Thunder Mountain High School on April 18, 2021. When school resumes in the fall, John Luhrs will serve as the interim principal. The search for a new assistant principal continues. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Interim principal named at TMHS

Veteran educator John Luhrs will step into the post

Beginning in August, John Luhrs, an educator with 40 years of experience — much of it in Alaska — will be the interim principal of Thunder Mountain High School, district officials told the Empire Thursday morning.

Luhrs, who is the father of a TMHS graduate and has family ties to Juneau, replaces Steve Morrow, who recently left the district.

“I’m excited to come to Juneau and work at Thunder Mountain High School, where my daughter, Jenna, graduated. I’m looking forward to being a part of the community and being near my children again,” he said in a news release issued by the district.

Principal seats are open at TMHS

According to Kristin Bartlett, chief of staff for the district, the typical hiring season for principals occurs before the school year ends. Because this opening happened later in the cycle, district officials reached out to other districts in the state for recommendations as part of the recruitment strategy.

“It’s a small state, and that process can really help,” Bartlett said in a phone interview Thursday morning.

Bartlett said appointing an interim principal allows all parties to go through a more traditional hiring process next year. However, she noted that interim appointments can become full-time placements in some cases, depending on the circumstances.

“This gives everyone a chance to get to know each other,” she said.

In the news release, Superintendent Bridget Weiss said she is happy with the appointment.

“We are really looking forward to Mr. Luhrs joining our team and supporting Thunder Mountain High School,” she said.

Juneau Community Charter School names new principal

According to information provided by the district, Luhrs is a graduate of the University of Nebraska and the University of Wyoming, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in educational leadership.

He began his career as a high school teacher in Worland, Wyoming, and then moved to Ketchikan.

From there, he progressed into school administration as principal of Ketchikan Charter School and Valley Park Elementary. Luhrs then went on to be the principal at Harold Kaveolook School in Kaktovik, Alaska. Next, he held administrative roles in Kansas. He returned to Alaska to serve as interim principal at Point Hope Tikigaq School and then interim human resource director for the North Slope Borough School District.

Assistant principal search continues

Bartlett said that a team has been assembled to interview two candidates for the assistant principal position at TMHS. The position is open because earlier this spring, Adriana Northcutt resigned from the post to accept the top job at the Juneau Community Charter School.

Bartlett said that local teachers Kelly Stewart and Luke Gunkel are the two finalists for the position and that she expects a decision shortly after the interviews.

Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at or 907-308-4891.

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