After four years in the top job at Dunedin High, Reuben C. Hepburn learned last month that he would be the new principal of Gibbs High. His first day was Jan. 5. We caught up with him for a few minutes to ask about his plans for Gibbs. We've paraphrased some of his comments below.
First, a quick bio: Hepburn is 44 and lives in Dunedin.
He has a bachelor's degree in history education from Florida A&M University and a master's degree in educational leadership from the University of South Florida.
Hepburn started in the Pinellas County School District in 1996. He was a teacher at Lakewood High for almost a decade. He was an assistant principal at both Northeast High and Gibbs before moving to Dunedin High.
Is it bittersweet to leave Dunedin High?
Of course. It's bittersweet leaving because the last four years of my career were spent in a community I love. I tell people: I live here, I work here and I play here.
What are you most proud of in your time at Dunedin High?
The school grade was huge. When I started at Dunedin, it was a D. We faced some of the same challenges that Gibbs faces. We earned an A in 2013. (The school earned a B in 2014.) My first two years at Dunedin I was there Saturday and Sunday, sometimes overnight. I'm also proud of the graduation rate increasing. (It has gone up about 9 percentage points in four years, to 81.5 percent.) More kids are going to college. About 250 students are in the Academy of Business Art and Technology. In the 2012-13 school year, two students did summer internships. Last year, 16 students did. The internship program is small but growing.
Are you prepared to lead Gibbs High, which dropped to a C this year?
My entire career, prior to Dunedin, was in south county. I was at Gibbs in the 2009-10 school year, and now I'm back. The administrative team at Gibbs has been working their tails off. Reading scores are low (just 34 percent of students were proficient last year; that number drops to 16 percent for black students) but we're seeing evidence based on the first semester that those will improve. I've already started reaching out to the community. We're trying to get students academic support after school. Many of our kids are having to work or having to go home to take care of younger siblings.
Any plans to move out of Dunedin?
No. That 30-minute ride in the morning will allow me to get my mind together.
Contact Cara Fitzpatrick at [email protected] Follow @Fitz_ly.