11 New Principals in Leon County

By: Tara Herrschaft Email
By: Tara Herrschaft Email

Iris Wilson is the new principal-in-transition at Apalachee Elementary School. And she's one of 11 new principals that the Leon County school board has unveiled.

But unlike many of the other leaders, Wilson has been in the education system for more than 30 years and after leaving the district for a brief stint, she's coming back to begin a new chapter.

"One of my first loves was teaching. My next first love was being a principal. So to be able to come back and to be principal and to actually be able to touch children in a different way is rewarding," said Wilson.

Wilson has played almost every role in the school system. Most notably as the principal at Kate Sullivan Elementary and then the Assistant Superintendent in Leon County. In 2006, she ran against Jackie Pons for the Superintendent position.

For the past 2 1/2 years she's been at the Florida Department of Education. "I think being at the Department has given me the opportunity to look at statewide issues and be able to see different things. So I think that helps you when you come back to the district," explained Wilson.

And other new leaders say Wilson's story is one example of how becoming a family keeps the district on top.

"A lot of us have in a sense, in the district, grown up together and so we have a sense of caring and we look to each other for advice and counseling. That's what makes us an A district," said Joe Burgess, the new principal at Swift Creek Middle School.

Wilson will be taking over as principal at Apalachee Elementary in July 2010 after Ross Witherspoon retires.
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With 6 principals retiring, 1 promotion, 1 resignation, and 3 principals moving to new schools, a total of 11 schools will begin the 2009-2010 school year with a new principal or principal-in-transition.

“This is one of the strongest groups of principals that we have ever appointed,” said Superintendent Jackie Pons. “We continue our commitment to assigning principals where they are needed most. I also want to take this opportunity to recognize the hard work and dedication by our 6 retiring principals. I know our entire community will join me in welcoming this outstanding new group of principals.”

The new principals are:

- Laura Brooks, assistant principal of Hartsfield Elementary, will become the principal at Conley Elementary where Ray King will be retiring as of July 2009.

While serving as the assistant principal, Laura Brooks helped Hartsfield Elementary School to maintain a high performing school status in 2008 and 2009. Hartsfield continues to be a choice school. Brooks believes that, “without students, schools are just empty buildings. Consequently, everything we do must be based on meeting the physical, intellectual, social and emotional needs of our students. And be done in such a way that we all can enjoy and celebrate the experiences and each other!”

Employment History
Assistant Principal, Hartsfield Elementary School
Guidance Counselor, Deerlake Middle School
Guidance Counselor, Hartsfield Elementary School
Guidance & Testing Administrator, District Office
Marion County Public Schools, Florida
Guidance Counselor, Howard Middle School, Ocala

- Allen Burch, principal of Swift Creek Middle, will become the principal at Lincoln High where Merry Ortega will be retiring as of July 2009.

As principal of Swift Creek Middle School, Allen Burch led in the daily pursuit of excellence. Most recently this was recognized as Swift Creek earned an “A” school ranking for the eleventh consecutive year. During his tenure, Burch significantly increased the academic rigor at Swift Creek Middle School by creating a new innovative program, Bridge to AP. This program has already demonstrated tremendous results in student performance and has demanded the attention of other middle schools within the state of Florida. Burch concentrates on the recruitment and the development of high performing teachers to impact student achievement. He believes hiring and supporting superstar teachers are the most important aspects of his job as principal. Burch’s commitment to excellence, combined with extremely high expectations, is why success seems to follow him wherever he travels throughout his educational journey. Presently, he is completing coursework as a doctoral student in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the Florida State University.

Employment History
Principal, Swift Creek Middle, Tallahassee
Assistant Principal, Rickards High, Tallahassee
Administrative Assistant, Bay High, Panama City
Science teacher, Dean & Coach, Buchholz High, Gainesville

- Joe Burgess, principal of Springwood Elementary, will become the principal at Swift Creek Middle upon Allen Burch’s transition to Lincoln High.

