The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has six new principals at schools across the peninsula. Two of those brand new administrators to the district are in Homer. And both are settling in pretty well with one week of school under their belts.
I met Eric Pederson outside during lunch recess for Paul Banks Elementary School. He says it’s quickly become one of his favorite parts of the day. Pederson is from Wisconsin originally and has been in the state for the last dozen years. He worked in the Lower Kuskokwim School District in small communities near Bethel before arriving in Homer.
“Nunapitchuk for three years and Quinhagak for nine years,” Pederson said.
He said the KPBSD is known throughout the state has a good district to live in and work for. There was a position back in Wisconsin that he had applied for, but moving to the Kenai Peninsula definitely interested him.
“So when we were looking for our family, we definitely wanted education. Obviously, that’s very important for us. So we wanted to find a good place for our kids and Homer kept coming up,” he said.
Pederson said since it’s only been a little while actually working inside the school, he’s still assessing how to improve on what the staff is already doing. Paul Banks was one of five schools throughout the district to receive a five-star rating with the new state system. He said the teachers are organized and professional, which is making his transition easier. And Pederson said he has noticed the amount of art incorporated into everyday life at the school. That’s something he’d like to highlight.
“Whether we put our mark on the art world or incorporate that more into our instruction, I think there’s definitely some things that we can develop. And that’s the stuff that teachers are doing naturally,” he said.
Another school to receive a five-star rating was Homer Middle. Kari Dendurent is the new principal there. She said maintaining that academic standard will be a challenge, but it’s one she’s up to. Dendurent said increased collaboration amongst all the schools in Homer is one way to keep achievement high.
“We are working with the elementary schools to make sure that we are in line with vertical articulations. So they’re doing what we need. And we’re doing what the high school needs. The biggest thing that’s been really awesome is all of the administrators in the Homer area, we’re saying what can do we do improve the Homer area as a whole,” she said.
Dendurent had been an assistant principal at Houston Junior/Senior High School in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District before coming to Homer. She actually attended school there herself before moving to the Lower 48 and working in larger districts in Florida.
“We used to play against the Mariners. So that was kind of an interesting piece coming to Homer. My senior year in high school we actually beat Homer in volleyball for regions, and they came back and beat us at state. So, has a little sword in my heart,” she said.
Even with those wounds from high school, she said she’s been enjoying learning more about the middle school from teachers and staff. One thing Dendurent said she’s noticed is how polite all the students are.
“We had our 7th and 8th grade orientation night and the students were coming up to me, without their parents, and shaking my hand. Just a high level of respect,” she said.
Like Pederson, Dendurent also has a favorite part of the day: greeting the students each morning as they walk up to the building. She also pointed out that she wants Homer Middle School to be a welcoming place for parents and the community.
“If there’s anything that people would like to share with us to please contact us. And my door is always open,” Dendurent said.