Harborview Elementary School Interim Principal Molly Box interviews for a permanent position in front of a panel at Harborview on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Harborview Elementary School Interim Principal Molly Box interviews for a permanent position in front of a panel at Harborview on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Harborview could have a new principal soon

District staff, stakeholders interview only candidate for the job

School administrators, site council members and Juneau School District staff gathered at a table surrounded by child-size chairs and picture books about sea monsters to interview a candidate for principal of Harborview Elementary School.

The panel met in the school library at Harborview taking turns to put questions to Molly Box, the only applicant for the job. Box has been serving as the school’s interim principal for several months.

Before being tapped as interim principal, Box taught 4th and 5th grade at Haborview. She has worked for Juneau schools since 1992, working mainly at Floyd Dryden Middle School. She served as Floyd Dryden’s assistant principal from 2010-2012.

Panel members asked Box about her past experience, plans for the future and how she would handle various situations. Having already been working as the school’s principal, Box was familiar with Harborview’s issues and where she believes she could make an improvement.

“I’m going to focus on behavior,” Box said in response to a question about ways to work toward closing the achievement gap between high and low performing students. “We have a lot of kids coming to school with trauma. Sometimes behavior issues are interfering with instruction.”

Box emphasized a collaborative approach to leadership, saying several times that listening to the concerns of parents, staff and community members was very important to her. She hopes that her staff and others feel she is approachable, saying she wants to have an open-door policy.

“I think being open to people, letting people know they can talk to me,” Box said. “Knowing that staff and families feel safe and happy and like they’re a part of this community.”

Harborview’s last principal Tom McKenna retired in July, and Box has been serving as interim principal since his departure.

The school district is also looking to hire a principal for Riverbend Elementary School. The panel that is interviewing candidates will deliberate and send their recommendations on the Superintendent Bridget Weiss for consideration. Weiss will then bring her recommendations to the Juneau School District Board of Education.

While the job of a principal involves many roles, Box said, she would ideally like to serve most as an instructional leader, supporting teachers in their efforts.

“Having curriculum and having conversations around that curriculum is really important,” Box said. There are many good programs at the school, she said, but sometimes there are missing components that need to be addressed. “We’ve had some great conversations about how we can improve certain elements of those programs.”

“I want to be engaged and I want to be a great listener,” Box added later. “It’s hard. It’s not that I didn’t know it would be a big job, but to do a really effective job, you need to be in the trenches.”

Box told the Empire in the interview she felt confident the interview went well because she was able to convey what she wanted.

“I was able to articulate how much I care and that I’m in it for the long haul,” she said.

According to the Juneau School Administrative Association’s negotiated agreement with the school district, elementary school principals can earn between $94,000 and $120,000 a year. Box said her two years as assistant principal at Floyd Dryden would count toward her experience putting her in a higher pay scale. A elementary school principal with two years experience will earn roughly $97,000 according to the JSAA agreement.

The school district will announce its decision on principals for both schools on Friday.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.

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