Formerly Principal In-Transition for the 2007-2008 school year and Principal for the 2008 – 2009 school for Springwood Elementary, Burgess led Springwood from a grade of “C” to an “A”. Burgess helped to provide improvements in campus safety, instituted the use of agenda books, started a morning walking exercise initiative for students, and expanded family/school spirit nights. Burgess, a former campus teacher of the year (Swift Creek), was also instrumental in providing technology improvements, expanding the after school tutoring program and making teachers accountable regarding best practices for research-based instructional strategies. Burgess believes in providing the best environment for students and teachers to succeed while allowing parents and the greater community to become a valuable resource in fostering that development.

- Douglas Cook, assistant principal of Cobb Middle, will become the principal at Montford Middle where Scotty Crowe will be filling a vacancy caused by the retirement of the divisional director of curriculum & school improvement as of July 2009.

As Technology Education Teacher, Dean of Students, Assistant Principal for Student Affairs, and Assistant Principal for Curriculum, Doug Cook helped Cobb Middle School earn an “A” for 9 consecutive years. This year, as Assistant Principal of Curriculum, Cobb had the highest number of students to score at Levels 5 and 6, as measured on the writing portion of the FCAT exam. Cook believes in order for students to excel, they must have a safe and nurturing environment. “A positive working relationship between students, teachers, support staff, parents, administration and our community is the key to student’s success”. Cook has a Master’s of Education Degree in Educational Leadership and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Technology Education.

Employment History
Assistant Principal for Curriculum
Assistant Principal for Administration
Dean of Students
Technology Education Teacher
Department Vocational Leader

- Claire Frick, principal of Buck Lake Elementary, will become the principal at Springwood Elementary upon Joe Burgess’ transition to Swift Creek Middle.

During Claire Frick’s three-year tenure, Buck Lake continued to excel, earning an “A” grade for the eleventh straight year, and achieving Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under the federal No Child Left Behind Act for the sixth consecutive year. At Buck Lake, she worked to ensure improvements in safety and security, in addition to supporting new initiatives such as Project Unify (a precursor to Special Olympics focusing on interaction between disabled and non-disabled peers) and the Buck Lake Good News Club, a character-building program, currently the largest in the state of Florida. Her vision emphasizes the importance of continuous improvement in all endeavors with a focus on the academic and social needs of the individual child. Frick states, “Unless we continue to challenge ourselves and those around us to improve, we risk settling for less than our best. I believe that working cooperatively toward a common goal is the most beneficial approach to teaching and learning.”

Employment History
Principal, Buck Lake Elementary
Assistant Principal, Swift Creek Middle
Assistant Principal, Woodville Elementary
Teacher, Gifted/Remedial & 4th – W. T. Moore
Teacher, Gifted – ARC/Springwood Elementary

- Evelyn Friend, assistant principal of Conley Elementary, will become the principal-in-transition at Hawks Rise Elementary where Penny Brinson will be retiring in January 2010.

Evy Friend, in her first year as a school administrator in Leon County, assisted in opening J. Michael Conley Elementary School at SouthWood in August 2008. During her tenure as assistant principal, the school earned an “A” from the state of Florida and achieved adequate yearly progress (AYP) as determined by the federal government. Friend believes focusing on academic achievement is the number one priority for an effective school. Additionally, the school community must provide opportunities to support and nurture all children’s social and emotional growth. Through exploration via technology and challenging curricula, teaching and learning can extend far beyond the traditional brick and mortar.

Employment History
Assistant Principal, Conley Elementary
Assistant Principal, Jefferson Elementary
Administrator, Florida Department of Education
Administrator, Bay County Schools District Office

- Scott Hansen, assistant principal of Lincoln High, will become the principal at Fairview Middle replacing Roger Pinholster.

Over the last 11 years, Scott Hansen has helped ensure that Lincoln High School has remained a top-ranked school – both as a multi-time “A” school and ranked as high as 78th in the nation of American Best High Schools. Hansen says, “I have worked to help create a positive learning culture. Listening to and valuing input from all stakeholders is necessary to help a school succeed. I will work every year to help hire the best teachers and staff and be a part of an administration that fosters positive interaction between the students, parents, faculty and staff.”

Employment History
Assistant Principal, Lincoln High School
Dean, Lincoln High School
Teacher 9-12, Social Studies, Leon High School
Teacher 9-12, Social Studies, Wakulla High School
Hall monitor & Substitute Teacher, Leon High School

- Taka Mays¸ assistant principal of Gilchrist Elementary, will become the principal-in-transition at Oak Ridge Elementary where D. J. Wright will be retiring in August 2010.

