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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Four Hernando schools to get new principals



BROOKSVILLE — Central High School will soon have its next principal – and so will three other Hernando schools.

Joe Clifford, currently principal at J.D Floyd K-8 in Spring Hill, will take the empty seat at Central left by Dennis McGeehan, interim superintendent Sonya Jackson announced in an e-mail to district staffers Tuesday.

Jackson last month tapped McGeehan to lead the new, yet-to-be named high school north of Weeki Wachee set to open next fall.

Clifford, 58, is a veteran Hernando schools employee who started as a teacher in 1979. His selection created a chain reaction of administrative moves, also announced by Jackson on Tuesday.

Ray Pinder, in his first year as principal at Explorer K-8 in Spring Hill, will head to Floyd. And John Stratton, in his first year at the STAR Education Center in Brooksville, takes the empty seat at Explorer.

Jackson didn’t announce who would take over at STAR and didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

“I’m confident in the leadership abilities of these principals to ensure a smooth transition,” Jackson wrote in Tuesday’s e-mail.

Jackson’s options for Central were somewhat limited.

The high school west of Brooksville did not make enough gains last year to keep from moving up to the next tier in the state’s new differentiated accountability plan. The plan is meant to marry federal and state accountability systems and puts struggling schools in one of five tiers based on Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores. The higher the tier, the more intensive the strategies and requirements to help improve a school.

Central is on the “Correct II” tier. One of the strategies for schools on that level is to assign a principal that has, according to the state rubric, “a clear record of turning around a similar school.”

Clifford is among a handful of Hernando school administrators who have such a record.

Under his tenure as principal from 2002 to 2007, West Hernando Middle School improved from a C to an A, holding the highest grade for the last three years. Floyd, an A school when Clifford arrived last year, kept that grade and also made adequate learning gains under federal standards.

Clifford said Tuesday that he plans to end his career at Central. He is enrolled in the state’s deferred retirement program and will retire in three years.

“I have three years and my goal is to go out with Central on top,” Clifford said Tuesday. “I believe that I will succeed and I believe Central will succeed.”

McGeehan will start his new role on Jan. 4, so the other assignments will take effect then, too, Jackson wrote.

McGeehan has decided to take two of his assistant principals at Central -- Sue Lisk and Troy LaBarbara -- with him to the new school. Clifford says he is asking Jackson to allow him to form a committee of Central teachers and parents to provide input on who will fill at least one of the assistant principal vacancies.

--Tony Marrero, Times staff

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:41am]


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