Many Juneau School District employees will be in new places during the coming school year due to a consolidation plan that will result on one high school and one middle school instead of two of each. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)

Many Juneau School District employees will be in new places during the coming school year due to a consolidation plan that will result on one high school and one middle school instead of two of each. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)

Juneau’s principals, vice principals get new assignments under school district’s consolidation plan

The principal of the one middle school won’t be the just-named Southeast principal of the year.

The consolidation of local schools this fall has resulted in a shakeup of principals and vice principals announced Monday by the Juneau School District which, among other things, means the just-announced principal of the year for Southeast Alaska won’t be a school principal — although she’ll have that title in a different role — when students return from summer break.

All students in grades 9-12 are being consolidated at Juneau-Douglas High School Yadaa.at Kalé, where Principal Paula Casperson will remain in the job she has held since 2014. Meanwhile all students in grades 7-8 will relocate from two existing middle schools to the renamed Thunder Mountain Middle School (instead of Thunder Mountain High School), where Shawn Arnold will remain the principal.

That leaves the two principals at the existing middle schools in distinctly different jobs next year.

Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School Principal Molly Yerkes, selected last week as the Alaska Association of Secondary School Principals (AASSP) Region V Principal of the Year for the second time since 2020, will become the principal of the Tlingit Culture Language Literacy Program. She will take over from Eldri Westmoreland, who last year was named the first permanent principal of the program that has been referred to by district officials as a “school within a school” for its cultural preservation efforts since it was established in 2000.

Kristy Germain, principal at Floyd Dryden Middle School, has been named the district’s new director of operations. According to a news release, she “will be responsible for planning, coordinating, and directing essential functions of the school district including, Maintenance and Facilities, Operations, Information Technology, Community Schools, and RALLY.”

Also notable is the release states her new job is “a re-envisioning of the existing Director of Administrative Services and Human Resources Manager positions that are currently vacant” — since previous administrative services director Cassee Olin resigned last Dec. 1 and was subsequently blamed for financial errors resulting in much of the district’s financial crisis resulted in the consolidation plan. District Chief of Staff Kristin Bartlett, in an email Monday afternoon, stated the redefined position means Germain will handle administrative operations while a still-to-be-hired chief financial officer will oversee budget matters.

Hiring decisions about principals were made by Superintendent Frank Hauser “in accordance with the negotiated agreement with (the Juneau School Administrative Association),” according to Bartlett.

“Superintendent Hauser met with and interviewed each of the current administrators prior to offering principal positions for next year,” she wrote. “There will be fewer administrative positions in the district next year because of school consolidations, but due to attrition, all of our current administrators who have chosen to stay on for the 2024-25 school year have been offered and accepted positions.”

Still to be determined are a multitude of changes for lower-level staffing, as the district is slated to lay off 12% of its staff — or more than 70 employees — under the consolidation plan. That will affect coaches with fewer teams to coach and leaders of other programs such as music, in addition to teachers and operations positions such as custodians.

Arnold, while remaining in the same building during the coming school year, said Monday he expects plenty of changes and challenges as Thunder Mountain converts to a middle school.

“I think the biggest challenge is kind of setting course, creating a new culture, new dynamics,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of staff that have been around in the district for a while, but it’s going to be a new team.”

Arnold said he and other leaders, including those at the two existing middle schools, will be working with staff, students and parents during the coming weeks to discuss expectations and changes people would like to see at the school.

“One of the initial steps is there is a joint site council meeting between the two middle schools, kind of setting a date (for the) meeting, and that’ll be my first opportunity to meet with some parents and staff and students early on,” he said.

Principals at the schools were asked about their preferences under the consolidation plan, Arnold said. But he said he wasn’t dead set on remaining a high school principal or at Thunder Mountain.

“I’m an old military guy, that was my first career,” he said. “And so I’m here to serve and where we’re needed. And I’ve got some experience as a teacher at the middle school, I’ve overseen middle schools, but I also have some experience at the elementary and the high school level. And so I can’t say that I really had any one preference.”

The vice principal at TMMS will be Laura Scholes, who holds the same job now at Dzantik’i Heeni. Current TMHS Vice Principal Kelly Stewart will become one of two vice principals at JDHS along with TMHS Activities Director Luke Gunkel — with the role expanded to two positions due to the larger number of students in a 9-12 high school versus the previous 10-12 alignment, according to Hauser.

Two people will continue in dual roles, including John Paul as the principal of both Yaakoosgé Daakahídi High School and Montessori Borealis Public School, a position he was named as of the beginning of the current year. Corey Weiss will also remain the principal of both the HomeBRIDGE program and Juneau Community Charter School.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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