During her tenure as Assistant Principal at Gilchrist Elementary School, Taka Mays assisted Gilchrist in obtaining National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence status through the U.S. Department of Education. Also while at Gilchrist, Mays helped earn and maintain an “A” school grade and Adequate Yearly Progress as determined by outstanding FCAT scores. “I strongly believe in providing a safe school environment enriched with age appropriate resources and educational experiences for the students to be successful. In addition to ensuring the success of students, continuous professional development for school administrators, teachers and staff as well as the support of community members is essential. In sum, it takes dedication and commitment from all stakeholders to provide the best learning environment,” said Mays.

Employment History
Assistant Principal, Gilchrist Elementary
Grade 3 Teacher, Roberts Elementary
Grade 2 Teacher, Roberts Elementary
Grade 2 Teacher, Stockbridge Elementary
Grade 5 Teacher, Cotton Indian Elementary

- Eydie Sands, assistant principal of Springwood Elementary, will become the principal at Buck Lake Elementary upon Claire Frick’s transition to Springwood Elementary.

While serving as an Assistant Principal at Springwood Elementary, Eydie Sands was instrumental in Springwood achieving an “A” in 2009. This constituted a significant gain from the 2008 grade of “C”. In addition, Sands believes strongly in a school community, where all stakeholders are focused on the education and safety of our children. “A successful school community is one that places the kids first, is safe, inviting, and nurturing. I have an open door policy and believe there is always a solution to any situation, if we work together," said Sands.

Employment History
Assistant Principal, Cobb Middle School
Leon County School District Reading Coordinator
Assistant Principal, Desoto Trail Elementary School
Assistant Principal, Ft. Braden K-8 School
Teacher Special Education K-5

- David Solz, assistant principal of Oak Ridge Elementary, will become the new principal at Gilchrist Elementary where Margaret Fulton is retiring as of July 2009.

While Assistant Principal at Oak Ridge Elementary School, David Solz helped Oak Ridge earn an “A” in 2009 from the state of Florida, the first time in the school’s history. Annual Yearly Progress (AYP), as determined by the Federal Government, was also achieved for the first time. In addition, Oak Ridge earned the top Writing scores in the district during the 2008-2009 school year. Solz says, “I believe the children we serve should be the reason for all of the decisions we make each day. Schools are a community where we must be open to parent and community involvement for the success of our children. I believe the inclusion of stakeholders, student data, and teacher training provide high quality instruction to facilitate student success. Only, through ongoing positive communication and high expectations can we collaborate to ensure the best education possible for all of our children.”

Employment History
Assistant Principal, Oak Ridge Elementary
5th Grade Teacher, Hartsfield Elementary
5th Grade Teacher, George W. Monroe Elementary
EDEP Coordinator, Hartsfield Elementary
SITE Manger, Flagler County Schools Adult Education

- Iris Wilson will be the new principal-in-transition at Apalachee Elementary where Ross Witherspoon will be retiring in July 2010.

Wilson was the Deputy Chancellor for Student Achievement with the Division of Public Schools at the Florida Department of Education. As Deputy Chancellor, she was the responsible for the Bureaus of Student Assistance, Bureau of Family and Community Outreach, Bureau of School Improvement, the Office of Federal Programs, and the Office of Equal Educational Opportunity. Wilson is a native of St. Augustine, Florida and is a product of the St. Johns County Public School District. In 1977, she completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary and Early Childhood education at Florida State University. Her work experience began as a teacher at Tallahassee Junior Academy Pre-k - 8. During this time, Wilson continued her educational growth in the FSU Early Childhood Mentor program. In 1983, she completed her Masters’ degree in Reading. In August of 1983, Wilson began her career with the Leon County School District as an elementary teacher at Kate Sullivan Elementary School. She continued as a teacher until July 1994 when she was selected to be Assistant Principal at Killearn Lakes Elementary School. Wilson remained at Killearn Lakes for five years, during which time she completed her Educational Specialist degree in Educational Leadership. In July of 1999, Iris Wilson was chosen as the Principal and through her leadership at Kate Sullivan, the school was recognized nationally as a 2000-01 Blue Ribbon School.


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