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By SAM ALLEN
Daily News Staff Writer
A new Ketchikan High School principal is coming to town.
On Wednesday, the Ketchikan School Board approved Jason House’s principal contract, valued at $142,544 including insurance and benefits.
Ketchikan School District Interim Superintendent Beth Lougee said House was a “very good fit” because of his overall knowledge and work with alternative schools, virtual schools and curriculum.
House, who is currently an assistant principal at the Springdale School District in Arkansas, has 11 years of teaching experience, in addition to five years in administration work.
House talked with the Daily News this past week. When asked about his favorite memory from his experiences in education thus far, House brought up his start in Barrow, where he taught from 2001 to 2004.
"I was kind of figuring out exactly what I was doing, because I was a new teacher,” House said. “I found that the more I could kind of turn things over to the kids and give them some voice in how they approach their work — or the end product of that work might look like — the better they would do."
Moving from Barrow to a rural school district in Arkansas and then to a school district of over 23,000 students, he's found that, "kids are kids, no matter where you go, and that when you give them the opportunities to really pursue things that they're passionate about they can do incredible work."
House has a bachelor's degree in biology/zoology, as well as a master's degree in teaching, from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Besides administration work, he has taught high school algebra, science and photography.
House said he has enjoyed Ketchikan since his first visit on a ferry trip with his eldest daughter in the early 2000s. Now family and life circumstances have allowed him this opportunity to come and work here.
“This is the only position I applied for,” House said of his desire not to just find the next job, but to work in Ketchikan.
House’s hire comes after several resignations and changes of positions within the Ketchikan School District during the past few months.
Former Superintendent Bob Boyle resigned in December after concerns over the district’s handling of six complaints regarding a former Kayhi teacher who has since pled guilty to second-degree sexual abuse of a minor.
The Ketchikan School Board also has seen a nearly complete turnover since the teacher was arrested in June. Only two of seven School Board members — Board President Matt Eisenhower and Board Member Diane Gubatayao — remain.
The district’s former curriculum director, Beth Lougee, is now interim superintendent. Former Fawn Mountain Elementary School Principal Alonso Escalante has moved into the position of district curriculum director, and Ketchikan High School advanced English teacher Linnaea Troina is now the Fawn Mountain principal.
On July 1, House will replace current Kayhi Principal Bob Marshall, who is leaving for family reasons, according to the district.
House acknowledges that there are still wounds from these past experiences, and that they shouldn’t be ignored.
“We have to keep moving forward in the best interest of our kids,” he said.
He said rebuilding trust will be centered on collaborative learning at an administration and teacher level, and woven into student learning through partnerships with the local community.
As far as long-term goals, House hopes to use those relationships to focus on students preparing for the transition out of high school.
“We want them to have a sense of what lies ahead and what that path might look like for them,” he said.
House said he has experience working with the kind of multi-year professional development plan the district has interest in implementing.
His approach is to engage students in their learning process.
"We’re not necessarily there to be the sage on the stage,” said House, “We’re the guide on the side.”
He recognizes the uncertainty created from Gov. Mike Dunleavy's proposed reduction in school funding statewide.
“While we may not necessarily expect that it's going to look like that when it's all said and done, we have to kind of brace ourselves for the potential that it could,” said House.
Throughout the process, he said, the guiding principle should be, "what serves the best interest of our kids or not."
He said his family and two daughters are excited about the move and have been "watching videos are reading books and telling each other stories about Ketchikan" as they plan their trip.
The community has already been "reaching out to us and welcoming us and offering words of support," he said.
People have helped him, and his wife get in contract with bankers and realtors and helped with those aspects of the transition. He said it "just speaks volumes" to the "character of Ketchikan and the character of the people there."
At the end of the day, he said, “I'm honored, and I’m humbled that the district is putting trust in me.”