Empire Live: Juneau School District interviews for Riverbend principal position

Empire Live: Juneau School District interviews for Riverbend principal position

Interim principal is interviewing to fill the role.

Summary: Elizabeth Pisel-Davis, interim principal for Riverbend Elementary School, was publicly interviewed to permanently fill the position. She said the school’s mission statement “Riverbend is a safe place where we feed our minds, bodies and hearts —it is our school family” is a major part of the school’s appeal and said she prioritizes getting to know students and families as individuals as well as communication. An announcement of the district’s decision is expected Friday.

8:40 a.m.

It’s now Pisel-Davis’ turn to ask questions, and she asked the panel what they hope to see happening at Riverbend in five years.

Teacher Katharine Koski said in five years, she would like to be working with an administrator who believes in the school and its staff, and ideally an administrator that has been at the school for the past five years.

She said that sort of continuity has been few and far between for the school in the three years she has taught there.

8:36 a.m.

Pisel-Davis was asked how she measures success and effectiveness as a principal.

“I got about seven hugs this morning, so that felt good,” she said. “When I see kids who want to be here, I feel like I have been successful in creating a community that they feel they are a part of. When I feel from families that are not upset, I feel successful.”

She said data helps inform that, too. Looking at testing scores as well as number of office referrals, suspensions and more is important.

“Just noticing what is happening and thinking about why is it happening,” Pisel-Davis said.

8:30 a.m.

Administrative assistant Jacquelyn Clark asked what could be done to help close “the achievement gap.”

Pisel-Davis said finding a way to provide additional resources to kindergarten students would likely help. Additionally, she said in her experience art integration is a good strategy.

“When we integrate art into the math and writing, we provide students with a way of learning that helps them feel not only successful, but helps them learn in a way that they might not typically do in a classroom,” Pisel-Davis said. “I really believe it is a strong way to reach kids and something all of us can do.”

8:20 a.m.

Pisel-Davis was asked how she keeps “the many stakeholders” informed.

“I have a love-hate relationship with email,” she said. “It’s really just information distribution, but it’s really not communicating because communicating also means listening.”

Pisel-Davis said she takes care to schedule blocks of time for communicating.

“I make a lot of phone calls, and I end up making a lot of phone calls in the early evening,” she said.

Pisel-Davis said she has a staff member calling all families and asking what their child likes about Riverbend, how the staff can be better partners in children’s education and for anything else parents might want to tell the school.

Plus, Pisel-Davis said she’s switched her shopping routine, and seems to have a lot of substantive conversations in the Safeway parking lot.

That drew laughs.

8:10 a.m.

Elizabeth Pisel-Davis, interim principal for Riverbend Elementary School, is interviewing today to fill the school’s principal position.

Pisel-Davis has served as interim principal since mid-February 2019.

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.

Pisel-Davis has been with Juneau School District since 2016, according to her resume, and she previously served as fourth grade teacher and a special education teacher. She also taught for the district from 1997-2006 as a gifted and talented program teacher, a fourth and fifth grade teacher and a special education teacher.

In between the time with the district, Pisel-Davis worked for the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development from 2009 to 2016.

The interview panel includes members from the school’s staff, administrators and the site council.


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


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