riverbend would be like in five years.

Second-grade teacher Katie Koski said she hopes that in five years she’s working with an administrator that’s been in place for five years since that sort of stability has been in short supply during her three years at Riverbend.

Pisel-Davis said in an interview that sounds good to her.

“That would be my dream job,” she said.


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt


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